Turkish Red Crescent's Message for World Humanitarian Summit

World Humanitarian Summit is an important event for all stakeholders working in the humanitarian sector, because it will provide a platform for different actors varying from states to local NGOs to discuss solutions and problems in the humanitarian field.

It took thousands of years for humanity to understand that we need rules and principles in conformity with human dignity to be applied to the conduct of hostilities. However, the civilized world has increasingly witnessed the rise in the number of civilian casualties in the places such as Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had documented 55,219 deaths in Syria in 2015 while the total number of civilian casualties reached more than 250,000 in the fifth year of the war. Many circles has claimed that the existing framework and tools defined in International Humanitarian Law are enough for protection, but their implementation and usage have not been achieved. On the other hand, some of them have emphasized that these tools became outdated and they are no longer effective. It is very clear that we, as the international community, are not able to prevent violations of humanitarian law no matter what the claims are. Many actors including states supposed to prevent and deter such violations are even themselves the violators of customary rules of International Humanitarian Law to be agreed upon as the minimum standards for protection. We are observing and witnessing the intentional targeting of innocent civilians and those who abandoned or lost their combatant identity by belligerents in conflict areas. We believe that World Humanitarian Summit will be useful in search of practical preventive tools and mechanisms strengthening compliance with International Humanitarian Law on the ground.

As humanitarian agencies, our efforts to provide humanitarian protection, care and relief to those in need have been frequently hampered and prevented due to direct and indirect impediments to our solely humanitarian and impartial activities based on humanitarian imperatives. Hospitals, health units and ambulances and those treating the wounded and receiving medical care have been targeted. Humanitarians and medical staff have lost their lives in conflict areas because of the attacks targeting them. According to the figures in the Aid Worker Security Report of 2015, 329 aid workers were victims of major attacks in 2014. It also reveals that 121 humanitarian aid workers killed while another 88 were wounded. The biggest threat is the internalization of these unacceptable actions by the international public opinion as if they were part of our daily life. We are strongly expecting the World Humanitarian Summit to lay the ground for more sound initiatives to prevent such actions.

Today’s humanitarian system is very far from meeting the needs of the victims and vulnerable in the face of the increased and diversified humanitarian needs. We need to adopt or develop different strategies, approaches and methods to address various aspects of the needs of people affected by natural and man-made disasters.  Therefore, the way that we are supporting them has become more sophisticated in each passing day. This reality has led us, as the international community, to be much more creative and innovative in our response.  The inclusion of innovation in the agenda of World Humanitarian Summit is very meaningful in that regard. The presentations and exchange of ideas on innovative tools such as electronic voucher system and mobile-technology based need assessment will enrich our mindset and imagination in the development of new methods and tools during the summit.

We know very well that we should be more proactive and prepared in the face of recurrent disasters such as droughts and floods. The building and improvement of protective, durable and sustainable infrastructure are very important to be more resilient to disasters. It is critical to invest in the strengthening of coping mechanisms with special focus on capacity building and development at national and local level. The factors such as rapid urbanization, high population growth, poverty and environmental degradation has negatively affected the level of vulnerability. But, as humanitarian agencies, we need to explore more means to link our objectives and efforts in the humanitarian sector with those in the development. World Humanitarian Summit will help us exchange our views with different agencies specialized in various fields to diversify our approaches in that direction.

As humanitarians, we need to revisit the methods and tools that we are delivering our assistance and services. Are humanitarian agencies efficient in using the limited resources to provide support to those in need? Are they doing enough to achieve cost- minimization and reduction strategies to make themselves more efficient? We should rely more on local organizations, mechanisms, structures and systems in our service delivery by avoiding heavy costs of creating alternative ones. What is to be done more to produce stronger impact through our projects and programs? Are they effective? These are the questions to be addressed during the summit if we aim to be successful in securing stable financing for our projects, programmes and activities. 

We are faced with large scale and protracted crises like what we have had Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq for years. Their impacts on the people of these countries and of those neighboring to them are widespread, strong and continuous, so the response to and recovery from them necessitates the intensive and collective efforts of the international community. Accordingly we need to have different modalities of co-working, coordination and harmonization in order to handle such crises effectively.   The World Humanitarian Summit will open the way for further discussion on these modalities.

As auxiliary to Turkish Government in humanitarian services and as part of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, Turkish Red Crescent Society have expertise and extensive experiences in different fields including disaster risk reduction, emergency feeding, sheltering, and recovery programmes.  We will have the pleasure of sharing them with different organizations from all around the world during World Humanitarian Summit.   

Dr. Mehmet Güllüoğlu

Turkish Red Crescent Director General