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Humanitarian Aid on the move # 17, special issue: The World Humanitarian Summit

Key messages from the French National Humanitarian Conference

The French National Humanitarian Conference gathered more than 400 participants from France and abroad, on the theme, “What will be the role of international humanitarian actors in the aid system of the future?”. The following key messages summarising the day’s debates will be taken by French stakeholders to the World Humanitarian Summit.

Called by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, the first World Humanitarian Summit will take place in exactly 3 months, on 23-24 May 2016, with the view to rebuild an international partnership for humanitarian action. Current events have shown how important this initiative is.

The participants at the 3rd French National Humanitarian Conference (CNH) discussed the ideas laid out in the Secretary General’s [1]. The results of the conference were as follows:

  • Acknowledgment that the current situation is much preoccupying, with millions of victims around the world and equally worrying prospects for the future;
  • A mixed assessment of the humanitarian sector, with some major steps forward in recent decades but also the recognition that the system is reaching its limits in terms of capacity;
  • Proposals for ways of consolidating a “diversified humanitarian ecosystem, centred on populations and structured by humanitarian principles”, which would be able to meet current needs more effectively and prepare to meet the challenges of the future.

 Consensus on the seriousness of the current situation

A real increase in the number, duration and complexity of crises:

  • The number of conflicts and attacks on civilian populations is constantly increasing;
  • Certain protracted conflicts have created untenable situations for the populations involved;
  • Climate change is increasing the stress on systems that are already fragile (e.g. the Sahel, the Oceanic Islands, Madagascar, and the Andean cone) and produces extreme climatic events;
  • Natural disasters have a direct impact on the most vulnerable and exposed populations.

The reasons for this situation are primarily political, notably for security crises, and can only be solved by political solutions. However, difficulties in preventing or ending political crises have become obvious notably in Syria, which was mentioned several times. This raises several issues:

  • National sovereignty is too often used to legitimate serious violations of human dignity or the holding up of the aid delivery ;
  • Non-compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL), despite being unacceptable, is increasingly common, affecting populations and humanitarian actors, and sometimes leading to impunity;
  • Global governance of international security has had mixed results, questioning the capacity of the United Nations to prevent or end conflicts;
  • Regarding the so-called natural disasters, the realization of the gravity of the coming impacts of climate change has been too slow, impacting the effectiveness of the reaction.

Consequently, humanitarian needs have grown in quantity and complexity, and are characterized by:

  • Mass population displacement, some of which are currently towards Europe;
  • Long-term crises that have an impact on entire generations, notably on the youngest who are undergoing , significant psychosocial impacts;
  • High standard of living and education in societies affected by the current crisis, which make the usual humanitarian aid irrelevant to address their needs;
  • Problems of insecurity and access to populations;
  • Deterioration of the living conditions of millions of people caught up in conflicts.

[1] One Humanity: Shared Responsibility, Report of the Secretary-General for the World Humanitarian Summit, United Nations, February 2016, 64 p.