“Let´s be bold together”

CARE at the regional consultations in Budapest for the World Humanitarian Summit

By Barbara Jackson, Humanitarian Director, CARE International

I am currently in Budapest, Hungary, attending the second of two days of regional consultations. This is the fourth in a series of regional consultations leading up to the May 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) taking place in Istanbul. The WHS will be a major event. It will be the first-ever global humanitarian summit of this scale. It also has an ambitious goal: The summit aims to find new ways to tackle humanitarian needs in our fast-changing world – a topic close to the heart of CARE´s work.

There are over 200 participants here in Budapest representing 40 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a number of representatives of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement as well as donor and state representatives from the 54 countries. Let’s just say it’s a huge group with a heavy emphasis on donors and government representatives and no doubt, extremely challenging to manage. Every actor has a different priority and key theme to focus on, so try to bring this under one hat!

CARE’s engages on two key themes at the WHS: gender as well as strengthening support for the link between climate change, resiliency and humanitarian preparedness and action. Here in Budapest, it has been a real challenge to focus on our concrete “asks” as so many diverse views and perspectives are being shared during the two hour discussion sessions, in which every participant is meant to take a part. Another challenge is that some facilitators do appear to have their own agenda and experience in mind as they attempt to lead the sessions. Participants highlighted the need to ensuring the views of the delegates are being recorded and included in summary recommendations. And finally, I have found that the session objectives to reach two or three key recommendations often result in a word-smithing approach together with a dimension of watering down the recommendation to achieve consensus.

Clearly the process is flawed but there does appear to be receptivity and openness amongst the participants and organizers, as well as opportunities to improve not only the process but also our ability to effectively transmit our views, experience and recommendations. I have found the engagement with the other INGOs as well as the NGO forums (in particular Voice and Interaction) to be extremely helpful; and I think we need to ensure greater coordination beforehand with those INGOs attending to ensure that we support one another and build up the voice of those that we are meant to represent.

One cannot be shy at these kinds of meetings! I am pleased that given my level of engagement with the preparation for the WHS I feel that I have been able to contribute to all of the discussions, bringing to bear our experience and most importantly our key messages that we have agreed upon, as well as the reaffirmation of the humanitarian principles. Furthermore, it has been important to share publicly CARE’s views in plenary and to be frank about concerns with regard to recommendations and summaries presented. I am pleased to see and hear that we are recognized for our work in gender while less so in climate change, but very much so in our humanitarian roles. We need to build upon this recognition, and further contribute to the processes leading up to the WHS with our policy briefs (currently in preparation) as well as what I think should be some provocative thinking about our approach to gender and climate change and humanitarian issues.

At the opening session we were asked by the UN Under-Secretary and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos and the Chief of the WHS Secretariat, Jemilah Mahmoud, to be BOLD and to take this opportunity to make change happen. I don’t think we are doing enough yet collectively (with other INGOs, with donors, with state representatives) to BE BOLD. I think the summit presents us with a real opportunity to look at our Humanitarian Strategy again to ensure that we are bringing this boldness (combined with pragmatism) to our approach and that we take a firm commitment to push these positions and asks forward with concrete evidence while succinctly linking into the themes under discussion.

Find out more about CARE´s work in emergencies! Read our humanitarian action fact sheet here.