Two weeks ago I attended the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul and thought I would share a few thoughts.
Firstly, the positive message! The side-event on the Moving Energy Initiative with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves went very well: The next phase of funding was agreed and additional funding for the energy in emergencies sector was announced. The event was well attended and Practical Action made connections with important partners for us in the energy space.
Baroness Verma from DFID and Susan Myers from the UN Foundation spoke at the event, reinforcing international commitments to delivering sustainable energy for all in conflict and disaster situations. Participants pledged to investigate the linkages between gender-based violence and energy access, as well as work with humanitarian agencies to innovate with technology and approaches to increase access to household cooking energy and renewable energy in refugee camps.
On a less positive note, the summit as a whole was, as expected, a demonstration of political wrangling. The high-level commitment emerging is the Grand Bargain, which commits to a target of 25% of humanitarian funding going to local NGOs by 2020. This includes greater use of cash transfers and global south implementation partners. But will this work in practice? Will it change the way major donors fund and the way the UN bodies implement? The feeling at the summit was no. MSF were the strongest voice in this arena, refusing to even attend the summit, but many other NGOs and groups at the conference were voicing similar concerns.
The challenge we face as a development organisation when working with the humanitarian community is – does the existing system work for the poorest and most vulnerable people? Many in the sector think it does not, and that we have a failing system in need of radical reform. Many field workers at the summit felt we should leave the UN and the international summit process and start doing things differently, independently, and directly. Were Practical Action to consider engaging further in the humanitarian sector, we need to think carefully where our engagement should focus.