The current humanitarian system, unable to cope with the urgent problems of wars and natural disasters, requires that national governments, international organizations, local actors, NGOs, the private sector and public play a bigger role in crisis situations
Turkey will host the first-ever Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016. Organized under the auspices of the United Nations and to be chaired by the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the summit will address the state of the humanitarian aid system and seek to produce results to alleviate the pain and suffering of millions of people around the world.
This summit is convened at a time when humanity has been shamed by the way in which the international community has failed to respond to wars, clashes, famines and natural disasters across the globe. According to the U.N., every year around 350 million people are affected by armed clashes, wars, natural disasters and economic crises. As of this year, close to 60 million people have been displaced from their homes and millions have become refugees. They suffer from armed conflicts, lack of basic health, education and any social security.
In Syria alone, more than 11 million Syrians, half of Syria's population, live as refugees and internally displaced people. The scenes of women and children drowning in the cold waters of the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean have made the headlines and galvanized the world public opinion. While there have been some commendable responses to this horrible humanitarian crisis, we are far from dealing with it in a way that befits human dignity and the sanctity of human life.
This is one of the greatest paradoxes of our age in the sense that the world is richer than it has ever been before in history but also fails utterly to come to the aid of those in need of urgent help. The rich countries of the world consume world's resources dozens of times more than the rest of the world. Some do provide financial aid and the various national and international aid agencies try to help. But the shameful fact is that the current state of humanitarian affairs remains a dark spot in modern history.
The problem is not the lack of material resources and financial means. Our world has enough resources to meet the basic needs of every human being. The problem is the systematic absence of a humane perspective and sense of moral responsibility toward the needy and the less fortunate. The incompetency of the current humanitarian regime also deepens the sense of despair among crisis-stricken people on the one hand, and the aid organizations on the other.
We therefore need to develop a two-pronged approach. First of all, the organizational structure of delivering aid will have to be redefined in such a way as to maximize efficiency and coordination. The current humanitarian system cannot cope with the urgent problems of wars and natural disasters and needs a comprehensive update. National governments, international organizations, local actors, NGOs, the private sector and citizens have to play a bigger role in crisis situations. The international community as a whole ought to provide more support to countries and communities in need to deal with emergency situations.
Secondly and more importantly, a new sense of moral responsibility to help and protect people from wars, famines and natural disasters will have to be instilled. It is a shame that while a part of the world community lives in peace and prosperity, the rest is bogged down in man-made and natural disasters that strip people of their basic humanity. There is no excuse for the death of millions of children in Africa, Asia and the rest of the world from malnutrition and lack of basic health services. Most often than not, the problem lies in the fact that people do not care about others as human beings who deserve the same rights and means as others. When it comes to protecting human dignity, there is no difference between the religion, ethnicity or culture of people. It is our shared responsibility to protect every human being for the simple fact that they are human beings.
The Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul is expected to address these two main issues and produce action-oriented policy recommendations that are hoped to alleviate the pain and suffering of tens of millions of people around the world.
Lastly, it is only apt that this very first Humanitarian Summit is being held in Turkey because Turkey hosts 3 million refugees from Syria, Iraq and other countries. Since the beginning of the Syrian war, Turkey has shouldered the burden of the refugee crisis almost singlehandedly with little help from the international community. Turkey is committed to continuing its "open-door policy" for the Syrian refugees and others regardless of the aid and support from other countries.
But it is our common moral responsibility to look after our brothers and sisters in humanity.
About the author
Presidential spokesperson for the Republic of Turkey