World Humanitarian Summit: CAFOD analysis of outcomes and next steps


By Anne Street, Head of Humanitarian Policy at CAFOD

Earlier this week, the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit took place in Istanbul. Representatives from the across the aid sector – donors, UN agencies, the Red Cross, NGOs, private sector, academics and high-profile aid bodies – were all in attendance, alongside faith-based organisations including CAFOD and other Caritas agencies.

One of the real positive outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit was the success of the localisation agenda. This is something CAFOD have been working on for a number of years, advocating for local actors – who are first on the scene when there is a natural disaster or emergency – to receive a much greater share of worldwide humanitarian spending.

More aid to local partners

At the Summit, we were able to go from a state of play where only about 0.3% of humanitarian spend was channelled directly to local organisations in 2015, to a commitment almost across the entire sector that the proportion would be increased dramatically to 25% by 2020.

The movement towards localisation, as articulated in the Charter 4 Change, was demonstrated by three clear elements:

  1. Launch of the NEAR Network of southern NGOs: The first-ever global network of southern NGOs working on humanitarian response, which ECHO has announced it will fund to the tune of 700,000 Euros The NEAR Network represents a real opportunity for southern NGOs to influence and become part of decision-making processes on humanitarian action.
  2. Charter 4 Change: The Charter has now been signed by 27 INGOs, and endorsed by 125 southern NGOs and NGO networks. Preliminary analysis of the 27 signatory NGOs (US-based Catholic Relief Services announced it would become the 28th signatory on the last day of the Summit) by financial tracking service FTS, indicates they represent a combined humanitarian expenditure of more than half a billion dollars in 2015: 10% of total reported NGO funding. So the consolidated weight behind the Charter 4 Change is quite a significant force.

    The Charter 4 Change was also mentioned in the WHS Chair’s Summary. Chris Bain of CAFOD delivered the five Charter 4 Change commitments on behalf of the signatory NGOs at the High Level Round Table Number 5 (watch Chris Bain’s speech above). Sabine Attama of CADEV, Niger, was due to make Charter 4 Change commitments on behalf of the 125 southern NGOs and networks that have endorsed the Charter at the High Level Round Table on Disasters and Climate Change, but unfortunately because the event ran over time a number of the NGOs were prevented from making their pledges (but they will be shared on the Summit website). Loretta Minghella also referred to Christian Aid’s strong commitment to the Charter 4 Change in Christian Aid’s Commitment Statement at the Commitments Hub during the Summit.

  3. Grand Bargain: An agreement between the 15 largest humanitarian donors, and 16 aid agencies, including the three INGO consortia and the Red Cross, to improve efficiency and transparency across 10 work streams, the Grand Bargain includes 51 commitments. On the work stream ‘More support and funding tools for local and national responders we managed to get commitments to at least 25% of humanitarian funding to local and national responders by 2020; elaboration and application of a ‘localisation marker’; greater use of funding tools such as the UN and NGO led pooled funds; and inclusion of local and national responders in coordination mechanisms. How to measure compliance with the 51 commitments has yet to be agreed between the signatories, and this will be taken forward in the weeks immediately following the Summit.
CAFOD has called for more humanitarian funding to go to local partners

CAFOD has called for more humanitarian funding to go to local partners

Addressing the underlying causes of humanitarian crises

Whilst we welcome success on the localisation agenda, the Summit largely failed to address some other major issues, including the increasing burden of the humanitarian system. Failures to deliver concrete outcomes in terms of respect for International Humanitarian Law, protection of civilians or to address burden-sharing for refugees and migration all mean that despite some technical ‘wins’, the World Humanitarian Summit largely failed to agree a roadmap for its proposed ‘Agenda for Humanity’.

Addressing conflict or the causes of conflict remain massive challenges, and there were few gains in changing the wider humanitarian system (although there was some tinkering at the edges) or UN reform. There were also precious few tangible outcomes on addressing the World Humanitarian Summit Core Commitments to Prevent and End Conflict and Respect the Rules of War.

The failure of most world leaders to attend the Summit meant the political clout to deliver real change was lacking. Only Angela Merkel came from the G7, and the handful of other heads of state and Prime Ministers who were there were mostly from smaller Member States.

Next steps

Much will now depend on next steps. As the World Humanitarian Summit Chair’s summary notes explain, there will be a vast, publicly accessibleCommitments to Action Platform’ which is intended to hold stakeholders to account for commitments made. However, as yet there are no clear indications of how this will happen. There are likely to be proposals for moving the Summit commitments and the ‘Agenda for Humanity’ forward at the UN General Assembly in September through intergovernmental and inter-agency channels as well as via the platforms, partnerships and initiatives launched at the Summit.

In the meantime, we have a huge success to celebrate in moving the localisation agenda forward through the commitments we have all signed up to and endorsed in the Charter 4 Change.

At CAFOD, we will continue to call for more aid to go to local partners, and implement the commitments we have made in the Charter 4 Change, including working at the technical level on such aspects as the development of a ‘localisation marker’. We will advocate to ensure that the signatories of the Grand Bargain live up to their commitments on getting more support and funding tools for local and national responders, support the establishment of a START Local Fund for exclusive access by southern NGOs, and of course, collaborate closely with the NEAR Network as it establishes itself and begins to make its voice and influence heard.

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