The ‘Grand Bargain’
Refugees and their host communities are among the most vulnerable and marginalized in the world. Millions of refugees are living below the poverty line, placing social and financial burdens on host communities and challenging their resilience over time.
Many approaches to deal with this alarming trend have proved insufficient in reducing vulnerability, impoverishment and marginalization. One year has passed since the first World Humanitarian Summit. The summit was considered a turning point in reducing human suffering by dealing with the complexity of the political, economic and social factors leading to unprecedented humanitarian need.
The “Agenda for Humanity” and its five core responsibilities was its main outcome and tool to serve people affected by crises.
To what extent was the world able to advance the “Agenda for Humanity” and achieve its commitment toward decreasing the high level humanitarian needs and suffering in today’s world?
Was it able to build momentum and maintain focus around the transformations that would most improve outcomes for those living in fragile situations?
These days and the coming ones will witness a burst of publications and events as the humanitarian community is assessing the achievements against the commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit.
At a time when the world is struggling to cope with high humanitarian demands, sparking self-reflection is important. Formal United Nations consultation and panels were held in Geneva to address the importance of closer alignment between development goals and humanitarian action to reduce people’s humanitarian needs, risk and vulnerability.
The summit that set forward a “change agenda” to prevent and cope with crises in a different way, made over 3,000 commitments and launched several partnerships to take its agenda forward.
It is right that change takes time; however, after one year, are there visible results?
Is change underway? Were humanitarian and development actors able to operationalize a new way of working together?
Were development actors able to bring their expertise to emergency response? To what extent are more education and better livelihood opportunities for refugees being provided?
“Humanitarian assistance alone cannot sustainably reduce the needs of over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people,” the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed in his statement marking the first anniversary of the humanitarian summit. The U.N. chief placed “prevention” of human suffering as a top priority. Prevention is achieved by addressing the root causes of fragility.
Humanitarian assistance alone would not be sufficient to relieve the world’s most vulnerable, reduce suffering, alleviate risk and decrease helplessness.
It can be achieved only when humanitarian and development actors work together closely.
A harder question could be raised: What did the summit produce that is new to the humanitarian approach? It is now more difficult to walk into the humanitarian industry without hearing the world “localization.”
Empowering national and local capacities to enhance readiness to respond to disasters and reduce vulnerability was considered a core achievement.
“Work together efficiently, transparently and harmoniously with new and existing partners” was the summit’s “Grand Bargain,” making humanitarian assistance more effective and better suited to the needs and aspirations of people it aims to serve.
As many summits and conferences on international development, this summit has many mountains to climb. However, assessing the impact of practices and reflecting on both the “why” and the “how” are always the favorable path.
How did these practices strengthen the resilience of millions of people around the world fleeing conflict, insecurity and persecution? Unfortunately, the time has not yet come to celebrate achievements and dedications made to support those who need help. Today, still more than 65 million people are displaced around the world, including 22 million refugees, half of whom are children, who were forced to leave their homelands, carrying their dreams and hope of a new life.
Lebanon assumes its share of responsibility, and could be far beyond its capacities. With a huge number of refugees, the crisis has brought suffering to the refugees and their host communities.
Over the last years Lebanon has hosted refugees totaling to half its population. It has been always the spirit of compassion and resilience that defines the Lebanese. The country has welcomed around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, in addition to an estimated 450,000 Palestinian refugees, and around 50,000 Iraqi refugees, as estimated by the U.N. Higher Commissioner for Refugees.
The statistical data available about refugees is limited. This year Lebanon will witness the first official comprehensive census of the Palestinian refugee community. The census, the first of its kind, will provide the Lebanese state with comprehensive statistical data on Palestinian refugees residing in 12 camps and their adjacent areas as well as in nearly 121 Palestinian gatherings outside the camps.
Last week the world celebrated World Refugee Day for the 17th year. The United Nations General Assembly decided in 2001 that June 20 would be celebrated as World Refugee Day, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
The day has been always an opportunity to raise awareness about the global refugee situation and highlight their achievements.
As Guterres noted, this day that commemorates the courage and persistence of millions of refugees should also prompt reflection on the compassion and perseverance of those who welcome them.
The increasing number of refugees worldwide is creating a comprehensive social challenge.
Social transformations driven by this challenge are leading to changes reshaping societies over time. Understanding these challenges and responding properly is a game-changer.
“Standing with refugees is standing for shared humanity, human dignity and diversity. Lebanon is such an example,” tweeted Sigrid Kaag, United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon on international refugee day.
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine is executive director at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.