Al Thuraya Assist Pulls out of World Humanitarian Summit

With an estimated 6,000 global and local government, corporate and civil society leaders, including 80 member states, attending the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul, Turkey from 23-24 May, the Summit has been hailed as an opportunity to “end the greatest crisis of our lifetime.”

By bringing leaders together, the Summit offers an exceptional opportunity for leaders to address global crises and implement a benchmark for improvements. Of those commitments, the Summit is poised to announce the global community’s collective stance on this year’s five core responsibilities to:

Confident in the Summit’s commitment to humanitarian action, Al Thuraya Assist (ATA) applied for and secured a position at the Innovation Marketplace at the Summit – an exceptional event to engage the topic of security. However, after numerous attempts to propel the topic of security risk management for staff and beneficiaries within the Summit’s main agenda, the Summit has failed to address such concerns. ATA raises the same concerns of the failure of the community to protect humanitarian organizations issued by Medecins Sans Frontieres when 75 of their hospitals were bombed within one year. At the nexus of effective interventions and response, is the commitment to enable and protect humanitarian organizations when addressing the world’s most hostile and complex environments.

However, while these responsibilities encompass humanity’s call for relief and development, the Summit falls short of issuing real commitments to address the highest level of human suffering since World War II. As the world undergoes modern age’s most protracted conflict emergencies, no real solutions can be achieved when the topics for dialogue are minimized to pandering conferences hosted by world leaders responsible for such emergencies. With an intrinsic failure to address the very nature of why 75 MSF hospitals were bombed within one year alone, it is highly unlikely that the Summit will have any long-term effect.

The Summit’s failure to effectively address the worlds’ most pressing humanitarian crises by failing to adhere by principles of neutrality vis-a-vis its agenda and participating members is deeply concerning and disheartening.

Engaging world leaders to gather at a summit in which the main agenda is “to stand up for our common humanity and take action to prevent and reduce human suffering” while the same participating leaders are instrumental drivers of suffering though inhumane policies toward asylum-seekers is dismaying. One hundred and fifty-two years since the Geneva Convention was drafted, two world wars, immeasurable number of conflicts, war crimes and genocides, and with one in every 122 people being either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum, very few has changed.

With the potential to address weaknesses in humanitarian action, and capacity to bring a more coordinated approach to alleviate the strains within the world’s most vulnerable and at-risk population, the Summit falls short of holding unabridged discussions about neutral and independent humanitarian assistance, methods of ensuring the immediate protection of humanitarian staff and beneficiaries, and global community’s failure to mobilize timely and effective response.

Last week, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) decided to pull out of the Summit with the following statement: “We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations.” In solidarity with the international communities’ calls to address the region’s most salient and protracted emergencies, and in solidarity with MSF alike, Al Thurya Assist has decided to pull out of the Innovation Marketplace event from the Summit.

We, too, hoped that the Summit would be a remarkable opportunity to discuss urgent issues facing the humanitarian community and most importantly the world’s most vulnerable populations. However - and respectfully - as a highly specialized, non-governmental, nonpolitical and independent organization, ATA, in solidarity with MSF and humanitarian and emergency organizations alike, agrees that the Summit has created a platform in which states and governmental bodies can evade responsibility, impede the capacity of the humanitarian system to respond to crises, and pander to political agendas while supporting the very policies that have exacerbated suffering and death. With the diversity in perspectives in humanitarian action, it remains unclear what outcomes and actions the Summit hopes to produce.

For these reasons, ATA is committed to dedicating its time and resources to filling the gap in security logistics and implementation, enabling aid and support to reach populations in the world’s most hostile and complex environments.