By Andreea Anca, IFRC
Representatives of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement engaged in rich, open and informal discussions with other humanitarians, representatives of governments and people affected by crisis, as well as the private sector and academic institutions, at the regional consultation of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) held in Budapest in February.
The event entitled ‘Europe and Others’ was organized by the UN OCHA, the governments of Hungary and Finland, the European Commission and ECHO, and was the largest in a series of eight regional consultations leading up to the first WHS of this scale, taking place in Istanbul in May, 2016.
The WHS was formally launched by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2013 with the intention of building a more global, accountable and robust humanitarian system.
The regional consultations gather perspectives and recommendations from various regional stakeholders on the adjustments needed to tackle the most urgent humanitarian challenges of the 21st Century.
At the Budapest consultation, Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) participated at the high-level opening panel entitled ‘Effective Humanitarian Action: vision for a future agenda’. The panel set the stage for the subsequent plenary discussions and breakout sessions guided by the four WHS themes: Humanitarian Effectiveness, Reducing vulnerability and managing risks, Transformation through Innovation and Serving the Needs of People in Conflict.
Sy reminded the audience that vulnerable people are found everywhere, not least in the more prosperous parts of the world. “People-in-need are in every single country in the world, in the poorest countries – of course – in the countries affected by natural disasters, in the countries affected by wars, but they are also in the richest countries of Europe and in North America.”
“These are the communities that we care about,” Sy added. He emphasiszed that partnerships and building trust and respect at every level in less troubled time was vital for community cohesion during crisis.
The opening panel was moderated by Baroness Valery Amos, the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator who stated that the humanitarian needs far exceed the capacity of the humanitarian sector to respond, with some 78 million people around the world who require humanitarian support in order to survive.
At some point during the meeting Fuat Oktay from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) in Turkey, reflected that gap by saying that his country faces great challenges in relation to the huge difference in the costs of the response to the Syrian and Iraqi crises, which exceeds $5 billion US dollars and the support related appeals, which remain at $300 million US dollars.
Active engagement of Red Cross Red Crescent reps
During the breakout sessions, the leaders from 16 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, as well as representatives from the IFRC and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), provided bold and innovative contributions to the four WHS topics focusing on the unique humanitarian mandate of the Movement.
They promoted the respect for the values encapsulated in the Fundamental Principles of the Movement, including positioning National Societies in reference to their auxiliary role, their operational character but also their emphasis on preparedness and resilience. Participants also promoted their societies’ roles in supporting states in the application of the International Disaster Response Law (IDRL).
The outcome text of the Budapest consultation – the Co-Chairs summary – makes reference to the 32nd International Conference, recognizing the importance and distinctiveness of this event, where all Movement components meet with representatives from all States Parties to the Geneva Conventions to discuss and adopt resolutions on major current humanitarian issues.
The document contains references to the promotion of – and compliance with – the humanitarian principles, the need to uphold IDRL, and also to maintain International Humanitarian Law as the primary legal framework when it comes to conflict resolution. This paper is not a negotiated or voted consensus text, and it reflects the vision of the co-organisers of the forum as well as their message to the Summit in Istanbul.
The Co-Chairs summary stresses in particular the essential role governments play in protecting vulnerable populations.