Interview with Jean-Pierre Delomier

For the Humanitarian Commission of Coordination Sud

National Humanitarian Conference, December 2020

Jean-Pierre Delomier is the leader of Coordination Sud’s humanitarian commission. He has more than 30 years of humanitarian experience throughout the world. He is the Deputy Director of Operations for Handicap International/Humanity and Inclusion. He answers our questions here.

Alain Boinet for Défis Humanitaires – Within Coordination Sud, there are various commissions including the humanitarian commission which you lead. Can you tell us what it is, who is a member and how it works?

Jean-Pierre Delomier – The Humanitarian Commission, known as ComHuma, brings together most of the French NGOs that are members of Coordination SUD and carry out activities related to crisis contexts (ACF, Care France, Groupe URD, Medair, MDM, Secours Islamique France, ACTED, Alima, Institut Bioforce, La Chaîne de l’Espoir, Première Urgence Internationale, Solidarités International, Triangle Génération Humanitaire, France Volontaires, Handicap International, OXFAM, Secours Catholique-Caritas France, Secours Populaire) as well as three organisations with guest status (Crisis Action, French Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières).

The link with the Board of Coordination Sud is ensured by Thierry Mauricet (PUI and CHD). ComHuma meets on average every six weeks in plenary session; exchanges between its members are also very frequent, whether in the context of ongoing projects or in the multiple consultation and coordination forums (Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs/Crisis and Support Centre – CDCS -, Humanitarian Dialogue Group, VOICE, ECHO, Humanitarian and Development Coordination, National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergency Fund, Emergency and Post-Crisis Reflection Group, etc.) The Commission can therefore be represented collectively at conferences and external events.

The Humanitarian Commission has at least three main objectives. The first is to develop collective positions on French, European and international aid policies and institutional reforms, through the exchange of information – from the field and from headquarters – enabling NGOs to become involved in humanitarian issues. The second is to develop collective reflection on fundamental issues concerning humanitarian aid. The third is to provide a forum for exchange with national and regional NGO platforms in the North and South on the subject of humanitarian aid. For example, since this year we have been trying to coordinate more and better with our international peers such as VENRO in Germany. All of these objectives contribute to the Commission initiating actions to influence public decision-makers on issues and debates that interest French NGOs. Finally, ComHuma contributes to Coordination Sud’s positions on more global issues.

Coordination Sud members in front of AFD headquarters.

In addition, the Commission pays particular attention to certain humanitarian crises, both from the point of view of the activities carried out by its member NGOs and the security issues they face. Working groups have been set up to monitor certain specific issues (CAR, Chad, Yemen, etc.) and others may be set up according to current events and needs in order to regularly initiate advocacy actions on these issues. In addition, regular monitoring of French political declarations, such as the implementation of the Humanitarian Strategy of the French Republic and France’s European or international commitments is ensured.

DH : What are the usual subjects you deal with in committee and what initiatives can you take?

J-P.D : Our Commission echoes the positions or collective actions of its members to the outside world. It is concerned with issues related to the financing of humanitarian action and is also working on the trajectory for increasing the budgetary allocations of official development assistance dedicated to humanitarian action by 2022. There are many issues which will be prioritised in 2020 and 2021.

Firstly, there is International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and access. In the context of the current evolution of armed conflicts, the issues of respect for humanitarian principles, IHL and the fight against impunity are at the heart of the concerns of our Commission, which is investing in these subjects and in particular in the commitments made by France in this area. The issue of access to vulnerable populations and the protection of humanitarian personnel is also of concern. Attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers are on the rise as never before and the members of the Commission are mobilised in the face of this situation.

Secondly, the impact of sanctions and anti-terrorist measures on humanitarian action is of great concern to us and the Humanitarian Commission has decided to address it. It is therefore the subject of specific pleas, particularly to limit the negative impact of these measures on humanitarian access. In addition, it incorporates the work done on access to banking services, on which Thierry Mauricet had the advantage of explaining to us on this website the concrete consequences of these regimes and measures on bank transfers made by our organisations.

ComHuma also considers other issues. For example, the triple nexus – the links between humanitarian, development and peace actors – requires us to work coherently in conflict zones and to ensure that there is no confusion between humanitarian assistance activities undertaken by NGOs and international military operations. Secondly, climate-related issues are taken into account, by reflecting on its impact on certain crises, and on new ways of better integrating the climate factor into the humanitarian response, including accountability.

Finally, our Commission can also participate in national, European or international initiatives according to needs, opportunities and requests and issue recommendations.

Some of the members of Coordination Sud’s Humanitarian Commission

DH: What was the role of the Humanitarian Commission in the preparation of the recent National Humanitarian Conference (NHC)?

J-P.D: The Humanitarian Commission was involved in the organisation and preparation of the National Humanitarian Conference (NHC) by working towards a common NGO position on the various issues discussed.

ComHuma members were involved in the five working groups set up in relation to the themes discussed at the NHC and which are part of our action plan developed in response to the previous question: IHL and humanitarian access, the impact of sanctions regimes and counter-terrorism measures, the triple nexus, humanitarian and climate, and pooling resources in the response to Covid-19. In this respect, the members collaborated with the CDCS on the framing of interventions and the drafting of concept notes, which were the common thread running through the discussions in the sessions. The question of the localisation of aid was transversal to the five topics selected, and a specific exchange took place on the challenges of the response to the pandemic.

In the run-up to the conference, we issued recommendations to protect and guarantee a humanitarian space for civilian populations and international solidarity actors. These served as a basis for discussions with the Presidency of the Republic and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.

It is worth remembering that the NHC was held when we were in the ninth month of the pandemic. During this crisis, the actors – institutions, international organisations, donors, NGOs – had to coordinate or integrate multisectoral responses in an accelerated manner, based on dynamics that had been underway in the sector for several years. Although pooling initiatives existed well before Covid-19, specific challenges required the strengthening of the use of pooled multi-actor operations. This context has therefore underlined the necessity and interest of our analyses in this field, playing a role of revealing and accelerating the avenues of work and reflection undertaken in the field of mutualisation, as the speakers have strongly emphasised.

Humanitarian airlift plane of the Humanitarian Logistics Network (HLN) supported by CDCS and ECHO

DH: What is your assessment at this stage of this Conference (NHC)?

J-P.D: First of all, we must agree on the good quality of the exchanges that took place during this conference and the alignment that prevailed between the participants on a number of subjects relating to the protection of the humanitarian space.

We noted the President’s speech in response to our requests and welcomed the positive announcements concerning the trajectory of humanitarian funding which, according to the President’s commitments, should reach 500 million euros by 2022.

The President recalled the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence that guide humanitarian action. He confirmed that France will continue to fully apply IHL, which we welcome, including the measures announced to promote it, by supporting the emergence of a special representative to the UN Secretary General and the creation of a joint technical commission in connection with the Franco-German call for action to strengthen investigations into crimes against humanitarian workers.

We also note the President’s commitment to fully apply the principle of non-discrimination of beneficiary populations in the allocation of French public aid. We now expect this essential commitment to be applied by all government departments and public donors of humanitarian action and development aid, and consequently to lift any obligation to screen the final beneficiaries of this aid.

We also note the President’s commitment to strengthening the protection of international solidarity organisations against the criminalisation of their action. Thus, the President’s request to the Minister of Justice to send a circular to the public prosecutor’s office is a step in the right direction. We will follow closely the implementation of this measure. Nevertheless, we consider that the formal integration of a humanitarian exemption in the French penal code remains a crucial demand for NGOs.

Concerning the implementation of a generalised humanitarian exemption in areas subject to a sanctions regime – a major demand of all French, European and international humanitarian organisations – we regret that the presidential response is not sufficiently ambitious in the face of the challenges of the emergency and the day-to-day realities on the ground for organisations. We will continue to be mobilised and to contribute to this issue, particularly through the future international joint commission that has been announced.

Regarding the major difficulties encountered in making bank transfers to certain destinations, which, according to Emmanuel Macron, “unduly hinder the action of organisations that have put in place robust controls and pose serious threats of prosecution to these same organisations”, we deplore the fact that no concrete measures were announced during the conference, despite a dialogue that began more than three years ago.

Concerning the measures relating to the means that France should make available to NGOs to adapt their actions to climate risks, the President confirmed that humanitarian action should include a strong environmental dimension and that France should support it. A joint working group made up of representatives of ministries and NGOs is currently being set up to define the actions to be taken to ensure that the environmental dimension and climate change are better taken into account in humanitarian aid.

Because neither the climate, nor the 237 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, nor the most fragile communities facing the crises we are experiencing can wait.

DH: Following this conference, a number of important projects are being set up with the public authorities. How do you plan to participate and coordinate with the Humanitarian Dialogue Group?

J-P.D: Indeed, the presidential commitments have led to the identification of seven distinct pillars which concern special drawing rights, the budgetary trajectory, taking account of environmental issues in humanitarian aid, the preservation of humanitarian space, banking access, strengthening respect for IHL and the fight against impunity for attacks on humanitarian workers.

These pillars will be the object of particular attention from Coordination Sud and our Commission at both national and international levels. For example, an International Humanitarian Conference bringing together States and NGO groups to discuss the challenges related to access should be held in December 2021. The Humanitarian Dialogue Group will be the hub of the conference, and the Humanitarian Commission will be one of the key players.

In addition, consultations are underway with the collectives in order to create a joint commission to enable concrete progress to be made in preserving the humanitarian space.

In terms of banking access, we only have a few months left to identify concrete operational solutions to try to provide practical answers to any difficulties that may arise in terms of financial transfers. To this end, we are promoting a high-level dialogue between the state, banks and NGOs based on their good banking practices. This dialogue could then be extended to an international level.

The principle of non-discrimination – or non-screening – in the allocation of aid according to the needs of populations at humanitarian risk prevails for actions covering humanitarian needs. It is up to us to do our utmost to ensure that it is extended to stabilisation and development actions.

The French Presidency of the EU in 2022 will be an opportunity for us to drive the agenda by participating in the designation of priority topics and preparing the related advocacy.

DH: What is the final word?

J-P.D: One word is difficult… but I would say humanitarian!

And I would add a Humanitarian Commission at the heart of Coordination Sud, made up of representatives of member NGOs, collectively invested and committed to international solidarity: patience and passion, commitment and intensity, cohesion and flexibility on the long road of our mobilisation in favour of the people we support thanks to all the projects our organisations carry out. The challenge is to ensure that ComHuma expresses its singularity while remaining part of the Coordination Sud collective.

Who is Jean-Pierre Delomier ?

“After graduating from the 3A International Institute and working for various international organisations, I was one of the three co-founders of Atlas Logistic in 1992 – an NGO specialising in the distribution of humanitarian aid, management of refugee camps, transport, logistical coordination, sanitation, rehabilitation of infrastructure, construction of housing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Mali, Mauritania, Kyrgyzstan, various parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Sudan, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Algeria, Angola, Albania, Kosovo, China, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala. I was the administrative, financial and human resources director, then executive director until the merger with Handicap International in 2006. I then joined the Management Committee and took charge of the new Humanitarian Action Department, which was created to ensure that the association was able to intervene in major humanitarian crises – in particular in Sudan/South Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, the DRC, the Gaza Strip, Indonesia, Haiti, Pakistan, Kenya, Congo, Jordan, Syria, Mali, the Philippines and Nepal – and that it contributed to the organisation of relief efforts while providing humanitarian aid to vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities. I have been a director of Bioforce for 15 years, and I am the leader of the Humanitarian Commission of Coordination Sud. Since January 2019, I have been HI’s Deputy Director of Operations, specifically in charge of influencing, representing the organisation to stakeholders and leading the Atlas Logistics business unit within the organisation.”

To find out more about the NHC :