Restoring humanity with compassion: Turkey and the World Humanitarian Summit

Published 21.05.2016 00:48

​The international community has failed in the case of the Syrian civil war as the number of refugees increased expotentially

In the contemporary world of increasing civil wars, instability and human suffering, perhaps one crucial area is missing in the complex institutional network of global governance concern mechanisms for effective coordination of humanitarian support and disaster management. A plethora of conflict hotspots in the world continues to perpetually produce dramatic news of people losing their lives, needing medical treatment and shelter, refugees fleeing their countries for basic safety and generations lost in the midst of ethnic, sectarian or territorial wars. Especially with the reversal of the Arab revolutions, the collapse of political authority in various Middle Eastern and African countries and flourishing of extremist organizations, humanity has started to witness the highest level of human suffering since World War II.  

Although various institutions under the rubric of the United Nations system have designated mandates to oversee coordination initiatives among national mechanisms of humanitarian assistance and crisis management, the explosion of civil and international conflicts as well as massive waves of refugee flows towards Europe sent strong warning signals. Meanwhile, the apparent inaction of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States and Russia, to ongoing humanitarian calamities triggered added concerns for the aggravation of the humanitarian agenda.Therefore, it was a highly commendable act by Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon to call for humanity - people's safety, dignity and the right to thrive - to be placed at the heart of global policy making. Ban, put forward his comprehensive "Agenda for Humanity" that includes preventing and ending prolonged conflicts, ensuring the observance of rules of war, leaving no one behind in humanitarian assistance and developing innovative strategies for humanitarian and emergency support. If implemented, these priorities necessitate a more holistic approach to conflict prevention and crisis management through addressing root causes of violent conflicts, protecting civilians and health workers from the destruction of wars, providing additional support to countries hosting refugees, reinforcing local and international systems of natural disaster management and speeding up decision making within the cumbersome U.N. system. The secretary general deserves appreciation for taking the initiative to bring together all national, international, civil and academic actors dealing with conflict prevention, peace building, humanitarian support and disaster/crisis management on a global platform.

The first ever "World Humanitarian Summit" takes place next week May 23-24 in Istanbul with the participation of 125 national delegations and 50 heads of state or government, along with 5,000 international dignitaries representing different public and private institutions and NGOs. As for the selection of Turkey to host this crucial summit, the prevalent global image that as a "compassionate country" hosting around 3 million refugees that fled the civil war in Syria became undoubtedly effective in the process. As to the main themes of the summit "restoring humanity" and "shared responsibility," Turkey has been forcing its financial, social and physical capacities and undertook humanitarian responsibility to support the refugees from Syria and a myriad of conflict zones, orphans in Africa, and disaster-struck people in East Asia.

Through flagship organizations, such as the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) and Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), Turkey developed a comprehensive institutional capacity in humanitarian assistance and excelled as the most generous international donor in relation to her per capita GDP. TİKA's annual humanitarian assistance budget has reached $3.5 billion through operations in 142 countries. AFAD has intervened into natural disasters and humanitarian crises in more than 40 countries and the Turkish Red Crescent became the second strongest humanitarian assistance institution with a capacity to support 300,000 people with emergency food and shelter. Our sincere hope is that the first ever "World Humanitarian Summit" in Istanbul constitutes a milestone for more effective and systematic international collaboration for urgent humanitarian assistance and disaster/crisis management.

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