“Leaders' Family Photo” by World Humanitarian Summit

The World Humanitarian Summit 2016 marked an important moment to raise attention and increase the debate around the international humanitarian system. The participation of the Caritas family was well coordinated by Caritas Internationalis, which had followed the whole process ahead of the summit when regional, thematic and global consultations took place. Caritas Europa members from Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK flew to Istanbul, despite the difficulties of having only a limited number of accesses to the event.

From the very beginning, expectations of the summit were not very high. This was mainly due to a lack of clear high level political commitment, as most powerful Heads of State deserted the summit before making any binding commitments.

Yet, the situation was not that bleak, as expressed by Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands): “we were quite positive about the energy during the run-up to the summit, amongst which the Dutch Humanitarian Summit. And we are hopeful that the ‘grand bargain’ can make very meaningful changes in the way the humanitarian system is organised and funding is generated. We already see positive changes in the way our own government acts as a humanitarian donor.”

The next steps will only follow in few months, among which there will possibly be intergovernmental processes. But we can already distinguish some positive achievements, as well as some outstanding failures (see the Caritas analysis).

So, where is Europe standing in all this?

It is clear that if we consider all the different and increasing challenges that Europe is going through in the humanitarian field, business as usual is not an option. Monique Pariat, new Director General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations at the European Commission (DG ECHO), confirmed in a meeting with Dutch Humanitarian NGOs that “atypical situations asks for atypical solutions”. In fact, this tendency is reflected in the brand new structure of DG ECHO, which now has a separate unit for European and Middle East crises. This development follows from the decision taken in March of dedicating EU humanitarian funds for the refugee crisis in Greece.

Wherever in the world – within or outside Europe – the humanitarian cause should have priority. We need to support the leadership of local actors as their role in being the first respondents to crises is crucial. They also need to be involved in bridging the gap between humanitarian aid and development, in increasing resilience to brief as well as protracted crises.

The position of Europe in all this can be positive and visionary. But only if it maintains its fundamental asset of solidarity and respects all the principles embraced in the European Consensus for Humanitarian Aid. Europe needs to fully implement its policies on protection, taking into account the vulnerable position of children in emergencies, and all interlinked issues, such as health, water, sanitation and hygiene, shelter and food. It needs to proactively strengthening the link between relief, rehabilitation and development.

Photo: “Leaders' Family Photo” by World Humanitarian Summit is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.