SEATTLE, Washington — Over the past decade, the amount and cost of humanitarian assistance requested in conflict-affected areas around the world have increased by almost 400%. This trend has forced international leaders to open dialogue on preventative measures for humanitarian crises. At the 2017 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed a “Commitment to Action” report, which advised a “New Way of Working” to address humanitarian crises. In addition to gaining the support of the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration, the report was signed by representatives of UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, OCHA, WFP, FAO, UNFPA and UNDP.
What is The New Way of Working?
The “Commitment to Action” report emphasizes the importance of humanitarian efforts and restates signatories’ commitment to aiding countries affected by armed conflicts. Moreover, the report also acknowledges the necessity to prevent disruptive crises and thus reduce the need for aid. In other words, the document calls for humanitarian and development organizations to work in unison to achieve preventative measures rather than independent efforts.
The report calls for a “New Way of Working.” This concept aims to overcome political, bureaucratic and financial hindrances to empower vulnerable populations and avoid violent escalations. World leaders believe that this can be achieved through the pursuit of “collective outcomes,” meaning “a concrete and measurable result that humanitarian, development and other relevant actors want to achieve jointly over a period of three to five years to reduce people’s needs, risks and vulnerabilities and increase their resilience.”
The UN’s Commitment to Action
By signing the Commitment to Action report, signatories agree to articulate a common interpretation of “sustainability, vulnerability and resilience,” and to implement changes to bring afflicted nations closer to the pre-established collective outcomes. Some changes might include the establishment of shared data and information, greater coordination between appropriate institutions, effective leadership and realistic financial schemes. The Commitment to Action document also aligns the New Way of Working with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an objective agreed upon in 2015 by United Nations Member States to eliminate extreme poverty and secure a stable and healthy lifestyle for everyone on the planet by 2030.
How to Implement It
The New Way of Working advises an objective and realistic way of approaching the intersection of humanitarian and developmental efforts:
- Analyze the vulnerability and humanitarian needs of a given country and the capability of its current government to address those needs
- Identify and prioritize vulnerable areas and align their needs with SDGs targets
- Decide which collective outcomes to pursue, whose progress in reducing vulnerability is realistic and measurable
- Propose and follow programs that direct NGO, charity or other agency projects toward the realization of the collective outcomes
- Deploy appropriate and financially sustainable resources
Since the WHS
Since the signing of the Commitment to Action report, advising on the New Way of Working, representatives from NGOs, U.N. organizations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank, among others have met in a series of events in cities worldwide to discuss how to fund and organize collective outcomes. The U.N.’s creation of the Joint Steering Committee on Humanitarian Development Collaboration in 2018 was another essential milestone in supporting the efforts of local teams to identify, address and eventually achieve collective outcomes aligned with the SDGs in vulnerable countries.
The New Way of Working calls for complex changes to pre-established processes of bureaucracy, behaviors, politics and structural institutions that must continue over extended periods of time. However, these preventative efforts are worth the renewed sustainability of humanitarian aid, and the vast improvement in the millions of people facing poverty and violence in vulnerable countries