Author: Renee Ho
Today’s a big day.
An initiative of the UN Secretary General, the WHS brings together over 23,000 people and has the expressed task of reshaping humanitarian aid and “setting an agenda to keep humanitarian action fit for the future”.
First up on its agenda: Dignity
In the current report, Restoring Humanity: Global Voices Calling for Action, the WHS calls for humanitarian aid to:
“Empower people to cope with and recover with dignity through humanitarian action that puts people at its heart, delivers equally for women and girls, reaches everyone, invests in youth and children, and protests and enables people as the primary agents of their own response.”
It argues that to get to dignity,
“People affected by crises should be enabled to exercise greater voice and choice in humanitarian action, including through better two-way communication and feedback mechanisms…”
We need to “include the most vulnerable people in humanitarian decision-making, including older people, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups. All those involved in humanitarian work should …enable them to participate in decision-making…”
We couldn’t agree more and are excited to see that, at least on some issues, Geneva and Washington can align.
One issue I’m concerned about is the WHS’ rhetoric of “putting people at the heart of humanitarian action.”
I don’t disagree with this (who can?) But we need to make sure that we’re all clear about who is doing this “putting.”
Who is the doer of this putting? Who is the subject and who is the object?
I think most humanitarians are well intentioned. Most would probably argue that they’re already putting people (“beneficiaries”) at the center.
But we need the “object” of our action
—the people for whom services are intended—
to be elevated to the “subject” of our action.
They need to be the “doers” to really be at the heart of humanitarian action.
The final, cumulative WHS takes place in Istanbul next May 2016. Be heard and give them your own feedback: vote for the WHS proposals that you think are most critical here.