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Credit: OCHA/ Charlotte Cans

At the beginning of 2016, 125 million people required humanitarian assistance. Over the last 20 years, earthquakes, floods, droughts, typhoons and other natural hazards have claimed over a million lives. On average, 218 million people, mostly in developing countries, are affected by natural disasters every year. Some 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict or violence in recent years, the highest level since World War II; half of them are children. The brutality of today’s armed conflicts and the lack of respect for the fundamental rules of international humanitarian law threaten to unravel 150 years of achievements and plunge us into an era of wars without limits.

The world is at a critical juncture.

ASG Kang visits Malakal

Credit: OCHA/ Guiomar Pau Sole

This is why, for the first time in the 70-year history of the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is convening the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which will be held on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul, Turkey. Mr. Ban has put forward an Agenda for Humanity, calling on global leaders to stand up for our common humanity and reduce human suffering.

Secretary-General visits IDP camp in Kitchanga, North Kivu, DRC.

Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

As WHS preparations have entered the final planning stages, OCHA’s Emergency Services Branch (ESB) has mobilized 12 staff members to support the WHS Secretariat in New York and Geneva. In Istanbul, ESB will engage through four key themes.

  1. Preparedness and Response to Natural Disasters

One of the most important Summit events for the Emergency Services Branch (ESB) will be the High-Level Leaders’ Roundtable on “Natural Disasters and Climate Change: Managing Risks and Crises Differently”, which will build on global agreements in 2015 to commit to a more collective approach to reducing and managing risks, increasing investments in preparedness and building community resilience as a critical first line of response, with the full and effective participation of women, reinforcing national and local systems, and agreeing clear responsibilities, triggers and guaranteed finance for early action. Several ESB sections are engaged with Member States and stakeholders to shape and influence their statements and commitments related to preparedness, humanitarian civil-military coordination and the implementation of relevant WHS outcomes through the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week framework.

Together with the World Health Organization’s Emergency Medical Team Unit, ESB will host a side event on “Qualified Response by Certified International Teams”. In a world in which disaster response is becoming more complex, the INSARAG Network and Emergency Medical Teams, particularly their classification systems, provide a commendable standard-setting model for the entire humanitarian community.Through such processes, organizations with mutual interests can improve their professional standards and deliver a more appropriate and effective assistance to an affected country and its population. By uniting around common methodology and common standards, the predictability of the response and the interoperability between emergency responders is also dramatically increased.

  1. Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord)

ESB will also host a Side Event on behalf of the multi-stakeholder UN-CMCoord Consultative Group with focus on “Developing Common Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination Standards”. The session will build on the outcomes of the two-year WHS UN-CMCoord roadmap events. A ‘zero draft’ of the Standards paper will be prepared in advance of the Summit in Istanbul, and a final draft will be presented at the UN-CMCoord Consultative Group annual meeting during the Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week in February 2017.

UN-CMCoord ‘model commitments’ ask Member States and Organizations to re-commit to the proper and coherent use, and the effective coordination of foreign military assets in humanitarian action; endorse common humanitarian civil-military standards for deploying, employing, receiving, integrating and coordinating foreign military assets in natural disasters; and institutionalize dedicated platforms for information sharing and civil-military interaction to create a common situational awareness of the requirements of people in need.

  1. Gender and Age

The Gender Standby Capacity Project, in coordination with the United Nations Population Fund, is identifying a champion to announce changes in the IASC Gender Marker, which is set to become the Gender & Age Marker as of June 2016. The adaptation of the marker will be discussed at the Special Session on Empowering Youth. Organizations specialized in Youth matters and Youth experts have welcomed the adaptation of the Marker to include age, which is seen as an opportunity to bring attention to the specific needs, priorities and capacities of adolescent girls and boys as well as young women and men.

  1. Environment

The Emergency Services Branch calls upon the humanitarian community to commit to better address the environmental aspects of their actions, as well to consider underlying environmental drivers of humanitarian crisis. To find sustainable solutions and comply with humanitarian standards, the environment needs to be considered in two ways: as a component that needs to be protected and conserved because livelihoods depend on it, as well as a risk factor that should be mitigated to prevent unnecessary and avoidable loss of lives.

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Credit: UN Photo/ Mark Garten

Last year the world demonstrated that it is possible to come together and tackle global challenges- we agreed a new framework for disaster risk reduction (Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, March) and development financing (Addis Ababa Action Agenda, July), adopted the historic Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, September) and reached a landmark climate agreement (Paris Agreement, December). In Istanbul, we must harness this momentum to deliver meaningful action so that no one is left behind.