“Humanitarian aid can no longer be used as a substitute for failed diplomacy or lack of political will to find solutions to protracted global problems,” say Concern Worldwide, the NGO dedicated to tackling poverty and inequalities in the world’s poorest countries.
Political will, or lack thereof, was a running theme at the Istanbul summit this past 23-24 May. “The money we are trying to mobilize is just 1 percent of global, annual military spending. We can find it if there is political will,” said UN leader Ban Ki-moon, at the summit that has been branded “an expensive talking shop” by Oxfam, and “a fig-leaf” for international failures by the notably absent Medecins sans Frontieres.
The current world humanitarian crisis has seen global costs rise from $3.7 bn in 2004 to $2 bn last year. The refugee crisis in Europe is far from over, with Idomeni camp on the Greek-Macedonian border currently being evacuated by police over the next 10 days. The need for reforms to the currently overburdened humanitarian system is clear.
“The twin scourges of conflict and climate change have led to a remarkably high level of global suffering and the patchwork humanitarian system that has evolved over the past 70 years is unarguably struggling to handle the burden of today’s crises. We need to think hard about what we need to change. We can and need to do better,” says Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley, in a report published on their website ahead of the summit.
“We must also recognise that we cannot bear the responsibility for what is beyond humanitarian capacity and control. Ebola was a failure of prevention and of development policy. Syria is a shameful failure of the global political system,” he continues.
One concrete result of the summit was the Grand Bargain: a mutual agreement between donors and aid agencies. Donors commit to more flexibility and more direct giving to local organisations, in an attempt to tackle problems of unfair distribution of aid that sees only 2% of all funding going directly to NGOs. In turn, aid agencies have pledged to make changes to the way they work.