Documents considered by the Committee on 14th October 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


7 Towards the World Humanitarian Summit

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the International Development Committee
Document detailsCommission Communication: Towards the World Humanitarian Summit: A global partnership for principled and effective humanitarian action
Legal base
DepartmentInternational Development
Document Numbers(37067), 11667/15 + ADD 1, COM(15) 419

Summary and Committee's conclusions

7.1 The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) is an initiative of the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) and will take place on 23-24 May 2016 in Istanbul. Building on previous UN initiatives, the Summit is designed as an open and inclusive dialogue to engage diverse actors including civil society, faith groups, affected populations, the private sector, and Member States in a collective exercise to examine the effectiveness of humanitarian action and agree appropriate recommendations, so that humanitarian action taken by the EU, Member States and other actors better meets the needs of people affected by conflict and disasters.

7.2 The Communication outlines the European Commission's vision and key recommendations; the Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Communication comprises examples of work already underway with the EU to make humanitarian action more fit for purpose (see "Background" for details).

7.3 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (Baroness Verma) agrees with the Commission's analysis that the international humanitarian system is under unprecedented strain, failing to address ever increasing risk and subject to an increasing deficit between appeals and resources. The WHS thus provides a unique opportunity to improve outcomes for the millions of people affected by crises every year. The Minister agrees that the Summit should make progress on better linking humanitarian, development and climate action, building resilience to natural disasters and securing much better outcomes in protracted, conflict-related crises. First and foremost, she wants an agreement on practical steps that will "drive radical change to the nature and scope of humanitarian action" and "deliver a truly global commitment to address the growing risks of humanitarian crises, driven by the values of our shared humanity".

7.4 The Minister also outlines four thematic areas where she thinks there is potential to move the agenda forwards at the Summit, and which she says have much in common with the Commission's recommendations for action (see "Background" for details).

7.5 In the immediate future, the Minister says that there will be an "orientation" debate on the WHS at the October "Development" Foreign Affairs Council, with the possibility of Council Conclusions in late 2015 or early 2016.

7.6 The Commission has an annual budget of €1 billion (£733 thousand) per year for its humanitarian and civil protection activities, and provides funding to over 200 partner organisations that implement humanitarian actions on the ground. It will thus clearly have a major role in the Summit, and in implementing its recommendations. What happens between now and then within the Councils of the EU is thus politically important.

7.7 In the first instance, we would like the Minister to write to us with details of the outcome of the "orientation" debate, her views on it and what the next steps will then be.

7.8 In the meantime, we shall retain the Commission Communication under scrutiny.

7.9 We also draw these developments to the attention of the International Development Committee.

Full details of the document: Commission Communication: Towards the World Humanitarian Summit: A global partnership for principled and effective humanitarian action: (37067), 11667/15 + ADD 1, COM(15) 419.

Background

7.10 The European Commission's Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) aims to save and preserve life, prevent and alleviate human suffering and safeguard the integrity and dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises. Headquartered in Brussels with a global network of field offices, ECHO aims to ensure rapid and effective delivery of EU relief assistance through its two main instruments: humanitarian aid and civil protection. Since November 2014, ECHO operates under the mandate of Mr Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

7.11 The annual EU budget for humanitarian and civil protection actions amounts to approximately €1 billion; the total 2014-20 budget being €6.6 billion (£4.8 billion), with the precise annual figures being decided at the end of each year. An EU Emergency Aid Reserve can also be called upon to respond to unforeseen events and major crises, financing notably humanitarian, civilian crisis management and protection operations in non-EU countries. ECHO provides funding to over 200 partner organisations which implement humanitarian actions on the ground. These include non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international organisations and United Nations agencies (UN).[ 62]

7.12 The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General has called the first ever WHS as a response to an unprecedented increase in the number of people affected by conflicts and natural disasters, including the highest number of displacements since World War II.

7.13 The Commission sees the summit as presenting the global community "with a unique opportunity to establish an international consensus reaffirming the principles of humanitarian aid and strengthening humanitarian action". The summit will bring together governments, donors, implementing organisations,[ 63] the private sector and representatives of affected populations who:

"where needed, should commit to more effective ways of working together for the common objective of saving lives and alleviating suffering. As a result, the summit will influence, and possibly even change, the current humanitarian modus operandi to better serve people in need."

7.14 The Commission notes that the EU and its Member States are major humanitarian donors, and thus "a key policy-setter with global operational experience" which is "expected by many stakeholders to contribute to the success of the summit". The Communication, building on the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid,[ 64] accordingly:

"sets out the Union's vision for reshaping humanitarian action and proposes recommendations that should be endorsed by the summit. The underlying message is to build and reinforce partnerships among a multitude of actors. It is only through linked and coordinated action that the global community can respond to the escalating and multifaceted crises and disasters that demand humanitarian assistance."[ 65]

7.15 The Commission notes that the Summit comes at a time when the world is confronting an unprecedented level of risk and suffering associated with increasing natural disasters and conflict. Climate variability, rapid population growth, increased displacement, pressures on natural resources and extreme poverty are also expected to increase demand on humanitarian action. Despite record donor contributions, humanitarian needs continue to outstrip available resources, requiring a truly global partnership for action that incorporates the increasingly diverse range of humanitarian actors.

7.16 The Communication makes a number of recommendations for the Summit under the following themes:

—  Reaffirming humanitarian values: Revitalise commitment to humanitarian law, principles and values as the foundation for providing assistance to the most vulnerable in times of crisis.

—  Access: Work more effectively with armed groups, including non-state armed groups, to ensure access to, and protection of, affected populations trapped in conflict zones, and ensure security for humanitarian personnel and assets.

—  Protection at the heart of humanitarian response: Emphasise the importance of protecting people from the harms of conflict, including violations of International Humanitarian Law, and focus on the most vulnerable, such as women, children, the elderly and less able who suffer disproportionately in conflicts. This should be supported by appropriate resources, expertise, and strategies for protection as well as stronger coordination between all protection actors, including humanitarian and human rights communities.

—  The basics of humanitarian effectiveness: Address the lack of shared information on humanitarian need and impact with a common tool that combines data on risks, vulnerabilities, capacity, and resources with monitoring and evaluation of results. Donors should consider how to encourage greater coordination among implementing organisations, ease reporting requirements and promote greater engagement with affected populations to take into account their views on the assistance they receive.

—  Partnership with local, national and regional actors: Map and utilise more effectively the collective capabilities of regional, national and local actors, facilitating their participation in existing UN coordination mechanisms and clarifying the division of labour between all humanitarian actors. Donors and development actors should work to strengthen national and local capacity so these actors, who are often the first responders when crises hit, have the means and the expertise to reach affected people.

—  Efficient and sufficient humanitarian financing: Harness the collective resources of humanitarian, development, and private sector actors, including new and non-traditional donors, and ensure resources are used more efficiently to deliver better humanitarian outcomes at lower cost, for example by increasing cash-based assistance.

—  Partnership with development actors: Promote stronger linkages between humanitarian and development assistance, underpinned by multi-year financing and programming that builds resilience and increases preparedness for natural hazards.

7.17 The Communication recommends the regular review of measurable commitments entered into at the Summit, and propose to set out how the EU will contribute to the Summit outcomes once it has taken place.

7.18 The Staff Working Document outlines existing work within the EU in line with some of these recommendations, including: current policies — such as a commitment to build resilience to future crises through greater cooperation between humanitarian and development assistance; existing tools — such as the use of markers on gender and age to assess the quality of humanitarian aid; and support to other humanitarian initiatives — such as greater implementation of existing UN commitments to humanitarian reform.

The Government's view

7.19 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 14 September 2015, the Minister (Baroness Verma) describes the Commission Communication as "a valuable contribution to a forward-looking agenda for humanitarian action that will inform the outcomes of the Summit". She notes that the overall vision for the Summit is currently being refined, drawing on the extensive regional and thematic consultation processes that have been underway; findings from the consultation phase will be combined with research and recommendations from thematic expert groups and the WHS Secretariat itself, culminating in a Synthesis Report of the key recommendations; which is expected in late September, and will inform the agenda for the Summit itself.

7.20 The Minister goes on to note that she and her officials have worked closely and constructively with the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) on the Communication's proposals, and to welcome the Communication and the accompanying Staff Working Document.

7.21 She continues her comments as follows:

"There are strong parallels between the Commission's recommendations to the Summit and the UK's own priorities. The Government agrees with the Commission's analysis of growing levels of humanitarian need and an increasing deficit between appeals and resources. The international humanitarian system is under unprecedented strain and failing to address ever increasing risk. In this context, the Government believes that the WHS provides a unique opportunity to improve outcomes for the millions of people affected by crises every year.

"The UK agrees that the World Humanitarian Summit should make progress on better linking humanitarian, development and climate action, building resilience to natural disasters and securing much better outcomes in protracted, conflict-related crises. We too want to see practical steps agreed at the Summit that will drive radical change to the nature and scope of humanitarian action.

"First and foremost, the UK wants the Summit to deliver a truly global commitment to address the growing risks of humanitarian crises, driven by the values of our shared humanity. This political commitment is the pre-condition for all that follows, and is closely aligned to the Commission's recommendation for a reaffirmation of principled humanitarian action."

7.22 The Minister then outlines four thematic areas where she thinks there is potential to move the agenda forwards at the Summit, and which she says have much in common with the Commission's recommendations for action.

"PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS

"The disregard of international law is not only a major humanitarian concern, it also undermines international norms and global stability. The Summit should revitalise humanitarian diplomacy, delivering significant shifts in the behaviour of parties to the conflict and improving access to the most vulnerable people. In line with the Communication, the UK also believes this should be supported by a stronger performance on the protection of crisis-affected people by the international humanitarian system. This means a more comprehensive approach to protecting civilians, including refugees and Internally Displaced Persons.

"BUILDING RESILIENCE

"The Summit should help to accelerate progress on building resilience, especially of the poorest and most vulnerable, for example by investing in insurance and better risk analysis of frequent hazards, and building the capacity of national and local actors. As the Communication acknowledges, it is important that people affected by crises, civil society and where possible national and local governments, play a role in defining their needs and allow them to drive and deliver the response.

"SMARTER CRISIS FINANCING

"The UK agrees with the Commission that addressing the increasing gap between humanitarian need and available resources requires a new way of financing crisis response. For the UK, this means a focus on medium term financing and a better blend of humanitarian, development, local and private sectors resources. We also believe that a key element of smarter financing would be to harness the transformative potential of cash-based approaches to catalyse markets and drive value. The UK would like to see a significant increase in the use of cash-based approaches in emergencies as a key part of improving impact and efficiency.

"WOMEN AND GIRLS

"The UK would also like to see the Summit address the particular threats faced by women and girls and will work in the EU and internationally to make sure that this issue is given sufficient attention. In addition to the threat of conflict-related violence, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to other forms of violence and exploitation. The Summit will be an important milestone to push forward implementation of existing commitments to protect women and girls from violence in emergencies and ensure assistance targets their specific needs."

7.23 Looking ahead, the Minister says that:

—  she and her officials will look to work closely with the Commission, Member States and other stakeholders to build support for our proposals and agree areas of common interest; will thus attend, with the Commission and other Member States, the forthcoming meeting of the Council Working Party on Humanitarian Aid (COHAFA) where the Communication will be presented and discussed; and will continues to engage regularly with ECHO on preparations for the Summit; and

—  an orientation debate on the WHS will be on the agenda of the October "Development" Foreign Affairs Council, with the possibility of Council Conclusions in late 2015 or early 2016.

Previous Committee Reports

None.


62   See Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection for full information. Back

63   Implementing organisations deliver humanitarian aid, e.g. UN agencies, international organisations, Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, NGOs. They can be international, regional, national, or community-based. Back

64   The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid was jointly agreed by the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission, thus confirming their commitment to the principles underpinning EU humanitarian aid, to enhance existing commitments for good donor practice across the EU, in partnership with other humanitarian stakeholders, and to put in place the foundations for working more closely together to ensure the most effective implementation of EU humanitarian aid in the years to come. The objective of EU humanitarian aid is to provide a needs-based emergency response aimed at preserving life, preventing and alleviating human suffering and maintaining human dignity wherever the need arises if governments and local actors are overwhelmed, unable or unwilling to act. EU humanitarian aid encompasses assistance, relief and protection operations to save and preserve life in humanitarian crises or their immediate aftermath, but also actions aimed at facilitating or obtaining access to people in need and the free flow of assistance. EU humanitarian assistance is provided in response to man-made crises (including complex emergencies) and to natural disasters as needed. See European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid for full information. Back

65   Commission Communication 11667/15, p.3. Back


 
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Prepared 14 October 2015