UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits a civilian protection site in Juba, South Sudan

Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Reactions from the World Humanitarian Summit

25 May 2016

Heads of state and government, leaders from crisis-affected communities, representatives from the private sector, and NGOs gathered in Istanbul for the first World Humanitarian Summit.

The Grand Bargain commits to a target of 25% of humanitarian funding going to local NGOs by 2020. Degan Ali, head of Kenyan NGO Adeso, described this as "one of the successes of the whole WHS process." She added: "We need to work to ensure that this target is not static and keeps increasing year on year."

Bond members and others in the NGO community have been responding to the summit.


ActionAid's International Humanitarian Policy Manager, Anne Mitaru said: "We see the summit itself as a step forward, and as a recognition that business as usual cannot proceed. Change is badly needed, but time will tell as to whether this Summit will bring about a real change in the system."

Michelle Higelin, Co-Chair of ActionAid's International Humanitarian Platform said: "Overall, there has been a failure to critically engage with those most affected by humanitarian emergencies to enact that change. There were very few alternatives put on the table for how to make real the change that is needed in humanitarian action."

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All We Can

Jason Snuggs, All We Can's Humanitarian Aid Manager, said the summit "shows that world leaders are aiming to address humanitarian issues in a more coherent and holistic way.

"All We Can is pleased to hear the focus is on enabling people in disaster struck regions to have more decision making power in their own lives. This summit provides opportunities for governments and NGOs to find better ways of working together in the future. The challenge now is to ensure these opportunities are taken and commitments honoured," he added.

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CAFOD have said that the progress made on the localisation agenda was one of the real positive outcomes of the summit. "We have gone from a state of play where only 0.3% of humanitarian spend was channelled directly to national organisations in 2014 to a commitment almost across the entire sector to 25% by 2020."

CARE International

CARE have expressed fears that the progress and positive steps that have been made in the areas of localisation, funding and gender, will be lost by the lack of any kind of roadmap for implementation going forward, and that states will not be held to the good commitments made.

Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary General of CARE International said: "This summit is one piece in a puzzle. A lot of smaller initiatives have been launched – like the establishment of NEAR; a new local NGO consortium – and we are positive about the funding commitments made in the Grand Bargain with increased and more flexible funding. It now falls to us to hold states accountable to these commitments."

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Christian Aid

Christian Aid have welcomed the commitment by major aid donors and NGOs to ensure 25% of humanitarian funding goes directly to local organisations on the front line of disaster relief.

Michael Mosselmans, Head of Humanitarian Policy said: "This is a significant step forward. Currently local agencies only directly receive about 0.3% so a jump to 25% by 2020 is a big deal. Ultimately this is a recognition that the world needs to put more power into the hands of those communities affected by humanitarian disasters.

"The key will be holding donors accountable for the pact they agreed in Istanbul. Warm words now will mean nothing to the next victims of a humanitarian crisis if they are not backed up with action. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating."

Development Initiatives

Development Initiatives issued a joint response with Publish What You Fund.

They welcomed the significant step forward that was achieved for the transparency of humanitarian aid at the summit, although both organisations recommend that donors strive for a more ambitious delivery than the proposed two-year timeframe where possible.

Harpinder Collacott, Executive Director of Development Initiatives, said: "An effective response to crisis must be underpinned by transparent and accessible information on what resources are available, where they are coming from, where they are being spent and what impact they are having.

"The International Aid Transparency Initiative offers a solution to increase transparency of humanitarian aid and better track money and other resources to make sure they are reaching people most in need at the right time and in the right place."

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Doctors of the World

Doctors of the World have said that they feel quite positive about the summit, that they did not feel that it was too UN-centric, and that there are clearly several steps being made to increase involvement of southern NGOs.

"We are very pleased with these commitments; it had become urgent to change the way Southern actors are included in decision-making processes and have access to funds," said President, Dr Francoise Sivignon.

Speaking about the importance of respecting international humanitarian law, she added: "We expect states to apply, with urgency, these principles across all the areas in which we intervene and we request urgent protection of healthcare facilities."

Handicap International

Handicap International said the summit "marked a major step forward for people with disabilities and for impartial humanitarian aid."

Ninety-six participants signed a new Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, launched by Handicap International and partner organisations at the summit. Signatories expressed their enthusiastic support for humanitarian action that is more inclusive of people with disabilities.

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Human Appeal

Human Appeal’s Chief Executive, Othman Moqbel called for an easing of restrictions on direct humanitarian access, and spoke of the difficulties of transferring funds to some parts of the world, leading to the erosion the independent and impartial delivery of humanitarian aid.

He said: "It was a privilege to submit Human Appeal's testimony to world leaders and fellow NGOs at the World Humanitarian Summit. The conclusions of the summit will enable humanitarians to work together better to make the world a safer place."

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ICVA, InterAction and SCHR

In a joint statement, the International Council of Voluntary Organisatins (ICVA), InterAction and the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR) said: "NGOs recognise that the Grand Bargain is not a panacea for all the problems of the humanitarian ecosystem. We believe though, that those who have come together to agree on these 10 commitments have negotiated a serious and realistic way forward. This should be seen as the first stage of an ongoing process."

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Researcher in IIED's Human Settlements Group, Diane Archer, said: "The summit was a welcome opportunity to increase the visibility of initiatives related to humanitarian response in urban contexts specifically, with the launch of the Global Alliance for Urban Crises and urban-focused side events.

"The multi-stakeholder approach which the alliance advocates, bringing in expertise from the humanitarian, development, academic and other sectors, is an entry point to a more inclusive, equitable and accountable process of preparedness and response."

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Sara Pantuliano, Managing Director at the Overseas Development Institute, said: "The commitments made at the summit have fallen short in substance and ambition and there is little clarity about how pledges that have been made will be taken forward and turned into reality.

"There have been exciting initiatives launched on the fringes, but it has been a missed opportunity to tackle the major problems at the heart of the formal humanitarian system."

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Oxfam have welcomed the progress made by those attending, but said that the absence of key world leaders ultimately undermined the power of the summit to deliver the prospect of real change.

Executive Director of Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyima said the summit "successfully brought together a dynamic mix of people who made progress on improving the humanitarian system – but ultimately it was world leaders who dodged their responsibility to protect civilians from the ongoing suffering of wars and natural disasters."

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War Child

War Child said that the summit had made some progress with a visible inclusion of youth on the agenda, the launch of a breakthrough fund for education in emergencies, as well as a commitment to much greater inclusion of local NGOs in the field.
However, they warned that the poor turnout of heads of state, the absence of any significant financial pledges to address the enormous humanitarian funding gap, and the lack of any formal follow-up process for the commitments make the outcome precarious.

CEO, Rob Williams, said: "We saw a breakthrough in the launch of a ring-fenced fund for education in emergencies, but more donors need to come to the table if it is to reach its funding targets of $150 million in the first year."

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Government and UN responses

UK Government

Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development, said: "The summit provided us with a compelling agenda for change – now we need to deliver. We will hold participants to their commitments, particularly the UN, and renew our efforts to roll out a new approach in crisis-affected countries."

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United Nations

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon has hailed the global community's achievements at the summit and called for the commitments made to be taken forward for transformative change.

He expressed disappointment that G7 world leaders, with the exception of German chancellor Angela Merkel, did not attend the summit. He said: "They are some of the most generous donors of funding for humanitarian action, but I urge their greater engagement, particularly in the search for political solutions," adding: "their absence from this meeting does not provide an excuse for inaction".

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