World Humanitarian Summit – an agenda for shared humanity: Op-ed by Robert D. Watkins, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh

WHSUNRC Photo.small sizeDhaka, Saturday, 21 May 2016: With the advent of the Syrian civil war and the unfolding migrants tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea basin, the world is witnessing a significant rise in the number of humanitarian crises. At least 125 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance; 60 million of these people were forced to leave their homes, representing the largest number of displaced people since World War II. This growing crisis spans across many parts of the world, but is particularly acute in 37 countries.

Humanitarian operations have also become increasingly complex and diverse in nature. At the same time, resources are becoming more and more scarce as donor countries dip ever deeper into their national humanitarian and development budgets to address the crises. Last year, the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, called for worldwide coordinated action to provide effective and efficient humanitarian support to millions of people affected by conflicts and disasters. In response to his appeal, global leaders will gather in Istanbul on 23rd and 24th May for the first ever World Humanitarian Summit to renew joint efforts at coming to grips with these challenges. The Summit is designed to represent the perspectives and proposals of all countries across the world, including Bangladesh.

At the same time, the UN Secretary General will present an “Agenda for Humanity” and urge global leaders to commit to five core responsibilities.
Core Responsibility 1 is for Global leadership to prevent and end conflict through political solutions, as conflicts drive 80% of all humanitarian needs.
Core Responsibility 2 is focused on upholding the norms that safeguard humanity, as some 90% of people who are killed or injured in deliberate or indiscriminate attacks in wars are civilians. Core Responsibility 3 calls for “leaving no one behind” – including women, girls, men, boys, migrants, refugees, minorities, the poor, elderly and people with special needs – to ensure an inclusive progress towards sustainable development. Core Responsibility 4 pushes to change people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need – by reducing vulnerability and risk through systematic and transformative approaches. Core Responsibility 5 asks the international community to invest in humanity by accepting and acting upon our shared responsibilities for humanity through political, institutional and financial investment, and reducing funding gaps for humanitarian and urgent development activities.

The Summit is of special importance for Bangladesh.  This country has been heavily affected by the challenges wrought by climate change, including the rising number of internally displaced people. The pressure of effectively assisting displaced people in Bangladesh is expected to increase in the coming years primarily due to the increasingly adverse impact of climate change. In addition, Bangladesh has been hosting people fleeing from conflict in neighbouring Myanmar since the late 1970s.

We also know too well that Bangladesh is in an earthquake-prone region where two fault-lines cross the country’s northeast and southeast. In the past year alone, Bangladesh’s neighbours have had to deal with several destructive earthquakes which were also felt here in Bangladesh. Experts predict that similarly strong earthquakes can strike Bangladesh at any moment.

Bangladesh has had considerable success over the years in decreasing the number of victims from cyclones and floods through the introduction of various reforms and preventative policies. The Government of Bangladesh has sent a high-level delegation to participate in the World Humanitarian Summit and share its experiences and best practices. It is anticipated that Bangladesh will play a central role in the Istanbul Summit by helping to create new global policies, given the experience it has gained over the years from confronting a wide range of humanitarian challenges.

The Agencies, Funds and Programmes of the United Nations System in Bangladesh are working closely with the Government, along with civil society and Development Partners, to support their efforts in responding to on-going humanitarian-related issues in the country and preparing for any new disasters which may occur.