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Expert comment on the first World Humanitarian Summit

The first World Humanitarian Summit has taken place in Istanbul with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon concluding the event has 'set new course' and calling for transformative change.

In total, the Summit brought together 173 Member States and 55 Heads of State and Governments. 350 private sector representatives and over 2000 people from civil society and non-governmental organisations were also in attendance. Together, some 1,500 commitments were made.

But will this global call to action by the United Nations lead to concrete, effective change that will help the world's poorest people? Dr Karl Blanchet, Co-coordinator of Public Health in Humanitarian Crises, gives his expert reaction to the Summit.

"The World Humanitarian Summit marks the end of a long consultation process organised in every region of the world on the most pressing priorities for the future. Sadly, the process has probably been more important than the Summit itself as no real new discussion occurred in Istanbul.

"The commitments that are the main achievements of the consultation process and the Summit, remain too broad and vague. Furthermore, they will be challenging to measure and monitor. It may be a shame that the Summit has not been able re-energise the humanitarian actors through the agreement of concrete and common targets.

"However, the Summit has been a great illustration on how the humanitarian community has changed over the years. Present in Istanbul were not only UN Officials, diplomats, politicians, NGOs and the military, but also the private sector. Insurance companies demonstrated how they can mitigate the risks of countries when faced with catastrophes, while finance advisors explained how new financing mechanisms, such as impact bonds, can be created to complement institutional funding. Start-up companies also displayed the latest technology on 3D printing or communication. 

"The diversity of actors will likely help the humanitarian agencies increase their access to resources and increase the coverage of their interventions. But this leads to a new challenge: making sure that the humanitarian sector becomes a coherent humanitarian system, rich of diverse actors where the values of humanity and solidarity remain at the core of humanitarian interventions."

Read Dr Blanchet's blog on the Conversation which asks, what has happened to the traditional humanitarian system?

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