The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, held this week in Istanbul, should spur political leaders around the globe to recognize that “the world is on fire,” USIP President Nancy Lindborg said. The international community is failing to muster the political will to end the violent conflicts that have ignited the globe’s most dire humanitarian crisis since World War II, she said in interviews at the conference.

closing ceremony of whs
Photo Courtesy of Flickr/World Humanitarian Summit

Lindborg noted that 80 percent of global humanitarian aid is directed to victims of violent conflict and 20 percent to recovery from natural disasters—a ratio reversed from as recently as a decade ago. While the world’s response to natural events has improved, it must better address the needs of people suffering from warfare, she said in remarks reported by National Public Radio, Reuters and the Christian Science Monitor.

Reducing the violent conflicts that are driving the largest displacement of people since World War II will require not only political will, Lindborg has argued. It also will demand a greater focus on building more inclusive governance, and thus greater resilience, in countries facing violent conflict. And the world must commit to long-term work to prevent or help countries recover from such conflicts, rather than treating them as short-term emergencies, she has said.

See the Problem to Solve It

By “putting a spotlight directly on these needs,” the World Humanitarian Summit advanced efforts to solve them, Lindborg said after the conference ended. “This conference was more inclusive,” she said, gathering humanitarian organizations with development organizations and governments to discuss ways to better work together.

Over the past year, Lindborg has underscored the need to change the world’s approach to humanitarian assistance amid violent conflicts. Last week she raised the issue in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the war in Syria. 

Observations by Lindborg reported from the summit included these:

  • "The summit is a giant wakeup call to the political leadership that, hey, the world is on fire. We can fix how we provide humanitarian assistance, but you need to muster the political will to end these terrible conflicts." —Reuters
  • “Ultimately it’s going to take crisis prevention and decisions at the top political levels to really address this.” —Christian Science Monitor
  • “We’ve made tremendous progress in the humanitarian system in terms of our ability to alleviate and recover from natural disasters. But none of this matters if it all gets tossed over by violent conflict.” —Christian Science Monitor
  • “These disasters [violent conflicts] are the hardest crises to respond to, and they're lasting longer. … So it has increased the intensity and the urgency of making the most of our humanitarian action." —National Public Radio
  • “The innovative aspect of humanitarian response has been percolating for about a decade, but as awareness of an expanding crisis has grown, what we’re seeing is that the people with the skills, the energy, and the ideas for innovation are increasingly applying that spirit to making a difference in the humanitarian arena.” —Christian Science Monitor

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