Reflections on the WHS Roundtable

22 Nov

world_humanitarian_summit_logoOn November 12-13 Cat participated in a round-table discussion in the lead up for the World Humanitarian Summit of 2016 in Geneva.

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) is an initiative by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to improve humanitarian action. Through the two-year consultation process, the aim is to build a more inclusive and diverse humanitarian system by bringing all key stakeholders together to share best practices and find innovative ways to make humanitarian action more effective. The process is being managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and will culminate in a global summit in 2016.

Randolph Kent, Director of the Planning from the Futures project (a joint initiative with the Overseas Development Institute and Tufts University), compiled the following reflections on the Roundtable.


Reflections on the Roundtable

1. Struck by variety of perceptions of humanitarian system from different communities. Sector is broader than many realise. In the past 10 years humanitarians haven’t considered outsiders, and this has been the perfect forum to account for complexities; This approach should be taken forward – informing practitioners on how to deal with future development.

2. Need to create a space for deepening these conversations through other possible forums; Need people to be more informed as to the breadth of humanitarian action; Need to have more time to consider what a better system looks like;

3. Some very interesting topics have been brought up, but these now need to be addressed by larger group of subject experts to tackle them in partnership with humanitarians. Have learnt a lot over this process, but seemed like a patchwork of conversations. Difficult to voice expert opinion about other people’s specialisations, e.g. security;

4. Agenda of next event must be based on what has been identified as drivers; Could be enriched by deepening opinions on 5-6 risks to increase understanding; Must be a deepened conversation;

5. Approach is definitely exportable; Have it at different levels – decision-making actors, experts, those affected, regional voices; Improvement – move to different parts of world with similar projects: how viable is this for people who are actually suffering? Include those people in the discussion whose views will be entirely different;

6. Still thinking things in Western view: next step to move further. OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) plays a central role, but it shouldn’t be just be OCHA. Others need to start getting involved. OCHA wants to be a part of discussions in other fields.

7. Improvement- to have an expert on history at the table, must look to past to see future, have some identifications of patterns in the framework of discussion; Improve structure for scenario generation;

8. Although WHS is a target, must think of longer term 5-10 years, and the Futures Roundtable might be one way to do so.


These are some of the highlights of the discussion. A more substantive summary – with more specifics – is due to be produced by the middle of December.

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