Overcoming obstacles to meeting humanitarian need.

Author:O'Brien, Stephen

Afghanistan has endured conflict for the last 38 years. The Democratic Republic of the Congo--for 20 years. Somalia--17. Iraq and the Sudan--13. Syria--for 5 years. These and many other protracted conflicts the world over consume 80 per cent of humanitarian financing, displace families for decades, generate new humanitarian appeals year on year and devour dollars. The economic cost of conflict was estimated to account for 13 per cent of the global economy in 2014. While an earthquake, tsunami, cyclone, flood or volcanic eruption could happen at any time, conflict is a man-made phenomenon that stands as an obstacle to meeting humanitarian needs, and we can do something about it.

The urgent need to achieve better solutions for millions of people whose lives are torn apart by conflict and violence was one of the drivers of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's decision to hold the World Humanitarian Summit on 23 and 24 May 2016 in Istanbul. The Summit was set up to gather leaders, practitioners, investors, academics and innovators from all regions and backgrounds to discuss and commit to better aid delivery for the world's most vulnerable people. As we move forward, we realize that these changes will work only if leaders dedicate themselves to finding answers to four complex challenges that have hampered our progress: preventing and resolving conflicts, upholding international humanitarian law, implementing better solutions for those who are forcibly displaced, and rethinking humanitarian financing.

First and most fundamentally, at the Summit and beyond we are looking to leaders to show greater political commitment to preventing and ending conflicts--getting this right would spell significant positive change for millions of people worldwide. As Abu Mohamed, a father in Yemen's conflict-ridden Sana'a said, standing in the remnants of his former home: "Safety. That's the only thing we need. Safety and protection. All the rest is not as important." In the months and years to come, we need to demonstrate firm commitment to improving early action based on sound risk analysis; greater focus on risk reduction by, among other measures, shoring up support to fragile States; and efforts to strengthen the impact of mediation and resolution.

Secondly, we must do more to put into practice the rules of international humanitarian law that bind all States and are aimed at protecting civilians caught up in conflict and violence. In modern conflict...

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