Commitment to Change: What world leaders must promise at the World Humanitarian Summit | Non Governmental Organization | Refugee

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The World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016 will take place in a world in which warring parties kill civilians without consequence, and in which El Niño highlights yet again the rising tide of disasters affected by climate change. The Summit also takes place in the shadow of Syria’s conflict and the greatest displacement crisis of our age. This briefing sets out Oxfam’s challenge to world leaders who fail to resolve conflicts, permit warring parties to ignore International Humanitarian Law, and do everything possible to keep the world’s refugees and displaced people from their doors. Oxfam, other NGOs and UN agencies must change too in the face of escalating humanitarian demands – including by giving a greater role and more funding directly to local actors. This briefing sets out Oxfam’s own commitments to change.
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  OXFAM BRIEFING NOTE 22 APRIL 2016 www.oxfam.org   A water tank built by Oxfam for people displaced as a result of drought caused by El Niño, Hariso, Ethiopia, 2015. Photo: Abiy Getahun/Oxfam COMMITMENT TO CHANGE What world leaders must promise at the World Humanitarian Summit The World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016 will take place in a world in which warring parties kill civilians without consequence, and in which El Niño   highlights yet again the rising tide of disasters affected by climate change. The Summit also takes place in the shadow of Syria’s conflict and the greatest displacement crisis of our age, as well as in the context of the EU  – Turkey agreement which may trade human beings for political concessions, and in the midst of a US Presidential campaign engulfed in a discourse of b igotry towards the world’s most vulnerable people. These are the political failures that drive the world’s ever  -expanding humanitarian crises. That is why the fundamental challenge is to world leaders who fail to resolve conflicts, permit warring parties to ignore International Humanitarian Law, and do everything possible to keep the world’s refugees and displaced people from their doors.  But Oxfam, other NGOs and UN agencies must change too in the face of escalating humanitarian demands  –  including by giving a greater role and more funding directly to local actors. T his briefing sets out Oxfam’s challenge to world leaders, alongside Oxfam’s own commitments to change .  2 FOREWORD  At Oxfam, the humanitarian spirit of our founders in 1942 endures. In occupied Greece during the Second World War, people were dying of starvation in their thousands. The Allied powers blockaded the country, preventing food from being let in. Oxfam was formed. We campaigned. We spoke truth to power. We agitated. We put human lives first. Eventually  –  under considerable domestic pressure and with support from people in Canada and the US  –  the British government let some food through. Seventy-four years on, in a world of immense and heightening injustice, inequalities and unfathomable suffering, that spirit is needed as much as ever. The failure to eradicate the 'scourge of war’, as promised in the UN Charter, is the world’s greatest disappointment. International political leaders seem powerful enough to initiate and prolong conflicts, but too often powerless to stop them. The human cost of that is poverty, deprivation and displacement, exacerbated by the impact of climate change  –  at Oxfam we see this impact every day. This World Humanitarian Summit is both important and timely. It must build on the momentum of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed in Agenda 2030, and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Our humanitarian system has a huge number of stakeholders, and the World Humanitarian Summit has reflected this by ensuring a multi-stakeholder process  –  a rare opportunity for world leaders and affected people to sit together to create a world where no one is left behind. This must be maintained at the Summit itself, with local civil society in particular ensured a space to speak out on behalf of affected people. And the leaders at the Summit must be concrete and decisive in their commitments, so that the current UN Secretary-General can pass the baton from Istanbul to the next Secretary-General, who must take on the challenge of making real change to help civilians everywhere. Certainly, we must design a better global humanitarian system, and local actors  –  like the thousands of local civil society bodies we are honoured to call our partners  –  must sit at the centre of that design. At Oxfam we are proud to have significantly changed our humanitarian design to match this. We are committed to increase the amount of our humanitarian funding that goes to local actors to 30 percent by May 2018. The global average is just 0.2 percent. Fundamentally, however, we need to reverse the shocking erosion of respect for International Humanitarian Law and hold governments and other parties responsible for preventing conflict. The failure to protect civilians and bring peace is driving so much of the suffering that refugees, displaced people and migrants face around the world. This makes it even more important to counter a rising tide of demagoguery towards the most vulnerable. We need more than an inspirational message from Istanbul. People need strong commitments enshrined by world leaders. Istanbul must mark a turning point in building a more humane, humanitarian world. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International   3 1 LEFT BEHIND AND LET DOWN Families who fled from the conflict in Syria in an informal settlement in Lebanon, 2016. Photo: Oxfam. In September 2015 , world leaders committed to ‘leave no - one behind’ in their pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals. But no-one is left behind more than the 125 million people affected by conflicts and disasters. They are left behind and let down by their national leaders because of the failure to resolve conflicts, to prevent or build resilience to disasters, to tackle gender equality, and to ensure every person’s access to the assistance and protection they are entitled to receive. They are let down too by the fractured ‘ international community ’  that seems to use humanitarian aid to hide its failure to bring peace, reverse the rising tide of climate-related disasters, or come up with anywhere near a fair and legal settlement to share the responsibility for hosting the world’s refugees and displaced people. Even the most generous donors to countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, publicize and promote their aid, while at the same time blocking refugees’ safe and legal routes to seek safety. Only three countries  –  Canada, Germany and Norway  –   have met their ‘fair share’ towards Syria’s crisis in terms of both aid and resettling Syrian refugees. 2  But the greatest humanitarian challenge in 2016 is that warring parties around the world have, in effect, impunity to kill civilians without consequence; to violate International Humanitarian Law (IHL), including the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Protocols, without substantial damage to their international contacts, their arms deals and their alliances. While the parties to conflict are responsible for all the violations they commit, this is made possible because governments that are not   directly involved in th e world’s conflicts put their deals and alliances ahead of their much-repeated, but in truth qualified, respect for the international law that already exists. That this is true in 2016 is an indictment of the international community, but particularly of the permanent members of UN Security Council, charged with VITAL AID AND POLITICAL FAILURE  World leaders pledged more than $11bn for Syria and its neighbours in February 2016. Meanwhile attacks on civilian areas continued in  Aleppo, forcing 35,000 people to flee in one week. 1    4 upholding international peace and security, and of the states which support warring sides in Syria, Yemen and beyond as part of their regional rivalries. The World Humanitarian Summit cannot change all that. But it is a rare chance for world leaders to do two vital things. POLITICAL RESPONSIBLITY The first is to say, plainly and clearly, that they will not allow the systematic violation of International Humanitarian Law  –  and the failure to uphold the spirit of International Refugee Law and International Human Rights Law  –  to become the ‘new normal’. They must wholeheartedly commit to tackle the toll of civilian death and displacement as parties to conflict regularly violate International Humanitarian Law, and governments around the world, in effect, permit them to do so. They must stop  giving their support to parties that are likely to commit violations of IHL. They must work tirelessly to bring peace through political processes that uphold the rights of women and men affected by conflict, and that provide opportunities for all  –  including civil so ciety, women and women’s organiz ations  –  to genuinely participate in those processes. And they must start taking a fair share of the responsi bility for the world’s most vulnerable people, which, for almost all wealthy countries, means welcoming far more refugees than they have had the courage to do up till now. They must provide far greater international support to people on the move and to host countries, while giving refugees a future with dignity, livelihoods and education. MOMENTUM FOR REFORM The second is to give the essential political momentum to the reforms that are still needed among humanitarian donors and agencies  –  UN and NGO  –  to improve and increase resources for humanitarian action, and to dramatically increase support for the frontline and national responders , including women and women’s organizations, who are closest to the crisis.   Humanitarian action must always  be as effective as it possibly can  –  meeting needs immediately and building the capacity to do so even better in the future. That means being as local as possible and as global as necessary  –  in the spirit of ‘subsidiarity’ and complementarity in which local, national, regional and international actors all support the efforts of affected people themselves to cope and recover from crises. This is a vision of a diverse ‘ecosystem’ of different agencies playing to their strengths at every level. It is an ambition that world leaders, not just humanitarian agencies, must get behind.
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