Is our global humanitarian system in transition? If so, what are the key issues before the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit
“Today’s needs are at unprecedented levels and without more support there simply is no way to respond to the humanitarian situations we’re seeing in region after region and in conflict after conflict.”
António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
The world is preparing for the World Humanitarian Summit. The United Nations will host the event in Istanbul, in 2016. Before the meeting, regional consultations are held in several parts of the world hit by humanitarian crises. Expectations are high.The study forecasts how the EU can financially contribute to donor activities in the future taking into account the fact that there are too many humanitarian crises.
Recognising that the humanitarian landscape has changed tremendously over the past few decades, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon initiated the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) as a three-year initiative which will set the scene for a wide-ranging international discussion on how to adapt the humanitarian system to the new reality so that it serves the people in need more effectively.
The WHS has a two-fold objective:
1) secure commitment to a strategic agenda which makes humanitarian action fit for the challenges of 2016 and beyond;
2) develop stronger partnerships and seek innovative solutions to persistent and new challenges so that the agreed strategic agenda is implemented after the Summit.
As Jemilah Mahmood − Head the WHS Secretariat at the UN Headquarters in New York – stated, “Now more than ever, we need to recognise the sheer magnitude of the problems we face in the humanitarian and developmental sectors, and focus our collective resources on solving them.” The WHS is an opportunity for governments, the UN and intergovernmental agencies, regional organisations, non-profits and civil society actors, the private sector, academia as well as people affected by crises to come together, take stock of humanitarian action, discuss the changing landscape, share knowledge and best practices, and chart a forward looking agenda.
Before the Summit, through a two-year consultation process, the aim is to build a more inclusive and diverse humanitarian system by bringing all key stakeholders together to share best practices and find innovative ways to make humanitarian action more effective. The process is being managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) is taking an active role in contributing to the discussion throughout the entire WHS process.
The following agenda for consultations have been established:
- West and Central Africa − Côte d’Ivoire, 19-20 June 2014;
- North and South-East Asia − Japan, 23-24 July 2014;
- Eastern and Southern Africa – South Africa, 27-29 October 2014;
- Europe and Others − Hungary, 3-4 February 2015;
- Middle East and North Africa − Jordan, 3-5 March 2015;
- Latin America and the Caribbean − Guatemala, 5-7 May 2015;
- Pacific Region − New Zealand, June 2015;
- South and Central Asia − 3rd Quarter 2015;
- Global Consultation − Switzerland, October 2015.
Consultations will engage a broad range of partners, including people from affected territories, humanitarian actors, technical experts and the public through the WHS web platform. The key findings from both the regional and online consultations will be included in the final report of the Secretary-General that will set the summit agenda and influence the future of global humanitarian action.
Change is needed in the international humanitarian system as almost 25 years after UN General Assembly resolution 46/182 created the present humanitarian system – around the ERC, the IASC and a set of established core and guiding principles – the landscape of humanitarian action has changed considerably. Inter-related global trends, such as climate variability, demographic change, financial and energy sector pressures or changing geo-political factors have led to increased demand for humanitarian action. This focuses around three types of humanitarian realities: armed conflicts, disasters caused by natural hazards, and ‘chronic crises’ where people cyclically dip above and below acute levels of vulnerability. Each scenario has its own characteristics and challenges.
In response to the challenges, humanitarian actors have sought to improve their services and maximize their impact on people in need. In particular, the 2005 Humanitarian Reform and more recently the IASC Transformative Agenda developed new approaches to working more accountably, predictably and effectively, and discussions to update international humanitarian legislation take place each year in the General Assembly. But there has been no collective exercise to take stock of the achievements and changes that have occurred since the current system was formed. Nor has a structured dialogue taken place between the four major constituencies that contribute to humanitarian action today: Member States (including affected countries, donors and emerging and interested partners); the global network of humanitarian organizations and experts; associated partners, (including private sector, religious charities, etc.); and, affected people themselves – as first responders, communities and civil society organizations, to think through how to address the current challenges. While the fundamental principles enshrined in General Assembly Resolution 46/182 will continue to guide our work, we need to explore how to create a more global, effective, and inclusive humanitarian system.
The Summit hopes to engage states in commitments to a new range of global humanitarian policies and financing. The main aim of the Summit is to: “set an agenda to make humanitarian action fit for the challenges of the future, by broadening and deepening partnerships for those in need.” The Concept Note that is guiding consultations running up to 2016 has put innovation right at the centre of its work, and is focusing on four main themes: humanitarian effectiveness; reducing vulnerability and managing risk; transformation through innovation, and serving the needs of people in conflict.
According to Humanitarian Coalition, humanitarian crisis is an event or series of events which represents a critical threat to the health, safety, security or wellbeing of a community or other large group of people, usually over a wide area. Armed conflicts, epidemics, famine, natural disasters and other major emergencies may all involve or lead to a humanitarian crisis that extends beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency. Humanitarian crises can be grouped under the following headings: Natural Disasters (earthquakes, floods, storms and volcanic eruptions). Man-made Disasters (conflicts,plane and train crashes, fires and industrial accidents). Complex Emergencies (when the effects of a series of events or factors prevent a community from accessing their basic needs, such as water, food, shelter, security or health care). Complex emergencies are typically characterized by: extensive violence and loss of life; displacements of populations; widespread damage to societies and economies; the need for large-scale, multi-faceted humanitarian assistance; the hindrance or prevention of humanitarian assistance by political and military constraints; significant security risks for humanitarian relief workers in some areas.
The causes for a crisis are always context-specific and each crisis is different. Humanitarian crises usually require a multi-sectoral response. Complex emergencies pose many challenges to humanitarian actors, including access to vulnerable populations, human rights abuses and the possible presence of armed actors.
Do we live in a safe or dangerous world?
Humanitarian crises in the world today − Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan and now Gaza − all demand immediate and massive humanitarian response. The crises are not only large-scale, affecting millions, but the conflicts also are complex, each with unique political realities and on-the-ground difficulties. They are not alone among crises competing for our attention. They are simply the biggest, pushing off the front pages other crises where human needs remain urgent: Darfur, Central America, Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.The question is obvious: Do we live in a safe or dangerous world?
During 2012 − the most recent year for which there are data − the number of conflicts being waged around the world dropped sharply, from 37 to 32. High-intensity conflicts have declined by more than half since the end of the Cold War, while terrorism, genocide and homicide numbers are also down. And this is not simply a recent phenomenon. According to a major 2011 study by Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, violence of all kinds has been declining for thousands of years. Indeed Pinker claims that, “we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence.”
Over the last decade, claims that the number and deadliness of armed conflict has declined since the end of the Cold War − while not uncontested − have become increasingly accepted. The most telling finding is that the number of high-intensity state-based conflicts − those that kill a thousand or more people a year − has declined by more than half since 1989.
Conflicts between states − especially high-intensity conflicts − have become very rare since 1989. There has been less than one interstate conflict per year on average since 2000, down from almost three during the 1980s. Since the end of the 1990s there has been a growing – and increasingly heated – debate over recent and longer term trends in violence around the world. Proponents of what has become known as the “declinist thesis” argue that violence has declined; others accept the basic “declinist” thesis but challenge the explanations that seek to account for it. But while large-scale organized political violence has declined over the past quarter of a century, some analysts argue that organized – and often transnational – criminal violence has increased. In fact, death rates in some countries exceed those in the deadliest wars currently being waged around the world.
The rise of transnational organized crime is part of what has sometimes been described as “the dark side of globalization.” But the increase in global trade, investment, and other forms of transnational economic integration has also been associated with increased levels of human development, wealth and global freedom. Globally, the number of conflicts had been stabilising at a relatively high level. However, because today’s conflicts are mostly low in intensity, global battle-death tolls have remained relatively low – despite a slight increase from 2010 to 2011.
High-intensity conflicts have fluctuated at a relatively low level for most of the 2000s. The six high-intensity conflicts active in 2011 were located in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Some of these conflicts have been active, and among the most deadly, for many years. Only one of the high-intensity conflicts mentioned above – that in Libya – was directly related to the Arab Spring. The wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen were associated with ongoing international and local campaigns against Islamist group while the violence in Sudan was mostly related to the events surrounding South Sudan independence, and, to a lesser extent, to continuing problems in the Darfur region.
Most state-based conflicts today are intrastate conflicts, which are fought between the government of a state and one or more non-state armed group over control of government power or a specific territory. Many of the high-intensity conflicts in 2011 – such as the conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen – were civil wars in which troops from other states participated in the conflict in support of one or more of the warring parties. On the other hand, in recent years, the Middle East and North Africa – the second-most-deadly region in 2011 – saw reported battle deaths triple, going from under 2,000 in 2010 to almost 6,000 in 2011. Part of the reason for this increase can be attributed to the events related directly and indirectly to the Arab Spring.
The number of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa increased by two in 2011 with conflict onsets in Libya and Syria that were both related to the Arab Spring. Battle deaths in this region also increased in 2011. In addition to the Arab Spring conflicts in Libya and Syria, the increase was a result of the escalation of ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Iran, and Turkey.
Researchers studying the Long Peace of the post-World War II period have identified growing international economic interdependence – manifest in the dramatic increase in international trade and foreign direct investment – as one important disincentive for interstate war in this period.
Conflicts between states, as well as those between states and rebel groups, tend to dominate war-related news headlines. Most people’s understanding of the incidence of armed violence around the world comes from the media. But media reporting – not surprisingly – focuses on bad news. Violence makes headlines – its absence does not. For the past two years world attention has focused on the escalating violence between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and armed opposition groups in Syria.
Too many humanitarian crises challenge the sources and capacity
Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, warns that there is “no light at the end of this tunnel: we must get used to a ‘new normal,’ where we face multiple challenges with finite resources.” We need to accept the reality of not having enough money to respond. With so many crises, the tendency is to focus on the latest and the “biggest” crises. A “crisis of the month” mentality has been replaced by “crisis of the week.” Numbers matter, so understandably our focus is drawn to large-scale crises. When hundreds of thousands of refugees flee a country, we respond. When smaller numbers are displaced by, say, a storm on a Pacific Island – even when proportionally a greater percentage of the population is affected − we tend to overlook it. A few years ago the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported that 90 percent of all natural disasters have fewer than 50 casualties; numbers not sufficient to mobilize an international response but no less devastating to those affected. Too many crises have consequences. In 2012 the worry was how the international community would come up with the resources to meet humanitarian needs in Syria, estimated at $1 billion a year. Today, the appeal for Syria is over $6 billion with less than 25 percent funded by mid-year. Syria is far from the only crisis for which urgent appeals for funding are made. South Sudan, Central African Republic and Gaza are all desperate situations that need a robust international response.
Too many crises also increase the demand for experienced staff. Humanitarian agencies find it daunting to maintain adequate stand-by capacity to respond to a wave of major disasters. Stand-by rosters are stretched. An overwhelming number of crises make it almost impossible for the international community to respond well − or even adequately − to the existing humanitarian disasters, much less to prepare for future ones. Humanitarian crises are influenced by political problems; the inability of our international political system to resolve these crises is stunning. The Responsibility to Protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing has emerged as an important global principle since its adoption by the UN World Summit in 2005. The fact that there are too many humanitarian crises today is the result of a failure in global governance. Change is needed in the international humanitarian system and perhaps the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016 will provide an opportunity for fresh − and even radical − thinking about the way the system responds.
The Brookings Institution assessed the global response to humanitarian crises. Throughout 2013, international humanitarian actors have faced major challenges responding to conflicts and natural disasters across the globe. Tens of thousands of people died in Syria and millions were displaced while international actors struggled to get access to desperate people. While escalating violence in such diverse countries as South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen and the Central African Republic may have received less media attention than Syria, these situations also posed particular challenges to the international community. At the end of 2013, the international community was mobilizing a major relief effort to respond to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, a storm that affected more than 14 million people and displaced over 5 million. Beyond the headlines, there were dozens of long-standing conflicts and smaller disasters that impacted the lives of millions of people and overwhelmed the capacity of local responders to meet the security, food and health needs of victims. The slow and sometimes inadequate response to these emergencies raise challenging questions about the capacity of the humanitarian aid system to meet the needs of people most affected by these and other disasters.
Speaking at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition, Ross Mountain pointed out that in vulnerable countries food prices, urbanization, migration, the impact of climate change and population growth are all increasing. But as the challenges grow, the resources available in OECD countries − the traditional donors − to respond to humanitarian crises are shrinking. Nevertheless at OECD level budgetary constraints has not yet resulted in dramatic drop in humanitarian aid spending.
Given the increased scale of needs and vulnerability, a shift in attitude and working practices is needed to integrate anticipation, disaster risk reduction, preparedness and resilience into programmes. Many governments and many organizations still operate on a model that focuses on short-term crises, rather than looking at the longer term trends and their humanitarian implications. If we do not take a more participatory preventive approach, we will be responsible for countless avoidable suffering in the decades to come. Governments are increasingly linking humanitarian assistance to political, military or anti-terrorism objectives. Think Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and the occupied Palestinian territory. In other cases, like Syria, governments and/or armed groups have increasingly denied access to humanitarian organizations. There has been an explosion of NGOs in recent years; but also a change in the donor landscape. The economic downturn in the West has meant a growing role for donors and organizations from the Arab and Muslim worlds, for example. This means two things. First, the international community needs to better, and “more respectfully”, engage these new players. The tendency on the part of many of us in the international community is to come thinking that money is to be given so that we, the experts, go back and do the work. The talk should be more about strategic partnerships and not about money. Forging smart and strategic partnership is one way for the international humanitarian community to better respond to today’s growing humanitarian challenges.
International humanitarian funds
International humanitarian action − aiding and protecting people in armed conflicts and disasters − has expanded dramatically in the last twenty years to become a major global field. In 2012, official humanitarian aid totalled $17.9 billion dollars and reached 73 million people. Some 75 percent of these funds came from OECD governments, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This makes states by far the largest contributors to humanitarian aid. The remaining 25 percent came from private funds. Around $3.3bn (18.75 percent) came directly from the donations of individual citizens, and $1.1bn (6.25 percent) from private foundations.The three largest state funders are the USA, EU and UK.
According to the OECD’s report published in April 2014 total development aid (which is a more comprehensive measure than humanitarian aid) rose by 6.1 percent in real terms in 2013 to reach the highest level ever recorded, despite continued pressure on budgets in OECD countries since the global economic crisis. Donors provided a total of USD 134.8 billion in net official development assistance (ODA), marking a rebound after two years of falling volumes, as a number of governments stepped up their spending on foreign aid. An annual survey of donor spending plans by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) indicated that aid levels could increase again in 2014 and stabilise thereafter. However, a trend of a falling share of aid going to the neediest sub-Saharan African countries looks likely to continue.
In all, 17 of the DAC’s 28 member countries increased their ODA in 2013, while 11 reported a decrease. Net ODA from DAC countries stood at 0.3 percent of gross national income (GNI.) Five countries met a longstanding UN target for an ODA/GNI ratio of 0.7 percent. The United Kingdom increased its ODA by 27.8 percent to hit the 0.7 percent target for the first time. The United Arab Emirates posted the highest ODA/GNI ratio, 1.25 percent, after providing exceptional support to Egypt. Aid to developing countries grew steadily from 1997 to a first peak in 2010. It fell in 2011 and 2012 as many governments took austerity measures and trimmed aid budgets. The rebound in aid budgets in 2013 meant that even excluding the five countries that joined the DAC in 2013 (Czech Republic, Iceland, Poland, Slovak Republic and Slovenia), 2013 DAC ODA was still at an all-time high.
The largest donors by volume were the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and France. Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden continued to exceed the 0.7 percent ODA/GNI target and the UK met it for the first time. The Netherlands fell below 0.7 percent for the first time since 1974. Net ODA rose in 17 countries, with the largest increases recorded in Iceland, Italy, Japan, Norway and the UK. It fell in 11 countries, with the biggest decreases in Canada, France and Portugal. The G7 countries provided 70 percent of total net DAC ODA in 2013, and the DAC-EU countries 52 percent. The US remained the largest donor by volume with net ODA flows of USD 31.5 billion, an increase of 1.3 percent in real terms from 2012. US ODA as a share of GNI was 0.19 percent. Most of the increase was due to humanitarian aid and support for fighting HIV/AIDS. By contrast US net bilateral aid to LDCs fell by 11.7 percent in real terms to USD 8.4 billion due in particular to reduced disbursements to Afghanistan. Net ODA disbursements to sub-Saharan Africa fell by 2.9 percent to USD 8.7 billion.
Nevertheless this survey also suggests a continuation of the worrying trend of declines in programmed aid to LDCs and low-income countries, in particular in Africa. CPA to LDCs and LICs is set to decrease by 5 percent, reflecting reduced access to grant resources on which these countries are highly dependent. Some Asian countries may see increases, however, so that by 2017 overall allocations to Asia are expected to equal those towards Africa. This will need special attention in the future
It is well-known that the European Union is the world’s leading provider of humanitarian aid. This aid, which takes the form of financing, provision of goods or services, or technical assistance, helps prepare for and deal with the crises such as natural disasters, disasters caused by human activity, or structural crises, outside the Union. The Union’s action comprises three instruments: emergency aid, food aid, and aid for refugees and displaced persons. ECHO coordinates this action and cooperates closely with partners who implement aid on the ground, in particular the United Nations and non-governmental organisations. EU Humanitarian aid policy is based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. EU Humanitarian aid must be coordinated with other policies so that it can be adapted to each situation and can contribute to long-term development goals. The EU contributes to developing collective global capacity to respond to crises. It commits to promoting reforms in the international humanitarian system, led by the United Nations, and in cooperation with other humanitarian actors and donors.
EU Humanitarian aid is financed from the ’Global Europe’ heading of the EU budget. This heading covers all external action by the EU such as development assistance or humanitarian aid with the exception of the European Development Fund (EDF) which provides aid for development cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, as well as overseas countries and territories. As it is not funded from the EU budget but from direct contributions from EU Member States, the EDF does not fall under the MFF (the EU’s seven year framework budget).
International humanitarian funds generally are channelled through UN agencies (like the UN World Food Programme, UNICEF and UNHCR), the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Humanitarian NGOs can be well known names like Oxfam, Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), CARE and Caritas, or they can increasingly be national and local NGOs that are growing fast in countries confronted by protracted conflict, chronic hunger or persistent natural disasters. Altogether, it is estimated that there are about 4,400 NGOs engaged in some form of humanitarian aid and around 274,000 humanitarian workers in the world today. The expansion of humanitarian aid and protection under UN guidance means that the international humanitarian system is becoming a nascent form of global welfare for people suffering from war, chronic food insecurity and natural disasters. Humanitarian aid is now an internationally organized safety net for many millions of people living in extreme situations as terrorized civilians, displaced people and refugees, or the victims of natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. The humanitarian system has expanded in a relatively improvised fashion, and contains hundreds of different and competing moving parts. Its many agencies may share the same strategic humanitarian goals but they each have their own organizational interests that compete for funds, profile and operational terrain.
The EU has begun to invest in these terms with its two initiatives: SHARE for the Horn of Africa worth Euro 270m in 2012/13 and AGIR for West Africa worth Euro 503m in 2012/13.21 The British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) has also launched BRACED, a fund for NGOs to support people’s resilience to extreme climate change in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This fund is targeting 5 million people and seeking applications from NGO-led consortia. This resilience strategy needs help if it is to inspire genuine innovations in processes, products and paradigms for building resilience. Without such innovations, these new funds, and those that follow, will be a lost opportunity in which NGOs simply bundle up old project types in new resilience wrappers.
Currently, the global community faces many challenges such as climate change, rapid population growth, urbanization, and water shortages. At the same time, there have global economic shifts, new actors engaged in humanitarian action, and tremendous improvements in technology. Given these challenges and opportunities, we need to improve how we respond to disasters and conflicts.
In the last ten years, the funding requirements of inter-agency appeals have increased by 600 percent from $3 billion in 2004 to $17.9 billion in 2014. However, inter-agency appeal funding received in 2013 $8.3 billion. In the same amount of time, the number of people targeted for assistance has more than doubled. The crisis in Syria is one of the worst on record given the sheer size of damage in the country and the effect on the region. The Syria Response Plan was 209 times bigger than the average appeal. More than 150 agencies and aid groups are working with local partners and national authorities to provide relief to the Syrian people in the region. In 2013, African countries like DRC, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, these countries had previously received approximately 60 percent of appeal funding, though Syria response plans received 38 percent $3.1 billion.
According to OCHA, crises are longer and more expensive. The crises in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan and Syria will remain top humanitarian priorities next year. The sharp rise in the number of people affected by conflict and of forced to flee and became dependent on humanitarian aid for their survival is expected to continue. The Global appeal for 2015 is $16.4 billion to help 57 million people in 22 countries. The UN and its humanitarian partners have launched an appeal for US$16.4 billion to help at least 57.5 million people affected by crises in 22 countries in 2015. As UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos explained, “Over 80 percent of those we intend to help are in countries mired in conflict where brutality and violence have had a devastating impact on their lives…But the rising scale of need is outpacing our capacity to respond.”
As far as the EU’s preparedness is concerned one cannot be overly optimistic. In November 2013, after the European Parliament voted through the Multiannual Financial Framework which determines the European Union’s (EU) common budget and priorities over the next seven-year period, the so-called CONCORD Report was published. The 2014-2020 period is the first budgetary framework negotiated under the Lisbon Treaty, giving additional power to the European Parliament. The Parliament’s vote marks the beginning of the final stages of the process leading to the ratification of the EU budget for the seven years. The CONCORD report, ‘EU Budget 2014-2020: Fit for the Fight against Global Poverty?’ recognises that the MFF is not just a financial tool but a key tool in strengthening the EU’s place as a global development actor. The 2014-2020 period will cover both the 2015 deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the EU’s target to spend 0.7 percent of collective GNI on development aid, making it a crucial budget for the EU’s relations with developing countries. And yet the budget available for external action comes up short of what is needed to fulfil the many priorities and global challenges. But in 2014 the situation has dramatically deteriorated when the European Union’s humanitarian aid and development aid programmes were compromised by EU debts, and budget cuts forecast for 2015. Since 2011, the European budget has been amassing unpaid bills, which continue to rise in value. The budget by the end of 2014 was 26 billion euro in arrears, €23 billion of which are owed to the cohesion policy. This impacts the whole spectrum of European politics.
Unpaid bills in the budget category of “Global Europe”, which includes development aid and humanitarian aid, have reached 1 billion euro. The lack of funds has also forced the EU to roll back some humanitarian aid programmes. Some projects in the Sahel region of Africa, the Horn of Africa and Haiti have been postponed,” the budget Commissioner announced.
The lack of funding will also affect other humanitarian aid programmes. The impact of the EU’s current constraints on humanitarian aid is already being felt by the beneficiary countries. For example, aid to Iraqi refugees in Jordan has been reduced. NGOs are signalling that food security operations in Somalia and Ethiopia are being delayed and that their priority level is being reduced,” she added. The strain on the 2014 budget is in danger of becoming even worse in 2015, as member states have proposed significant cuts to the European Commission budget. These cuts would leave the EU unable to pay its currently outstanding bills and those that would arise in the course of the 2015 budget. The cut of 2.1 billion euros, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the total approved expenditure for 2015, will affect a broad range of European projects, but spending on development aid and humanitarian aid will probably be the hardest hit by these proposed cuts. The total budget of the section “Global Europe” could be reduced by 10 percent, representing €384 million. The budget of EuropeAid, dedicated specifically to development aid, may lose 192 million euros; 12 percent of its funding.
Globally the next two and a half years offers social entrepreneurs a real opportunity to team up with affected populations and humanitarian agencies to engage in humanitarian innovation. The new products, processes, positions and paradigms that emerge can then be presented in the UN consultation process and get traction through the Summit.
(*)Authors: Attila Marján, Ilona Szuhai
Attila Marján, Head of EU Department at the National University of Public Service, Budapest
Ilona Szuhai, Assistant Lecturer and Doctoral Student at the National University of Public Service, Budapest
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 Human Security Report Project, Human Security Report 2013: The Decline in Global Violence: Evidence, Explanation, and Contestation, (Vancouver: Human Security Press, 2013). p. 119.
 Ibid., p. 49.
 Ibid., p. 24.
 Ibid., p. 15.
 Ibid., p. 49.
 See more on this in: Attila Marján: Europe’s Destiny − The Old Lady and the Bull. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
 Human Security Report Project, Human Security Report 2013, cit. op. p. 86.
 Ibid., p. 86.
 Ibid., p. 87.
 Ibid., p. 94.
 Ibid., p. 33.
 Ibid., p. 34.
 Ibid., p. 95.
 Now, European Commission Vice-President.
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 Development Assistance Commitee
 Slim, op. cit., p. 2.
 Ibid., p. 3.
 Ibid., p. 22.
 Ibid., p. 9.
 World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2014 – highlights. www.unocha.org/data-and-trends-2014.
 Euractive. http://www.euractiv.com/sections/development-policy/aid-programmes-hit-hard-european-budget-woes-309169
 Slim, op. cit., p. 16.
COVID-19: New Dynamics to the World’s Politico-Economic Structure
How ironic it is that a virus invisible from a naked human eye can manage to topple down the world and its dynamics. Breaking out of CoronaVirus, its spread across the globe and the diversity of consequences faced by the individual states all make it evident how the dynamics of the world could be reversed in months. Starting from the blame games regarding coronavirus to its geostrategic implications and the entire enigma between COVID-19 and politics, COVID-19 and economies have shaken the world. Whether it is the acclaimed super power, struggling powers or third world states or even individuals, the pandemic has unveiled the capability and credibility of all, especially in political and economic domains. Wearing masks in public, avoiding hand shake and maintaining distance from one another have emerged as ‘new normal’ in the social world of interaction.
Since the pandemic has locked its eyes upon the globe, world politics has taken an unfortunate drift. From the opportunities for leaders to abuse power during state of emergency (which is imposed in different states to limit the spread of novel Coronavirus) to the likelihood of rise of far-right nationalists to the emergence of ‘travel bubbles’ between states (such as New Zealand and Australia) and the increased chances of regionalism in post-pandemic world to the new terrorist strategies to gain support and many others, all are result of the pandemic’s impact on the political world, one way or the other. Since the end of WWII, the United States has taken the role of global leadership and after the Cold War, it became more prominent as it was the sole superpower of the world. Talking ideally, pandemics are perceived to bring up global cooperation but in the COVID-19 scenario it has started a whole new set of debates, sparkled nativism versus globalization and the sharp divide in global politics has drifted the focus from overcoming the global pandemic through global response to inward looking policies of leaders.
Covid-19 has impacted every sphere of life, be it social, political, health or economic. The pandemic itself being the result of a globalized world has affected globalization badly. It is the best illustration of the interrelation of politics and economics and how the steps in one sector impact the other in this interdependent, globalized world. Political actions such as restricting travel had drastic economic impacts especially to the countries whose economy is largely dependent on tourism, foreign investment etc. Similarly, economic actions such as limiting foreign products’ access had political implications in the form of sudden unemployment and downturn in living standards of people.
For the first time in history, oil prices became negative when its demand suddenly dropped when industries were shut down almost everywhere. Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil clash which led to increased oil production by Saudi Arabia further complicated the situation. This unprecedented drop in oil demand and consequently its price would only help in the economic recovery of countries. Covid-19 has impacted three sectors badly. First of all, it affected production as global manufacturing has declined due to decrease in demand. Secondly, it has created supply chain and market disruption. Finally, lockdowns affected local businesses everywhere. Bad impact aside, pandemic has led to the change in demand of products. Instead of investment and foreign trade, states having strong medical and textiles industries have got the opportunity of increasing exports. This is because there are requirements of face masks everywhere to avoid contagion. Need for medical instruments have also increased such as ventilators in developing countries specially.
The only positive impact of Coronavirus is that it fostered environmental cleanliness. It is said that it can avert a climate emergency but the fact is that, as soon as the lockdown will be eased and businesses will begin returning into functioning, economic growth and prosperity will be prioritized over sustainability and we might even witness, more than ever, carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Novel coronavirus has brought new dynamics to the world’s politico-economic structure. While the world has the opportunity to come close for cooperation and consensus to fight it, we might witness increased regionalism in the post-pandemic world as a cautious measure and alternative where crisis management would be more cooperative and quick. There is a likelihood of the emergence of an international treaty or regime to ban bio-weapons. While the prevalence of political optimism is not assured in the post-pandemic world, we are likely to see the interdependent economic world, as before, to overcome the economic slump and revive the global economy.
The free trade vision and its fallacies: The case of the African Continental Free Trade Area
The notion of free trade consists of the idea of a trade policy where no restrictions will be implemented on imports or exports in the respected countries that have signed such an agreement. Some economists argue that free trade is understood through the idea of the free market being forced through international trade. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a trade area that was founded in 2018, and it is the most ambiguous project in the history of the continent. This project has plenty of potential successes, as well as fallacies. Particular African nations are either in favor or against this project, and it is a matter of time before the world understands if this project will reflect the true notion behind the idea of a free trade policy.
The African Continental Free Trade Area: The European Union Vision in Africa?
The African Continental Free Trade Area was founded in 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. It is believed to be the most prestigious project ever created on the continent. It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and it was signed by 44 countries. Some of the general objectives of this agreement include: The creation of a single economic market, the establishment of a liberalized market, the allowance of free movement of capital and people, diversification of the industrial development in the continent, e.t.c. In some ways, this project can be compared with the European Union and the vision that it represents for a single market and free movement of goods and people. However, due to the size and the geopolitical tensions of the African continent, there are a few obstacles to the achievement of this project. The European Union itself was a project that took more than half a century to be established in its current form, and still, we can see some problems that remain. With that being said, among the 27 member states, there seems to be more or less a coherent economic and political stability. In the case of the African Union, there are far more obstacles, ranging from huge economic differences, political and religious turmoils, and in general a neglected infrastructure; that might not be able to support a mammoth project like this. Any sort of optimism should be also approached with a realistic perspective when it comes to its implementation, which might not be happening anytime soon, certainly not before 2030.
The Relevance of the Free Trade Notion in Africa
It is important to remember that this project deals with the concept of free trade, and free trade itself is something that economists still argue about. Generally speaking, most economists seem to be in favor of free trade. There is an argument that supports the idea of free trade and any kind of reduction in government-induced restrictions on free trade which will be beneficial to economic growth and stability. On the other hand, some economists suggest that the policy of protectionism could be a more lucrative alternative for an economic policy. There is a suggestion that the liberalization of trade will result in an unequal distribution of losses and profit gains while economically dislocating a large number of workers in import-competing sectors.
In the case of the AfCFTA however, the opinion of Ha-Joon Chang, a South Korean economist, might be more relevant. He suggested that if there is going to be any kind of free trade liberalization in the African continent, some prior steps should be taken. For example, the improvement of the institutions in those developing African nations must be achieved to have sustainable economic growth and development. In addition, the idea of demanding from the developing nations to achieve institutional standards that we see in the developed nations such as the U.S or Great Britain, but have never before been achieved in those countries, will only hurt these nations since they might not need or even afford the implementation of these institutions that we see in the West. There is a valid point in the argument because the concept of the AfCFTA might indeed benefit some nations in Africa, but still, it will not develop to its full potential to benefit all 44 countries that have signed the agreement. This is because this project involves countries with different views and needs. Some of them see the AfCFTA as a blessing for the liberalization of the African economy, while other nations are more skeptical about it, thinking that this project will result in African states “biting off, more than they can chew”. This dichotomy is visually striking when we compare some African nations and examine the true reasons why they are in favor or against the AfCFTA.
The African Dichotomy
Rwanda is a small nation in East Africa, having at least 12.5 million people, with a total estimate of its GDP being close to $33.45 billion. A very impressive number, if someone considers the fact that in 1980 its GDP was barely $2.1 billion. It is also the nation that is strongly in favor of the ambitious free trade project in the continent. It is estimated that from 1994 until 2010, Rwanda’s economy grew an average of 6.6%. This is mostly based on the fact that the president of the country, Paul Kagame, led a strong campaign towards the liberalization of the country’s agricultural sector. His reforms allowed the producers to benefit from this liberalization boom while boosting productivity through capital investments. It is clear by now that any sort of project that aims to liberalize the economies of other African nations will be beneficial to Rwanda that aims, as President Paul Kagame mentioned before, to make Rwanda the “Singapore of Africa”.
However, some countries pose some key arguments that need to be addressed for the AfCFTA. There are concerns regarding the massive difference between populations in many African states, as well as the potential of the markets to sustain such a project. With that being said, there is still optimism from some experts that view this project as a win-win situation for Africa since it will allow a trade-led diversification away from Africa’s commodity dependence and focus towards industrial development. On the other hand, this optimism is being taken with a “pinch of salt” from certain African nations, like Nigeria. Nigeria is a nation of at least 205 million people with a total GDP of $1.087 trillion. Nigeria was one of the last nations to sign the agreement, but not before firmly opposing the deal. The strongest argument that Nigeria had against the deal, was the fact that Nigeria could do nothing to undermine the local Nigerian manufactures and entrepreneurs of the country. There was strong domestic opposition to regional trade liberalization and concerns about the government’s ability to implement it effectively. In the same line of thought, Togo’s Foreign Minister Robert Dussey did not hide his concerns. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Mr. Dussey stressed the fact that many African countries will need to be firstly well-equipped with the right technical tools to meet the challenges of such an enormous project. He shared his views that some rich nations in the West are not so keen to see the potential industrialization of the African continent: “African development is foremost the responsibility of Africans. We have a problem with work for our youth. It is important that we have strong industries to have work for the young”, said Mr. Dussey for Deutsche Welle.
Can we safely say that the AfCFTA project complies with the economic policy of free trade? Theoretically, it does. The project has the potential to change the socio-economic status of all the countries involved. Even if some nations are more industrialized than others, and can take full advantage of the opportunities for manufactured goods, other nations that might not be so privileged can benefit by linking their economies into regional value chains. This can happen again theoretically if there is a reduction in trade costs and facilitating investments. However, one should not overlook the growing challenges of this project. It is not feasible to suggest a 90% tariff cut, a unified digital payments system, and an African trade observatory dashboard that the AU Commission promises in the next five years. For the simple reason that you cannot have this liberalized economic system when most of the African countries are suffering from socio-political instability. How can a system which in some ways is based on the European Union, work when there is such a striking inequality among African nations? There is a lack of industrial infrastructure to support such a project, and it will be more beneficial to address these regional problems before expanding in a global vision. One day Africa will reach its full potential, but not in the next five years and not in the next ten years. Such an agreement is a blessing, but it needs careful examination before being implemented; otherwise, we will talk about a disaster in the African continent that could potentially bring more inequality and regional tensions.
Turning to sustainable global business: 5 things to know about the circular economy
Due to the ever-increasing demands of the global economy, the resources of the planet are being used up at an alarming rate and waste and pollution are growing fast. The idea of a more sustainable “circular economy” is gaining traction, but what does this concept mean, and can it help save the planet?
1) Business as usual, the path to catastrophe
Unless we make some major adjustments to the way the planet is run, many observers believe that business as usual puts us on a path to catastrophe.
Around 90 per cent of global biodiversity loss and water stress (when the demand for water is greater than the available amount), and a significant proportion of the harmful emissions that are driving climate change, is caused by the way we use and process natural resources.
Over the past three decades, the amount of raw materials extracted from the earth, worldwide, has more than doubled. At the current rate of extraction, we’re on course to double the amount again, by 2060.
According to the International Resource Panel, a group of independent expert scientists brought together by the UN to examine the issue, this puts us in line for a three to six degree temperature increase, which would be deadly for much life on Earth.
2) A circular economy means a fundamental change of direction
Whilst there is no universally agreed definition of a circular economy, the 2019 United Nations Environment Assembly, the UN’s flagship environment conference, described it as a model in which products and materials are “designed in such a way that they can be reused, remanufactured, recycled or recovered and thus maintained in the economy for as long as possible”.
In this scenario, fewer resources would be needed, less waste would be produced and, perhaps most importantly, the greenhouse gas emissions which are driving the climate crisis, would be prevented or reduced.
This goes much further than simply recycling: for the circular economy to happen, the dominant economic model of “planned obsolescence” (buying, discarding and replacing products on a frequent basis) would have to be upended, businesses and consumers would need to value raw materials, from glass to metal to plastics and fibres, as resources to be valued, and products as things to be maintained and repaired, before they are replaced.
3) Turn trash into cash
Increasingly, in both the developed and the developing world, consumers are embracing the ideas behind the circular economy, and companies are realising that they can make money from it. “Making our economies circular offers a lifeline to decarbonise our economies”, says Olga Algayerova, the head of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, (UNECE), “and could lead to the creation of 1.8 million net jobs by 2040”.
In the US, for example, a demand for affordable, high-quality furniture, in a country where some 15 million tonnes of discarded furniture ends up in landfill every year, was the spur for the creation of Kaiyo, an online marketplace that makes it easier for furniture to be repaired and reused. The company is growing fast, and is part of a trend in the country towards a more effective use of resources, such as the car-sharing app Zipcar, and Rent the Runway, a rental service for designer clothing.
In Africa, there are many projects, large and small, which incorporate the principles of the circular economy by using existing resources in the most efficient way possible. One standout initiative is Gjenge Makers in Kenya. The company sells bricks for the construction industry, made entirely from waste. The young founder, Nzambi Matee, who has been awarded a UN Champion of the Earth award, says that she is literally turning trash into cash. The biggest problem she faces is how to keep up with demand: every day Gjenge Makers recycles some 500 kilos of waste, and can produces up to 1,500 plastic bricks every day.
4) Governments are beginning to step up
But, for the transition to take hold, governments need to be involved. Recently, major commitments have been made in some of the countries and regions responsible for significant resources use and waste.
The US Government’s American Jobs Plan, for example, includes measures to retrofit energy-efficient homes, electrify the federal fleet of vehicles, including postal vans, and ending carbon pollution from power generation by 2035.
In the European Union, the EU’s new circular economy action plan, adopted in 2020, is one of the building blocks of the ambitious European Green Deal, which aims at making Europe the first climate-neutral continent.
And, in Africa, Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa founded the African Circular Economy Alliance, which calls for the widespread adoption of the circular economy on the continent. The Alliance supports African leaders who champion the idea, and creates coalitions to implement pilot projects.
5) Squaring the circle?
However, there is still a long way to and there is even evidence that the world is going backwards: the 2021 Circularity Gap Report, produced annually by the Circle Economy thinktank, estimates that the global circularity rate (the proportion of recovered materials, as a percentage of overall materials used) stands at only 8.6 per cent, down from 9.1 per cent in 2018
So how can the world be made “rounder”? There are no easy answers, and no silver bullet, but Ms. Algayerova points to strong regulation as a big piece of the puzzle.
“I am proud that for the automotive sector, a UN regulation adopted at UNECE in 2013 requires 85 per cent of new vehicles’ mass to be reusable or recyclable. This binding regulation influences the design of around one quarter of all vehicles sold globally, some 23 million in 2019.”
“It’s a step in the right direction, but these kind of approaches need to be massively scaled up across all sectors”, she adds. “Shifting to the circular economy is good for business, citizens and nature, and must be at the heart of a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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