First and foremost, wherever you are, I wish you all the best for you and your family, for all your projects. With a fraternal thought for the humanitarian actors who come to the rescue of people in danger and accompany them in the emergency, to find autonomy and development.
Today we celebrate together the 60th edition of Défis Humanitaires since 2018, 4 years ago. In this beginning of 2022, it is time to reflect. Have we been faithful to our project and our mission? At the beginning, we set ourselves three main objectives: to promote humanitarianism, to understand the links between humanitarianism and geopolitics, and finally, to assess the major challenges and threats we face.
What is the outcome ?
Promoting and thinking about humanitarianism.
We found that while humanitarian aid is very popular in conflict, disaster and epidemic situations, most decision makers, journalists, parliamentarians and academics are not aware of its capacities and characteristics.
Humanitarianism is a little better known, thanks to annual reports such as the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report (GHAR), the UN Humanitarian Needs Report (OCHA), the last National Humanitarian Conference (CNH) in France in December 2020. But also thanks to the work of analysis and research centers, journals and humanitarian actors themselves. And Défis Humanitaires has contributed to this through its 60 editions and the publication of a study on humanitarian NGOs in France. However, observation reveals three weaknesses in the sector.
Firstly, the humanitarian sector does not manage to help all the populations in danger, even though they are well identified. Secondly, although the humanitarian sector has made considerable progress in its capacity to evaluate, target and finance its activities, it is too narrowly focused on its technical aspects, in an endless expansion that risks diluting it, and in its dependence on fashionable external ideologies, at the risk of moving away from its core activity, which is to provide access to populations in danger.
Moreover, humanitarianism is too self-centered with a simplifying vision of the world. The risk is to turn “beneficiaries” and “victims” into undifferentiated clients of aid, just as others, better off, are from the anonymous and lucrative consumer society.
We talk a lot about localization, a reality that has not yet found a fair and effective solution. We forget that localization should first be to consider that if we are one and the same humanity that requires our solidarity, this one is simultaneously constituted by a great diversity of peoples, languages, cultures, religions, ways of life, beliefs, ethnicities, nations and that to respect the dignity, especially of the most vulnerable, is to recognize and respect their own identity that is the salt of humanity, contrary to a great leveling and humanly impoverished supermarket.
Thinking about the link between humanitarianism and geopolitics.
Basically, any crisis, any conflict, any war is by nature political and these shocks lead to destruction and forced displacement of populations which require a humanitarian response. If humanitarian aid must apply its principles of political neutrality, impartiality of relief and independence of organizations to access populations in danger, the interest, the curiosity for the geopolitics of crises as for the peoples and nations that live them. This allows for a better understanding of the problems that arise to generate greater efficiency in relief efforts without politicizing them.
In 2021, I visited Armenia and Artsakh, the Armenian-populated enclave in Azeri territory. I also went to Northeast Syria, self-administered by a Kurdish-Arabic and Christian coalition, wedged between Turkey and the Damascus government. The observation is simple, in conflicts, the most threatened are always the minorities, the most vulnerable. My point here is to say that if the principle of humanitarian impartiality is to be applied, it must also assess where the greatest dangers lie for the people of both majority and minority communities. With particular attention to those minorities who are the most fragile.
As we publish this 60th edition of Défis Humanitaires, it seems to me that we have dealt well with this humanitarian-geopolitical issue, particularly in the Middle East, the Sahel or Afghanistan. Our limitations, in this field as in others, are rather those of our means, which I will come back to at the end of this letter.
Assess and document the major challenges and threats.
While we have covered the issue of access to water, sanitation and hygiene, a vital need that continues to be a growing global priority, to a lesser extent we have addressed the issue of food security and innovation. On the other hand, we have not sufficiently addressed climate change, its consequences in the lives of populations and the adaptation measures to be taken to protect ourselves. Likewise, although we regularly come back to the major issue of demography and its multiple consequences, the studies on this subject have not been on the scale of the challenge, particularly in Africa.
Positive results in terms of figures.
Défis Humanitaires has published 60 editions over the past four years, representing 220 articles and interviews that you can find in our archives, which constitute a database that can always be consulted. These articles and interviews were produced on a voluntary basis by a hundred or so authors whom we would like to thank warmly for their quality contribution.
During this period, between 2018 and 2021, the number of readers has quadrupled and the number of views has tripled. In 2021, the most read articles and interviews were those dedicated to the triple nexus, to global humanitarian aid, to Mali and the Sahel, to philanthropy, to the reflection on the nature of humanitarian aid, to the European Commission’s humanitarian aid with ECHO, and finally to the crisis in Afghanistan.
All this work has been done voluntarily. The strong growth in the number of readers is a clear sign of expectation, if not demand, and this encourages us and stimulates us to do even better. However, our capacities have reached their current limits, which we must surpass by 2022. We need your help to achieve this.
Défis Humanitaires in 2022.
This year, we will publish a monthly edition, seeking to update the topics you consult most. But also reports and testimonies from the field, a look back at past humanitarian crises with the benefit of hindsight. We would also like to publish the second edition of our “Study on humanitarian NGOs 2006-2020” which represents a very important work of collection, formatting and analysis useful to the entire humanitarian ecosystem, both to measure the development of the sector and its characteristics as well as to establish a state of the art on the security of humanitarians, the evolution of the sector, anti-terrorist laws and humanitarian exemption, the state of funding.
To carry out these projects, Défis Humanitaires, a free humanitarian website, needs your support (make a donation). To this end, I recently launched a crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising 10,000 euros. At the beginning of January, we have already raised a third of this amount. You can help me by becoming an actor of the Humanitarian Challenges project by making a donation (*). Whatever the amount, your donation (make a donation) is welcome and will concretely participate in a humanitarian mission useful to all.
I would like to thank you personally for your generosity and wish you a pleasant reading of this 60th edition. Thank you.
President of Défis Humanitaires.
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(*) We do not benefit from the tax deduction although we are an association of general interest.