World Humanitarian Summit shines spotlight on the world's most vulnerable, spurs action to meet their needs

The first World Humanitarian Summit was convened in Istanbul, Turkey, on 23–24 May 2016. A total of 9 000 participants from 173 Member States of the United Nations met to discuss the pressing challenges that are driving suffering and humanitarian needs to unprecedented heights. The participants included 55 heads of state and government, hundreds of representatives of the private sector and thousands of people from civil society and nongovernmental organizations. The Summit brought to global attention the fact that a new, coherent approach is required to address the needs of more than 130 million of the world's most vulnerable people. Humanitarian assistance alone can neither adequately deal with nor sustainably reduce those needs.

The World Humanitarian Summit was based on lengthy preparation, including a report released by the United Nations Secretary-General earlier in 2016, which highlights five core responsibilities. These were key themes throughout the Summit:

  1. Political leadership to prevent and end conflict
  2. Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity
  3. Leave no one behind
  4. Change people's lives: from delivering aid to ending need
  5. Invest in humanity

The importance and relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the global humanitarian agenda was another recurring theme throughout the Summit. Many participants emphasized that the two are closely related and work on the two must go hand-in-hand.

Substantive commitments were made to the five core responsibilities during the Summit, including broad support from Member States to increase the Central Emergency Response Fund to US$ 1 billion. All individual and joint commitments will be reflected in a platform of Commitments to Action, which will be made public to encourage accountability. The Secretary-General will also report to the United Nations General Assembly on the achievements of the Summit and will propose ways to take the commitments forward.

WHO participants emphasize the central role of health in humanitarian crises

The WHO delegation to the World Humanitarian Summit was led by Dr Bruce Aylward, acting Executive Director of Outbreaks and Health Emergencies. Dr Aylward spoke in plenary about the challenges of disease outbreaks and effective responses and the importance of supporting and protecting health workers and health infrastructure in conflict and disaster zones. He made reference to the reform of WHO emergency response that is under way and underscored the need for cross-sectoral collaboration to place the health of the world's most vulnerable people at the centre of the agenda for investing in humanity.

WHO/Europe was represented at the World Humanitarian Summit by a delegation led by Dr Pavel Ursu, WHO Representative in Turkey. Members of the group participated in several side events, including one co-hosted by WHO on the topic "Zero Hunger by 2030: Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security for All".