Is humanitarian aid still on the move?

©Solidarités International

The year 2018 marked 50 years of a disruptive humanitarian action that is usually traced back to the Biafra war in 1968 in France. The journal “Alternatives Humanitaires” published on this occasion an issue on the theme “1968-2018: ruptures and continuities” and organized a series of conferences on this subject.

The year 2019 also marks a decade rich in humanitarian initiatives in France. I remember that at that time the leaders of humanitarian NGOs felt the need to reflect on their actions together because we felt that our model had reached its limits and that its influence was diminishing in the globalization of the humanitarian ecosystem.

The Humanitarian Space Forum (HSF) was born in January 2009 from this questioning and humanitarian leaders then decided to meet every 18 months to reflect together while inviting experts and humanitarian leaders from all over the world.

What was significant at the time was the simultaneity of several initiatives that would help to structure the whole following decade. This has been the case for the seven Forums (FEHs) since the beginning. This is the case, on the government side, of the creation of a Crisis and Support Centre (CDCS) with new capacities within the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. This is still the case with the Humanitarian Report submitted in March 2010 to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, by Alain Boinet and Benoit Miribel. This report led to the creation of the Humanitarian Consultation Group, the National Humanitarian Conference and finally the Humanitarian Strategy of the French Republic.

Alternatives Humanitaires, n°9, 2018.

Since then, other transversal initiatives have emerged that feed this reflection, such as the creation in February 2016 of the quarterly review “Alternatives Humanitaires” or, in another form, the website “Défis Humanitaires”. In particular, this site published a reference study on “French humanitarian NGOs abroad” which shows that the budget of the NGOs concerned has tripled in ten years (2006-2016), thus greatly increasing their capacity to provide relief to save lives and rebuild.

The 8th Humanitarian Space Forum, which has been held since its inception at Fondation Mérieux in Annecy and will be held from 3 to 5 October 2019 according to the Chatham House rule, has as its theme this year: “2009-2019 : The 10th anniversary of the HEF. A Decade of Humanitarian Action, Lessons Learned and Foresight”. The challenge is to take stock, learn lessons and anticipate the future of humanitarian action in the next 10 years.

To answer this question, we will have to review the relevant questions raised by the Great Bargain and the 1st World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 and those that had been forgotten, such as the need to be faster in emergencies to respond more effectively to the needs of populations at risk.

Jean-Yves le Drian, Conférence Nationale Humanitaire, 2018.

The next “National Humanitarian Conference” organised by the CDCS of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs in conjunction with humanitarian NGOs will be an opportunity to move forward on the path of greater responsiveness and effectiveness, in partnership with local and national actors, and finally to operationalise the emergency-reconstruction-development link. It would be too long here to make an exhaustive list of all the issues to be addressed, but in each of its publications, Humanitarian Challenges undertakes to inform, reflect and propose in the direction of a humanitarian that is ever more up to the task of meeting the major challenges we face.

Alain Boinet.

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