Need to Knows: Here Are the Outcomes and Discussions Surrounding the World Humanitarian Summit

The major takeaways from the summit, as well as grassroots discussions around the world.

The World Humanitarian Summit is set to usher in a new period of solidarity and cooperation to address global conflict and disaster. To stay in the know, we’ve wrapped up the major takeaways from the summit, as well as grassroots discussions that took place here in Washington, DC and around the world.

What We’re Hearing: Global Experts and Advocates in Washington, DC

Amidst the debate about what the summit can and should achieve, one thing that everyone can agree on is that the topic requires more awareness and understanding on a global scale. In this spirit, and alongside the summit in Istanbul, the United Nations Foundation hosted a conversation in Washington, DC – aptly entitled “Istanbul and Beyond” – around the themes and challenges that face the humanitarian sector today. The gathering brought together a diverse range of speakers – from refugees who shared harrowing tales of survival to aid experts that detailed the mechanisms necessary to change the humanitarian system.

Not a region is untouched by some depth of human vulnerability that demands swift, equitable, and sufficient response. – Elizabeth Cousens, United Nations Foundation

There is not a region of the world “untouched” by the current humanitarian crisis – one of the largest in history – according to the Foundation’s Deputy CEO Elizabeth Cousens in her welcome address to a packed room of Washington movers and shakers. Following Cousen’s address, noted journalist Jane Arraf underscored the depth and reach of the crisis with her firsthand experience as CNN’s Baghdad bureau chief – made even more harrowing with Tuesday’s report of intensified shelling in Falluja. With a calm, soft voice made for talk radio Arraf asked the audience to look beyond the headlines where the civilian experience is almost always “overshadowed” and to recognize “those tens of thousands of families who are being told that they have to leave when it might not be safe to go and it certainly isn’t safe to stay.” Noting that immediately after the event she would travel back to Iraq, Arraf moderated two panels with stories and background on the current humanitarian crisis.

Refugee survivors joined the stage with Arraf bringing diverse experiences and voices to the crisis – Voice of America host Jackson M’vunganyi explained that he “learned 10 languages” just to survive as a refugee in sub-Saharan Africa and then in the United States, and former Syrian radio host Honey Al Sayed shared the guilt of living as a survivor that still haunts her. On a seemingly rare, uplifiting note, FACEAfrica’s Saran Kaba Jones said, “Not every refugee experience is a terrible one.” Here’s to making that statement more consistent.

The ability to better respond to refugees and other people impacted by conflict and natural disasters is top of mind for those at the summit, in Washington and around the world. The US State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations Erin Barclay posed the question, “How do we strengthen institutions so that they can provide regardless of the political situation?” WinterHYDE founder and CEO Prasoon Kumar sees youth involvement as the answer, saying that, “Agencies need to be more open to outside ideas as well.”  Further challenging existing actors to change the system, Bill O’Keefe, Vice President of Advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, noted that, “There is no ‘natural disaster.’ These are human failures of preparation and response.” Acknowledging the challenges ahead, Washington’s United Nations Information Center’s Director Robert Skinner, said “The first World Humanitarian Summit won’t solve the problem but it will bring stakeholders together who eventually will.”

What’s Happening: Readout LIVE from Istanbul

There is a need for change and it must start somewhere. This sentiment was the common thread in discussions at the summit in Istanbul and in conversations on the issues around the world. In a live, direct readout at the “Istanbul and Beyond” event, the United Nations Foundation’s Susan Myers, Cotopaxi’s Davis Smith, and the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Nancy Lindborg all noted that the summit spurred much-needed conversations on reform with every sector at the table.

The private sector is a part of a united response to global humanitarian crises. –  Peter Yeo, Better World Campaign

Here are some of the highlights of commitments from the summit:

  • “The Grand Bargain”: where donors agreed to provide more flexible, reliable, multi-year funding and aid organizations agreed to more transparency and efficiency.
  • Launch of an Education Cannot Wait fund, which aims to provide 13.6 million children in crises with education over the next five years.
  • A new Connecting Business initiative to make it easier for businesses to get involved in emergency response.
  • A new Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation.
  • Increased funding for the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund.
  • Launch of a Global Humanitarian Data Center.
  • Launch of a Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action.
  • Launch of a Global Alliance for Urban Crises.
  • Innovative financing: Belgium and the ICRC announced a Humanitarian Impact Bond.
  • Ericsson, MasterCard, UPS Foundation, and other private sector partners made announcements to deepen their engagement and leverage their expertise.



Istanbul and Beyond: A Conversation on The World Humanitarian Summit and Meeting the Humanitarian Needs of our Time. UN Foundation Photo.

Other Resources: 

Good Reads

This selection of articles offers the opportunity to learn the facts and share perspectives during this challenging moment in history.

As disaster risks rise, 20 vulnerable nations get help to prepare
Megan Rowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation | May 24, 2016
The Global Partnership for Preparedness, launched at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, is calling for funding of up to $130 million to support 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change reach a basic level of preparedness by 2020 for future disasters due to global warming.

The World Promises To Do A Better Job Aiding Refugees From Violence
Peter Kenyon | NPR | May 24, 2016
Nancy Lindborg, president of the United States Institute of Peace, provides key background and insight on “The Grand Bargain.”

Refugees and migrants: A crisis of solidarity
Ban Ki-moon | The Daily Star | May 10, 2016
If the world is to address grave humanitarian crises, global citizens need to embrace greater solidarity for one another. The Secretary General underscores that appropriately addressing the current refugee and migrant crisis requires nations to coordinate action and build capacity.

The Digital Conversation

Share photos from the United Nations and the United Nations Foundation online, as well as news and thought leadership pieces using the hashtag #ShareHumanity.

Image: Participants in the World Humanitarian Summit opening ceremony perform in front of a several hundred-strong audience in Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday 23 May 2016. UN Photo.

Loading Loading More Articles ...