A world in humanitarian crisis:

Can we reverse the trend of ever-growing humanitarian needs?

Article by the Nordic Ministers on the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, 23-24 May 2016.

On May 23-24 the Secretary General of the United Nations has convened the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. The Summit has been preceded by consultations by a wide range of stakeholders from governments to local aid organizations. We recognize the need to address the global humanitarian situation. We are witnessing an unsustainable trend where an increasing number of people are dependent on humanitarian aid and deprived of a life in dignity. We can only bring about change through international cooperation and through our common efforts.

The humanitarian support provided by the Nordic countries has over the years helped millions of victims of natural and man-made disasters. Last year this support amounted to 1.18 billion USD/1.05 billion euros which make the Nordic countries one of the biggest providers of humanitarian aid in the world. We will continue our assistance to those most in need based on the principles of humanitarian aid: independence, impartiality, neutrality and humanity. At the same time we need to find new ways of reducing needs; it is not justifiable to keep people dependent on emergency aid for decades with no prospect of a better tomorrow.

We have seen the consequences of this in a particularly dramatic way over the past year in Asia, Africa, and also in Europe, including in our own countries. The Summit must send a strong signal calling for political leadership in resolving crises. Today 80 % of humanitarian needs are due to man-made conflicts and they can only be resolved through political means.

The United Nations only manages to cover some two thirds of the annual humanitarian needs. The support base urgently needs to be broadened and deepened. For the aid organizations multiannual, non-earmarked contributions are a way of increasing flexibility and rapid response in unforeseen situations and for the forgotten humanitarian crises that do not break the news. A better response is not only about increasing funding, it is also about effectiveness and accountability.

We are committed to making the humanitarian aid we finance reach more people in a more effective way that takes into account local needs and local actors. We firmly believe that women can and should play a more prominent role in planning and carrying out aid activities, that people with special needs must be taken better into account, and that the private sector has an important role in finding innovative and more efficient way of helping people in situations on emergency. We also need to bridge the gap between humanitarian and long term development aid.

Emergencies cannot be eliminated, but their negative effects can be substantially mitigated by increasing the resilience of societies, particularly in areas prone to earthquakes, floods and other forms of natural disasters. This is a task for national planning and must be taken into account at all levels in all countries. We stand ready to support these efforts in our cooperation with developing countries.

The current situation where 60 million people are refugees is not acceptable. Still, we refuse to give in. Never before have so many people in need been receiving humanitarian aid. Thousands of aid workers all over the world are doing a tremendous work every single day – often in difficult and dangerous situation. They all deserve our support and recognition and we can all help in our own way, regardless of who we are and where we are. This is our responsibility and this is a sign of our respect for fundamental human values.

Kristian Jensen, Foreign Minister Denmark
Lenita Toivakka, Minister for International Trade and Development Finland 
Lilja Dögg Alfredsdóttir, Foreign Minister Iceland
Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation Sweden
Börge Brende, Foreign Minister Norway