The World Humanitarian Summit: priorities for reform Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Reducing Humanitarian Needs

1.The UK Government should seize the opportunity of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) to start a process that will bolster compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL). This can be done in a number of ways:

2.We commend DFID’s efforts on resilience-building, particularly with regards to its “Defining Disaster Resilience” approach paper and the explicit mention of building resilience in the cross-Government humanitarian policy. However, we believe that the gap between conceptualising and implementing resilience could be reduced in order to build more crisis-resistant communities. (Paragraph 15)

3.DFID should work closely with implementing partners to clarify expectations on how resilience should be built into programming interventions and how best practice can be more broadly shared. Launching such an initiative at the WHS would help develop universal best practices on resilience building that can strengthen crisis-prone communities and reduce humanitarian need. (Paragraph 16)

4.We recognise the value of incorporating resilience into programming in conflict-prone states—particularly with regard to food security, infrastructure and livelihoods—and commend DFID’s work in this respect. (Paragraph 18)

5.However, we urge the Government to assert that the obligations of all actors across the global system lie first and foremost with the upholding of IHL. Under no circumstances should resilience-building be used as a strategy to mitigate IHL violations. (Paragraph 18)

6.The increased number of weather-related disasters has contributed to the increase in humanitarian needs over recent years, and this trend is likely to continue, linked to the effects of climate change. While conflicts and natural hazards cannot be avoided, there is a broad consensus on the need to invest in preventing the worst of their effects. (Paragraph 23)

7.DFID should incentivise investment in preventing the worst effects of disasters by leading the way in adopting the UN Secretary General-endorsed target of allocating 1% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to disaster risk reduction (DRR). DFID should seek reaffirmation of international commitments made in the 2030 Agenda, the Sendai Framework, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement to help vulnerable countries reduce disaster risks, as well as financial commitments to the necessary actions to achieve these. DFID should invest in research to clarify the benefits of crisis prevention for all donors. (Paragraph 24)

8.Under the UN Charter, Member States are obliged to make efforts to prevent and end conflicts and to build peace. As the number of political conflicts has steadily increased over recent years, it is clear that the international system is failing to deliver on this obligation. (Paragraph 31)

9.The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) should provide a platform for discussion on how to improve systems to monitor political risks and warn of heightened risks of conflict, and to initiate political action/intervention. The UK Government should play a key role in ensuring that monitoring systems become both more collaborative and timely. Governments should also agree in advance circumstances in which political intervention, through all available instruments, is initiated. (Paragraph 32)

10.The UK Government should also invest in strengthening the capacities of international and regional organisations to monitor and mediate cases of rising political tensions through use of the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). It should use the WHS to push for a commitment to a needs-based, as opposed to political, approach to humanitarian intervention to ensure that all severe crises are pre-empted and addressed and that none are neglected, as in the case of the Central African Republic (CAR). (Paragraph 33)

11.Political commitment to humanitarian values is crucial in delivering a more effective humanitarian system. We commend the UK Government’s efforts in this respect, particularly in the hosting of the Syria conference earlier this year. A number of contributors to this inquiry have stressed that the Prime Minister’s attendance at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) would be an important signal of the UK’s continued support. (Paragraph 34)

12.As such a large donor, a signal of high-level UK support is vital to a strong Summit outcome and thus a more effective delivery of UK humanitarian assistance. We strongly recommend that the Prime Minister consider attending the WHS. (Paragraph 35)

Reforming the system

13.Closing the gap between the activities of short term humanitarian and longer term development actors has been recognised as a priority for action at the World Humanitarian Summit. While prior discussions on this topic have failed to deliver much needed reforms, the Summit is an important opportunity to launch a concrete set of actions to deliver results. (Paragraph 42)

14.DFID should propose a number of ways to close the gap between development and humanitarian interventions. It should:

15.We commend DFID’s commitment to education in crises, particularly its support for the No Lost Generation Initiative. Education is consistently highlighted as a priority for those affected by crises and acts as a bridge between overcoming crises in the short term and longer term development. (Paragraph 44)

16.DFID should use the Summit to stress the long term development effects of disrupted education and press for commitments on providing an education for all children in emergencies and protracted crises. It should ensure that the Education Crisis Platform reflects a truly transformative approach to education in crises. (Paragraph 45)

17.The global humanitarian system displays a worrying lack of separation of powers between those assessing needs and those appealing for funds. (Paragraph 48)

18.DFID should propose the establishment of an independent body to be responsible for conducting needs assessments in crises. DFID should work with like-minded donors in the build up to and at the Summit to ensure this fundamental problem is addressed. (Paragraph 48)

19.A number of organisations have called for institutional reforms to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the humanitarian system’s high-level coordinating body. It is our view that the IASC represents a dated approach to the coordination of humanitarian assistance that is increasingly failing to represent the reality on the ground. (Paragraph 52)

20.DFID should press for expanded membership of the IASC, with an aim to include representation from local and national organisations in order to move towards a decentralised network model. The inclusion of voices from affected communities, particularly women and women’s organisations, is important. Decision-making processes within the IASC should remain independent of donors and governments who should focus on holding the institutions that govern the humanitarian system to account. Expanded membership should therefore not include donors or governments. At the High-Level Leaders’ Roundtables, the UK Government should make it clear that reforms of institutional structures are a necessary but not sufficient condition for an improved system. Rather than being content with tweaks to the way institutions are run, all actors must work together to foster a system-wide change in thinking on how humanitarian assistance can best be delivered. (Paragraph 53)

21.We have heard evidence that there is a need for fundamental, systemic reform to address concerns about the core architecture of the humanitarian system and rethink the approach to humanitarian assistance. We are disappointed to see the lack of a forum to directly address these issues at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), particularly the exclusion of the High-Level Leaders’ Roundtable on “Building the future of humanitarian action: towards more effective, context-specific, and predictable responses” from the final programme. (Paragraph 59)

22.We urge DFID to build consensus on the need to examine these concerns in the build-up to the WHS. An independent investigation of the organisational structures within the humanitarian system should be commissioned. Where structural problems are evident, as determined by thorough and objective consideration of the evidence, DFID should strive to find like-minded donors and push for an open conversation on how best to deal with them through the necessary reforms. (Paragraph 60)

23.A key aim for the World Humanitarian Summit needs to be a new funding model that can deliver humanitarian assistance in a more efficient and effective manner and which seeks to broaden the donor base. We welcome DFID’s efforts in increasingly introducing multi-year financing into its programming in fragile states. In line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.1, multi-year financing is particularly important in delivering quality universal education to children in crises. (Paragraph 67)

24.DFID should push for a commitment from all donors to a reoriented funding model that invests in longer term needs through multi-year financing, particularly at the High-Level Leaders’ Roundtable on humanitarian financing. DFID should focus on education as a key sector that needs an alternative financing approach, building consensus around commitment to education in crises in conjunction with multi-year commitments. (Paragraph 68)

25.DFID should also ensure that the Summit results in a reinvigorated role for the International Financial Institutions, particularly the World Bank, in responding to crises. This should involve a push to expand the World Bank’s Crisis Response Window and a discussion on how the World Bank can better support crisis-affected countries who are not eligible for support from the International Development Association (IDA). Such discussions should be linked with the upcoming IDA replenishment. (Paragraph 69)

26.A new approach to the financing of the humanitarian assistance is undoubtedly needed to close the US$15 billion gap between needs and resources. New approaches to direct and indirect insurance mechanisms should be a key feature of this agenda at the World Humanitarian Summit. (Paragraph 75)

27.We urge DFID to champion risk transfer mechanisms such as climate insurance at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) and negotiate multi-year commitments for the G7 InsuResilience initiative up to 2020. We commend DFID’s work in advocating for the role of social protection systems in avoiding crises, and we encourage the Department to make commitments to social protection a key objective of the WHS. In order to do this, DFID should ensure that all actors in the global system have plans in place to deliver on SDG Goal 1.3 (on social protection systems), and that disaster-prone countries are assisted in achieving this goal. (Paragraph 76)

28.DFID should expand upon its good work in incorporating local actors into crisis response in a number of ways:

29.DFID has rightly championed the needs of vulnerable groups in crises in the past, and the World Humanitarian Summit is an opportunity to develop global standards on inclusivity in humanitarian responses. We commend DFID for its support of the Charter on Inclusion of People with Disabilities to be launched at the Summit. (Paragraph 90)

30.DFID should advocate for the outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) to include a pledge on global standards of inclusivity in the humanitarian system from all donors and funding recipients. This should include a commitment that no group will be neglected in responses and a recognition that needs vary within crisis-affected populations. We urge DFID to ensure that strong support for the Charter on Inclusion of People with Disabilities across the international community is a key outcome of the Summit. DFID should also lead a drive to promote diverse leadership within the humanitarian system, so that the interests of vulnerable groups are reflected in processes driving decision-making and funding allocations. (Paragraph 91)

31.While we recognise the importance of the security of international financial flows, we are concerned that, in certain circumstances, NGOs are not able to operate effectively due to unintended adverse consequences of counter-terrorism legislation. (Paragraph 97)

32.We commend DFID for taking steps to address this issue domestically, but we urge it to use the World Humanitarian Summit as a platform to address this problem at the global level. This should involve the opening of a dialogue between all parties concerned (the financial sector, NGOs, national governments, etc.) to explore solutions to these problems. We also urge the UK Government to explore reasonable exceptions in counter-terrorism statutes for humanitarian activities, as exist in jurisdictions such as Australia. (Paragraph 98)

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

6 May 2016