An editorial by Alain Boinet
We arrive in the mountain village of Schurnuk in Armenia. It has been cut in two by the war. To the left of the small road, it is now Azerbaijan, and to the right, Armenia, which feels threatened. Fifteen or so houses are under construction to accommodate Armenian families driven from their farms, and a 3 km water pipeline and reservoir are being built to supply them with drinking water with the support of the Fonds Arménien de France. Further on, a Russian military fort stands guard over an Armenian army position facing an Azeri post.
The next day, thanks to Carmen from the SPFA’s French-speaking Cultural Center in Goris, I meet Armenians driven out of Artsakh by Azerbaijan at the end of September. Kariné BalaÏan, 59, has 3 children and 13 grandchildren, including her son Albert. Kariné wipes away tears as she recalls the war. She and her family lost everything when they escaped from Stepanakert under the bombs. Albert dreams of a house to settle down in with his wife and 4 children, the youngest of whom was born during the exodus! Albert is 34 and wants to make a living from his work again.
In Goris as in Kapan, we meet a team of experts from the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes and Isère Chambers of Agriculture, who are assessing needs and projects within the framework of the Partnership Agreement signed in March between the Syunik region and Laurent Wauquiez for the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Region.
The 100,000 Armenians driven out of Artsakh in the space of a few days and left traumatized are now the focus of attention. They can be found in every region of Armenia. Half of them are housed in hotels, schools and government buildings, while the others are staying with relatives or in precarious rented accommodation while waiting to find work, bearing in mind that half of them live in rural areas, that there are 30,000 children to send to school, and that many of them were disrupted by the forced exodus under the bombs.
As in the Syunik region, the Tavouch region is home to refugees, whom we had the opportunity to meet while visiting school and university projects, agricultural training and livestock breeding with the French Ambassador to Armenia Olivier Decottignies, the Association des Maires Ruraux de France, the Fonds Arménien de France with the support of the Conseil départemental des Hauts de Seine.
I came to Armenia to do a report for Défis Humanitaires, as well as to identify humanitarian needs and aid players such as NGOs, foundations and local authorities in France and elsewhere who could come and support and strengthen the situation, particularly in the border provinces of Syunik and Tavouch, which are under armed threat from Azerbaijan backed by Turkey and Israel.
What is at stake, of course, is peace, with a mutual recognition treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which is refusing to sign it for the time being, as well as the regularization of relations with Turkey. In the meantime, supporting the refugees and Armenia is undoubtedly one of the best ways of achieving a balance that will foster a just peace in this troubled region of the South Caucasus.
From the Sahel to northeast Syria, from Gaza to the Ukraine, a long road for solidarity.
This edition of Défis Humanitaire, the 12th this year, takes stock of crises that mobilize humanitarian action as well as that of diplomats, armies and jihadist or terrorist groups.
Where is the Sahel headed?
This is the question we put to Gilles Yabi, Managing Director of the Think Tank Wathi, based in Dakar, Senegal. Listening to him, we can clearly see the conjunction between internal difficulties and external initiatives or interference. In Mali, Burkina Faso or Niger, he notes the weaknesses of governance, the historical weight of the French presence, the interference of the Russians and the Wagner group, the regional dimension of the three borders in the Liptako Gourma, the diverse motivations that drive the recruits of armed groups and the risk of extension to the countries of the Gulf of Guinea. To the question of Africa’s exponential demography, he underlines the lack of response to a major phenomenon which, while an asset in the long term, is a serious problem in the short and medium term. Despite the difficult situation, Gilles Yabi invites us to remain confident in the future of Africa, which has many assets. An interview full of precise and pertinent nuances, that I recommend to you.
Northeast Syria in danger!
Patrice Franceschi, writer and committed connoisseur, has just returned from Syrian Kurdistan, where Jean-Michel Blanquer, former French Minister of Education, accompanied him with a letter of support from the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, for the Syrian Democratic Forces, which bring together Kurds, Christians and Arab tribes. The Turks are destabilizing the region, subjecting it to daily bombardments, including at night, while rationing water from the Euphrates River to weaken the population’s capacity for agricultural self-sufficiency. The Iranians have moved in with their drones against the FDS, and the dormant cells of Daech are still there, ready to spring back into action. While humanitarian action is essential in this region, the solution is essentially political and military. For a full understanding of this imbroglio, it is worth reading this interview.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) at odds between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Pierre Brunet, who has been practicing and reflecting on humanitarian issues for a long time, reminds us that it was the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, with its 1,200 victims killed in atrocious conditions, that deliberately provoked the current war. He urges humanitarians not to ignore Hamas’s use of the Gaza population as a human shield, a practice condemned by the European Union. At the same time, he condemns the violent and predatory actions of settlers in the West Bank and the need for a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians living in peace. For Pierre Brunet, it’s a question of keeping the scales of International Humanitarian Law in balance, avoiding the blind spot of Hamas’s responsibilities and the “Stockholm syndrome”, while supplying the population of Gaza and de facto holding Israel to account. As we can all see, respect for IHL is a threatened requirement in this existential conflict, which calls for fair and determined advocacy.
The question of aid in Ukraine.
François Dupaquier, founder of U-Saved in Ukraine.François Dupaquier is well known in the humanitarian world, having founded the Ukrainian NGO U-SAVED. With his direct frankness and experience, he argues convincingly in favor of transferring risks from international organizations to local partners. He has documented numerous examples of security, financial and administrative risks. In conclusion, he suggests ways out! A personal word on this subject: risk transfer is certainly not humanitarian! I believe that the solution lies, on the contrary, not in substitution but in the complementarity of international and national players in terms of principles and values, at the operational, administrative and financial levels. This has yet to be invented, so action.
Coping with physical and mental risks in humanitarian action with CoCreate Humanity.
This is the mission of the Swiss association CoCreate Humanity, presented in this issue by Hélène Ros, founder with Sébastien Couturier and Christophe Hensh, all three from the ICRC, which supports the wounded, kidnapped and victims of various traumas. CoCreate Humanity has developed an approach to human accompaniment that has proved its worth, and which deserves our thanks and support. Hélène presents this useful approach for us to share.
Healthcare widens its scope.
Anthropologist Madeleine Trentesaux is working on “One Health”, which recognizes the links between human health, animal health and environmental health. The One Sustainable Health Forum is working to integrate this approach, including in humanitarian emergencies. Find out more about this innovative approach to health in this issue.
The humanitarian wants the means!
This will be the focus of the next Conférence Nationale Humanitaire (CNH) to be held in Paris on December 19 at the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE). The 1st CNH took place in 2011, in response to the recommendations of the Boinet-Miribel Report submitted to the Minister at the time, Bernard Kouchner.
The CNH was prepared by the Centre de Crise et de Soutien (CDCS), headed by Philippe Lalliot, in conjunction with humanitarian NGO members of the Groupe de Concertation Humanitaire (GCH).
This year’s CNH, which can be followed in person or remotely on YouTube, has three main priorities:
- How to integrate the challenges of climate change impact, protection and localization to act effectively on crises.
- How to protect humanitarian aid and access to populations at a time when IHL is under threat.
- In the face of growing humanitarian needs worldwide, what funding is needed to make aid more efficient?
The CNH will be opened by the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, with a panel of personalities and experts on the deteriorating context of humanitarian action and the multiplication of crises.
This CNH will be an opportunity to present the Humanitarian Strategy of the French Republic (SHRF) for the period 2024-2027, which follows on from the two previous ones. This Strategy for the next 4 years defines three main priorities:
- Increased resources and more efficient implementation methods.
- Respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL), with the support of French diplomacy.
- Integration of climate and environment, food security, gender and simplification of procedures.
In a letter sent to the Minister, Catherine Colonna, in the spring, I recalled that “The number of conflicts has more than doubled over the decade 2010-2020, the number of climate-related disasters has increased every year since 2018, the number of refugees and people displaced by conflict has doubled in 10 years to reach 100 million human beings. Food insecurity has risen by 35% in the last five years. We have entered a new era in just a handful of years, and above all we have changed scale and pace in the face of these immense challenges. In this world, humanitarian aid is vital insurance for crisis victims”.
So, while the increase in French financial resources has been considerable since 2018, it must continue in the face of humanitarian needs estimated this year at $50.5 billion, which are likely to fall short, as they do every year, by around 50% of the essential amount.
While the announcement of an increase in France’s humanitarian budget to one billion euros by 2025 is very good news, we need to go further and think about the share of Official Development Assistance (ODA) that should be allocated to humanitarian aid. Although France is one of the world’s leading contributors to ODA, ranking 4th, its share of humanitarian aid is one of the lowest!
This is both contradictory and out of step with the realities of today’s world. It would be appropriate and logical for France to allocate at least 13.9% of its ODA to humanitarian aid, in line with the average for OECD member countries, with some countries going as high as 20 to 25%.
The National Humanitarian Conference on December 19, 2023 will be the ideal opportunity to discuss this issue, in order to better respond to the growing gap between needs and resources, which this year concerns 339 million human beings worldwide.
Faced with the challenges of multiplying crises and victims, the widening gap between needs and the means to help populations in danger, and the questioning and violation of international humanitarian law (IHL), the humanitarian issue is becoming vital in international relations and must be respected and protected by all players, because IHL is less a Western concept than a human value shared by all civilizations, cultures and religions.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and thank you for your support (faireundon) for Défis Humanitaires, which is counting on you.
Alain Boinet is president of the online magazine Défis Humanitaires www.defishumanitaires.com and founder of the humanitarian association Solidarités Humanitaires, of which he was managing director for 35 years. He is also a member of the Groupe de Concertation Humanitaire at the Centre de Crise et de Soutien of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, and of the Board of Directors of Solidarités International, the Partenariat Français pour l’Eau (PFE), the Véolia Foundation and the Think Tank (re)sources.
Find the 83rd edition of Défis Humanitaires :
- Where is the Sahel headed? Interview with Gilles Yabi of Think Tank Wathi
- Humanitarian facing war in Gaza
- East North Syria, danger! Interview with Patrice Franceschi
- Ukraine: Humanitarian bureaucracy versus population survival
- CoCreate Humanity: peer support for the mental health of aid workers
- 5 good reasons to follow the One Sustainable Health Forum