World Humanitarian Summit’s Grand Bargain

June 10, 2016

The Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, May 23 - 24, 2016, was convened amidst an atmosphere described by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as outrage, frustration and deep concern about the state of our humanity.

Nine thousand participants were present in Istanbul for the Summit. They came from 173 countries and included 55 Heads of State along with representatives from 700 NGOs and 250 major international NGOs. There was controversy – Doctors Without Borders pulled out because of concerns that nothing would be done to protect their hospitals and medical centers from being attacked by actors in conflict zones (militias, government forces and police). Owing to disagreements among governments and aid agencies about how to improve global response to humanitarian crises, there was concern – would the Summit be able to achieve anything?

Not much progress was made on the intractable political issues like fostering Respect for the Rules of War (modern conflicts have been characterized by the targeting of civilian populations, and places of refuge such as hospitals, churches and mosques). But beyond this unexpected levels of progress did take place in the organizing and coordinating of humanitarian aid. The Summit revealed that the heart of humanity is sound and is ready to move forward in responding to the desperate needs of people in distress.

The Guardian reported that most members of the humanitarian aid community admitted to being pleasantly surprised by The Grand Bargain – A Shared Commitment to Better Serve People in Need, the major agreement reached between governments and aid agencies ...