This week, at the World Humanitarian Summit, world leaders and public and private stakeholders from around the world converged on Istanbul to focus on global efforts to address the needs of people suffering from conflict, climate disasters and hunger.
As we look at the current staggering figures – 20 million refugees and 40 million internally displaced people (IDPs) who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict or natural disaster – it is clear that the humanitarian systems designed fifty years ago are no longer sufficient. The average amount of time a refugee or IDP spends in a Refugee Camp is an astounding 17 years – while the average length of a grant to support the emergency is only eleven months.
The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies to societies as well as individuals. To build resilience, we must break out of the so-called “humanitarian scramble”: disaster strikes, an ad hoc response is mobilised, and then, as the urgency wanes and the world’s attention wavers, there is a lull until the next disaster strikes – and the pattern is repeated. Many leaders spoke to the importance of working to strengthen infrastructure and response systems in time of normalcy if we are to expect a robust recovery after a crisis.
Private sector partners from a wide range of businesses participated actively in the World Humanitarian Summit, signalling the pursuit of true multi-sectoral solutions that link sustainable economic development to humanitarian action. The role of the private sector is shifting from one-off or pilot CSR activities to a more integral role for sustainable development. Rather than spend billions of dollars in aid, addressing the symptoms and results of warfare and weak systems, the strategic relationship of the private sector and development agencies can be focused on constructing stable response systems and mechanisms.
Innovation is essential. In discussing how the Private Sector can contribute, Ray Nishimoto, Senior Managing Executive Officer at Sumitomo Chemical, explained the private sector mindset in approaching Public-Private Partnerships. The private sector, as a member of society, can and must contribute to the benefit of society. He concluded that, to achieve our common agenda, candid dialogue, strong leadership and clear structures are needed.