Statement from Dominic MacSorley at the World Humanitarian Summit

Statement from Dominic MacSorley at the World Humanitarian Summit

24 May 2016

It is during the defining crises of our times that our strengths and limitations are brought to the fore. Out of the fire of multiple crises we have reflected and reformed, with more rigorous thinking, transparency, efficiency and accountability.

We have done better. But today we must focus on those we are failing – the 125 million people barely surviving on an insufficiently funded and resourced humanitarian system.

In our document, "Seize the Opportunity", Concern has published 23 commitments aligned to the Secretary General’s much welcomed "Agenda for Humanity".

But today, I also represent three distinct networks that are mobilising their collective memberships around the core commitments:

  • Supporting enhanced localisation, the Building a Better Response Project established by International Medical Corps, Concern and Harvard, commits to equipping 20,000 front-line NGO workers with the knowledge on how humanitarian coordination and financing systems work, so that they have the confidence to engage as equals on what are ultimately, their systems.
  • Established in response to the horrific abuses in Darfur, the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence, that uniquely brought together Irish Government, NGOs and the Irish Defence forces, now renews its commitment to the Call to Action, and ending the least recognised human rights abuse in the world - the pandemic of gender based violence in conflict.
  • And finally, Alliance2015, a network of seven European NGOs with a collective budget of $1 billion, commits to leveraging its presence and partnerships in 89 countries for more effective more efficient humanitarian responses, with a specific focus on countries with the greatest level of displacement.

In addition and based on our own 50 years, we in Concern believe:

  1. Reform should not be our default position. We do not need Transformative Agenda Mark 2. We need to make the systems work better, be more flexible, inclusive and adaptive to context.
  1. To address the current overwhelming level of humanitarian need we must harness the strength of a diverse range of actors, including international and national NGOs. It is about complementarity, not replacement.
  1. Channelling 25% of funding through local NGOs is the right ambition, but be realistic about the difficulties of achieving this in conflict contexts – where the needs can be greatest. Our own record shows that as we moved out of more developed contexts the percentage of our funding to national partners dropped from 32% to our current six year average 25%.

These commitments are about fixing the system, we have problems but we are not the problem and we must recognise what is beyond the capacity and control of the aid community.

We know that humanitarians save lives, but they cannot end wars. Global leaders must tackle the root causes of conflict. Diplomats must engage at the onset of emerging conflicts. A good option is to establish a diplomatic task force of international influencers based on the Elders Model, to add critically needed muscle and rigour to the Security Council.

We must end the relentless and systematic violation of international humanitarian law. Every state must reaffirm and reinforce its commitments to IHL, and to ending the culture of impunity for mass atrocity crimes. One practical step to address is the use of the veto system among the permanent five of the Security Council.

And finally we must eliminate humanitarian funding gaps now. No one should go hungry or die because of a lack of money. Member states must honour their commitment to 0.7% of GDP. Humanitarian funding must be doubled to 20% of ODA.

Without these changes, reinforced through a robust intergovernmental process, we are merely tinkering on the margins of the real problems.

Neither President Obama, Putin or MSF are here – in fact none of the heads of the big five in the Security Council have shown up but 6,000 people from 150 countries may of which are home to the 125 millon daster affected are here and they something to say – and they need to be heard.

And to effect real global change, we will need to engage everyone outside of this room, everyone who is not at the conference. 

We have seen that mobilized public opinion can have a greater impact on global politics than the Security Council.

It was to that end that, in the run up to this Summit, Ireland held its own national humanitarian debate, to reflect and deliver core messages driven from our own history of poverty, famine and conflict. It is only when nations link their own unique struggles with today’s disaster affected populations, that we will evoke empathy and understanding and drive public support for political change, the lack of which has haunted victims of conflict and crisis for generations.

Let us take this historic opportunity that in the words of Seamus Heaney, Nobel laureate, friend and patron of Concern, comes when the longed-for tidal wave of justice rises up and hope and history rhyme.

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Dominic MacSorley, CEO, Concern Worldwide.

Statement from Dominic MacSorley at the World Humanitarian Summit

Address given to the World Humanitarian Summit on Tuesday 24 May 2016.