For Human Dignity: The World Humanitarian Summit and the challenge to deliver

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The UN Secretary-General has called the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 ‘to make humanitarian action fit for the future'. Tens of millions of people receive humanitarian aid every year, but millions more suffer without adequate help and protection, and their number is relentlessly rising. One summit cannot change everything. But the key tests of its integrity and success are that the World Humanitarian Summit: ã   demands that states are held to account for their international obligations on assistance and protection
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  OXFAM BRIEFING PAPER JULY 2015 www.oxfam.org  Indramaya Shrestha searches for belongings in the ruins of her home, Nepal, April 2015. Photo: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam.  FOR HUMAN DIGNITY The World Humanitarian Summit  and  the challenge to deliver  2 Tens of millions of people receive vital humanitarian aid every year, but millions more suffer without adequate help and protection, and their number is relentlessly rising. Far too often this is because their own governments cannot, or wilfully will not ensure their citizens’ access to aid and protection. But international aid has not kept pace with the rising tide of climate-related disasters and seemingly intractable conflicts. And the promise to help affected people reduce their vulnerability to future disasters, and to lead their own humanitarian response, has not yet been kept. Part of the solution is in the hands of humanitarians. Twenty-five years of reforms have still not built truly accountable humanitarian agencies – UN, NGO or government – that are both swift to respond to new crises and that invest enough in building more resilient, sustainable futures. But most of the solution is not in humanitarians’ hands. They do not cause the conflicts, climate change and inequality that drive crises. Until the world’s governments – which will gather for the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016 – address the injustice behind humanitarian crises, the demand for aid will keep on rising, and tens of millions more men, women and children will keep on struggling to survive. One Summit cannot change everything. But the key tests of its integrity and success are that it: ã   Demands that states are held to account for their international obligations on assistance and protection ã   Sets out genuinely new ways to support local humanitarian action, reverse the growing gap between the amount of aid needed and given, and reduce the risk of future disasters   3 FOREWORD Our world is becoming a more dangerous place. Crises are intensifying. For many years the humanitarian community has responded to one crisis after another, sometimes successfully, sometimes only partially so. But too often there have been failures. These failures rest on the injustices and inequalities that help to drive these crises in the first place. And always the people who are most poor and vulnerable are left suffering the consequences. We have the wherewithal to build a better global humanitarian system. And we have the duty to tackle the world's failure to uphold the rights to assistance and protection that international law already sets out. Civil society fought very hard for these rights to be enshrined in today’s humanitarian system. These have given us a good foundation now to put ‘solidarity with people’ at the heart of an improved system.  A successful humanitarian response begins before a crisis hits. We need to tackle the structural causes of crisis, not simply to mop up its tragic human consequences afterward. We must act together to change the harmful policies and practices that spark a crisis and deepen people’s vulnerability to it in the first place. If that makes Oxfam’s work ‘political’ then it is proudly so – we have stayed true to our vision since 1942. The focus of tomorrow’s renewed humanitarian response system must shift fundamentally toward Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. This is where political and economic power is moving, and where people’s opportunities and needs are greatest. Far too often, whether rotten or wrecked, states fail and fall into conflict. And today – in some ways both rotten and wrecked – the world faces the existential challenge of climate change caused by human actions. In the face of these huge challenges, our leaders often face real and invented pressures not  to do their humanitarian duty. Oxfam will continue to work in solidarity with allies, partners and local communities to bolster our leaders to take their humanitarian responsibilities seriously and resist the pressures of inertia. This paper outlines four key tests for the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. At the heart of each one exists ‘people’ and making good their agency, knowledge, resilience and rights. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International  4 SUMMARY  A woman and her child take shelter as a jet bombs the streets around her home in, Aleppo, Syria in 2012. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam. Tens of millions of people receive vital humanitarian aid every year. Oxfam alone helped more than 8 million people in 2014, including 3.6 million with better access to clean water; 2  and in June 2015 the UN was appealing for funds to reach 78.9 million people across 37 countries. 3  However, millions suffer without adequate help or protection, and the number of people exposed to crises seems to relentlessly increase. This is not primarily because the so-called ‘humanitarian system’ is failing, but because of the injustice at the heart of humanitarian crises: ã  The poorest and least powerful are always the most vulnerable; ã  Those who cause conflicts and climate change are the last to pay for their consequences; ã  Too many states – and other armed groups – ride roughshod over their citizens’ rights to assistance and protection; and ã  Too many other governments, including those sitting on the UN Security Council, squabble over political rivalries instead of uniting to uphold the international law that already exists. What is wrong is not that humanitarian action has stood still. It has not. The World Humanitarian Summit’s host, Turkey, exemplifies the contribution of nations that have been traditionally excluded from the Western ‘club’ of humanitarian leaders. If the $1.6bn it spent on hosting Syrian refugees in 2013 is included, Turkey gives more humanitarian aid than any other country except the US and UK. 4   ‘We don’t want food. We want to be protected from what is happening.’ Resident of Homs, Syria 1  
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