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The World Humanitarian Summit - in a few words

WHS wordcloud
WHS wordcloud

After more than two years of lead-up, the World Humanitarian Summit wrapped up yesterday in Istanbul. Here’s how some of the participants described the Summit, in one word (as best they could) – from the hopeful, to the skeptical, to the logistically frustrated.


- Inna Modja, Malian singer and women's rights activist


- Jeremy Konyndyk, Director, Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance

I’ve been impressed at the degree of alignment and cohesion that’s been expressed around some of the big issues.

“Pleasantly surprised” 

- James Munn, Head of Policy, Norwegian Refugee Council

There’s always going to be hiccups and problems, but I’m surprised by the willingness – there is a real willingness.


- Peter Maurer, President, International Committee of the Red Cross

It reflects an ecosystem with all its goods and bads.

“Let’s walk the talk.”

- Manuel Bessler, head of the Swiss government’s Humanitarian Aid Unit


- Benita Diop, African Union special envoy for women, peace and security

I’m asking people where to go, and I have the language barrier with our friends from Turkey, which is hosting us here… I’m using my hands!


- David Loquercio, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Learning, CHS alliance

The Summit has a lot of potential but I think we need to see it as a platform where we can make – as organisations and individuals – something happen rather than expecting the Summit to deliver for us.


- Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of the Pacific Ocean island nation Tuvalu

Low-lying island nations face an existential crisis from predicted sea level rises and storm surges made more urgent by climate change and effects like El Niño.


- Nigel Fisher, former UN Assistant Secretary-General 

I don’t yet know whether it will lead to real change, but in my expectation it has to.


- Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to UN Special Envoy for Syria

Thirty years ago when I became a professional humanitarian worker, we thought there would be maybe 50 NGOs in the world who could deploy internationally. And now we may be 500. That’s a very good thing, but it’s also become much more complex.

And amid some 1,500 commitments made by 400 governments, aid agencies and others, what’s the one thing they’d like to see emerge from the Summit?

"Better respect for international humanitarian law."

- Manuel Bessler

"That the world values humanity and respect and empathy and solidarity for those fleeing their homes."

- Inna Modja

"Implementation of the Grand Bargain."

- Peter Maurer

If you say what would I expect out of this summit, then that’s the best you can have out of the summit. On the broader picture I still believe that we have a very serious problem on international humanitarian law.

"A clear mechanism to monitor progress against commitments."

- David Loquercio

"Better coordination for better impact."

- Benita Diop

We have the UN agencies, but also governments and civil society here. What is the strategy to build synergy and coordination?


- Nigel Fisher

Accountability at a political level and accountability of the international actors to be much more supportive of local actors to take control of their own lives.

"Adherence to international humanitarian law and respect for humanitarian access and humanitarian norms."

- Jeremy Konyndyk


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