WHS: Humanitarian aid is ‘failing’ – in an interview, UN advisor tells why

Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and Special Advisor to the UN Envoy for Syria, at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: OCHA

What was your main message at the World Humanitarian Summit today?

Jan Egeland: My talk today was that via besieged areas in Syria, and Fallujah in Iraq to Yemen, to many parts of Africa, we are failing millions of people, we are not reaching them. That is a theme we need to focus on at the humanitarian summit. We’re doing lots of good work for tens of millions of people but there are still millions we are not even reaching.

At the Summit, there are five core responsibilities world leaders are asked to promote. One of them is respecting the rules of war, such as protecting civilians. What can concretely come out of this conference to achieve that commitment?

Jan Egeland: One very concrete things I would hope is that leaders who travel back from here would say—can we at least stop assisting, aiding, giving arms, giving money to those armed groups that are systematically violating humanitarian law of armed conflict, and bombing hospitals, bombing schools, abusing women and children—that kind of behaviour we cannot continue supporting. So let’s blacklist this division and that armed group and that army and that government. They have to behave better before they get our support. That would be my wish.

The Security Council recently adopted a resolution on protecting healthcare and civilians. How does that translate on the ground right now?

Jan Egeland: There is unfortunately a big distance from the Security Council chambers to the battlefield in the sense that the men with arms and power on the ground are not getting the right orders, it doesn’t reach them really. And even when they get the orders, they are not obeying them. That’s what the Security Council has to fix. [Member States] have to make their resolution be implemented—which means they have to go systematically to all of those who are sponsors of armed groups, and say end impunity, end assisting those who do bad things, make it less attractive to do bad things and more attractive to do good things. Then we would see change.

Turning to the refugee crisis, have you seen action on how countries can come together to better support refugees at this World Humanitarian Summit?

Jan Egeland: Well, there are pledges for more funding for humanitarian work, for internally displaced which are at the bottom of the pit and getting the least of the attention and the resources—as well as for refugees. We lack governments saying they will also uphold humanitarian law and the UN refugee convention, keeping borders open and keeping the right of asylum sacrosanct. As Europeans, when we initiated the refugee convention we really felt that asylum was important when we were the asylum seekers. Why don’t we think it’s equally important now, when we are those to whom people come for asylum?

Today is the second and last day of the Summit. What do you think has been the biggest achievement in Istanbul?

Jan Egeland: The biggest achievement is to assemble so many humanitarian workers in one place at the same time. There are 5,000 people here and there is recognition of their good humanitarian work. But the problem is what will happen afterwards—will we see that we have better tools, will we see we have better resources, and will see that we are better reaching the millions we are not reaching. We have to be more focused next time, and try to get one thing at a time sorted out.

Leaders are underlining this is the first ever humanitarian summit. Does that imply that there will be many more to come?

Jan Egeland: Not necessarily in this shape and in this format. But this will be part of a process to make the humanitarian system more efficient, more cost-effective. We must do away with all that ridiculous competition for funding, for credit and what not, and really discuss how can we reach all those we are not reaching, how can we get people out of their endless misery, and get them out of their situation as displaced, as refugees, as chronically poor or chronically exposed to disasters.

UN Forum on indigenous issues opens 2016 session with focus on conflict, peace and resolution

9 May 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the launch of a plan to realize the full rights of indigenous peoples who are increasingly being drawn into conflicts over their lands and resources.

“I am pleased to send greetings to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues,” Mr. Ban said via video message at the opening of the forum's 15th session, held in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York. “I welcome your focus on conflict, peace and resolution.”

More than 1,000 indigenous participants from all regions of the world are expected to attend the annual two-week Forum, this year held from 9 to 20 May. The issues of peace and conflict, often relating to indigenous peoples' lands, territories and resources, and to their rights and distinct identities, will be at the forefront of this year's discussions.

“Lasting peace requires that indigenous peoples have access to cultural, social and economic justice,” the UN chief highlighted. “The 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples called on the United Nations to ensure a coherent approach. In response, we have developed a System-Wide Action Plan, which we will launch today,” he said.

Noting that it is essential for the global community work as one to realize the full rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. Ban commended the President of the General Assembly for beginning consultations on the further participation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations.

Following a ceremonial welcome by the traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Todadaho Sid Hill, today's opening session of the Forum is also set to feature remarks from Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft and the Vice-President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Sven Jürgenson.

In his address to the Forum, Mr. Jürgenson highlighted that 2016 has been deemed the year of implementation: “I encourage all indigenous peoples to continue to engage in this important process,” he said. “I also encourage Member States to work with indigenous peoples, not only because they have the right to participate in the development process, but also because they have extremely valuable contributions to make for all.”

Noting that tIndigenous_Forum2014he 2030 Agenda gives the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues a “new and important responsibility,” the senior UN official encouraged it to guide ECOSOC on how to ensure that indigenous peoples are not “left behind.”

“What are indigenous peoples’ specific situations, challenges, successes, contributions in our common journey towards sustainable development,” Mr. Jürgenson specified. “You are the experts – and we count on you to bring that expertise into the discussion.”

Meanwhile, the President of the 70th session of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, recalled thIndigenous_Forum15at since taking office, he has “sought to advance openness, transparency and inclusion” in how the UN General Assembly conducts its work.

“To me, this includes the ability of indigenous peoples to engage at the UN on matters that affect them,” Mr. Lykketoft noted. “These are peoples, after all, who not only have a right to contribute or who can provide enriching input, but who have been targeted when then speak up and historically excluded at all levels resulting in great harm to their communities, their heritage, their livelihoods and even their identity.”

“The current consultations provide a historical opportunity for Member States and Indigenous Peoples to improve and strengthen the participation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations,” he added.



'Risks of inaction are considerable', says Ban, urging new compact on refugees and migrants

Despite bold efforts, responses to the large movements of refugees and migrants – which will continue or possibly increase due to such issues as conflict, poverty and disasters – have been largely inadequate, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a new report, calling for the adoption of a global compact on responsibility-sharing that collectively ensures the human rights, safety and dignity of all refugees and migrants.

“Away from the daily headlines and stark images, strains are quietly accumulating on refugees and migrants, as well as on countries and communities that receive them, sometimes for many years,” Mr. Ban stressed in his report to the UN General Assembly, entitled In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants.

“If one lesson can be drawn from the past few years, it is that individual countries cannot solve these issues on their own. International cooperation and action to address large movements of refugees and migrants must be strengthened,” he added.

Any approach should uphold the safety and dignity in large movements of both refugees and migrants, Mr. Ban said, urging Member States to, among other things, address the root causes of such movements, protect people en route and at borders, and prevent discrimination and promote inclusion.

In his report, the Secretary-General also called on Member States to adopt a global compact on responsibility-sharing for refugees, stressing the need to recognize that large movements of refugees as a result of emerging and unresolved conflicts are “profoundly” affecting individuals and Member States, sometimes for protracted periods of time, as well as the need to commit to sharing responsibility for hosting refugees more fairly.

In addition, Mr. Ban called on Member States to undertake a State-led process to elaborate an international cooperation framework on migrants and human mobility, in the form

of a global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration, and to hold an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018 to adopt the global compact.

Upcoming high-level meeting on refugees and migrants

The Secretary-General also emphasized in his report that the UN General Assembly high-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, to be held on 19 September, will be a “unique opportunity” for world leaders to strengthen and implement existing frameworks, as well as agree on new approaches to address the issue.

“Member States must find ways to govern their national borders effectively while protecting the

human rights of all refugees and migrants,” Mr. Ban said.

“The risks of inaction are considerable. If this opportunity to reinforce respect for international law, put into place new approaches and strengthen common responses is not seized, there will likely be greater loss of life and heightened tensions among Member States and within communities,” he added.

As such, the high-level meeting will be the culmination of several international initiatives in response to global refugee and migrant crises, Mr. Ban said, expressing hope that the meeting will not only galvanize the pledges made at earlier events, but also build on those commitments to address the underlying causes and to strengthen the collective responses to large movements of refugees and migrants.

“The components needed for a comprehensive solution are at hand,” the UN chief said in the report. “The required conventions, frameworks and tools are in place, although some need wider acceptance and all need to be fully implemented.”

Crisis of solidarity

In an opinion piece published by the Huffington Post today, the Secretary-General emphasized that his report is meant to help the international community seize the opportunity that will be provided by the high-level meeting in September.

Noting that more than 60 million people – half of them children – have fled violence or persecution and are now refugees and internally displaced persons, the Secretary-General stressed that an additional 225 million are migrants who have left their countries in search of better opportunities or simply for survival.

“But this is not a crisis of numbers; it is a crisis of solidarity,” Mr. Ban stressed.

“We can afford to help, and we know what we need to do to handle large movements of refugees and migrants. Yet too often, we let fear and ignorance get in the way. Human needs end up overshadowed, and xenophobia speaks louder than reason,” he added.


Poverty continues to be the greatest global challenge of our time


csocdlogoThe NGO Committee on Social Development is dedicated to raising awareness and holding discussions on social development issues – Aging, Civil Society, Cooperatives, Disability, Employment and Decent Work, Indigenous Peoples, Poverty Eradication, Social Integration and Inclusion and Youth – taken by the U.N. system and in particular by the Commission on Social Development. The committee holds a Civil Society Forum and other capacity-building and outreach events during the session of the Commission.

This year it is jointly hosted by The Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the NGO Committee on Social Development and the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation on February 1 –2, 2016. The Civil Society Forum provides an opportunity for the Passionists International and for NGOs worldwide to learn about each other’s work, to prepare for the commission, including work on position papers and interventions.

The Civil Society Declaration is available for download in English, Spanish and French.