Social Protection expert comments on the World Humanitarian Summit
Oxford Policy Management consultant and project manager of the DFID-funded shock-responsive social protection systems programme, Clare O'Brien, looks ahead to next week's World Humanitarian Summit:
Q: Why is the Summit important?
‘The World Humanitarian Summit presents an opportunity to change the way we think about, and respond to, crises. Social protection initiatives – including anything from food handouts to cash transfers and public works programmes – are already designed to reduce the impact of shocks by building the resilience of some of the world’s most vulnerable individuals and communities even when a crisis hasn't struck. It’s imperative that we continue to develop our thinking about how best these regular programmes can respond flexibly and support even more people, before, during and after disasters. By bringing together actors from both the humanitarian and development sectors, the Summit provides a useful platform to galvanise these discussions.’
Q: What potential challenges does the international community need to consider?
‘The summit offers a vital opportunity to improve the linkages between humanitarian assistance and development aid. While humanitarian assistance provides crucial short-term relief during emergency situations, much of it is used to offer long-term support in protracted crises, when development aid might be better suited to take on these long-term commitments. There are plenty of challenges that the World Humanitarian Summit may begin to address. For instance, development aid initiatives, like social protection schemes, tend to target certain communities based on assessments of their vulnerability – be it cash transfers for the poorest groups or social care schemes for those with disabilities – but these may not be the same communities that those providing humanitarian aid may wish to reach in the event of a crisis. The key question, therefore, is how to strengthen the ties between the two approaches so that they complement each other – and no one is left behind.’
‘By bringing together actors from both the humanitarian and development spheres, the Summit provides an opportunity to close the gap between the two approaches and help reduce the impact of otherwise devastating crises on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. We must recognise, however, that while reducing the need for humanitarian assistance should be something we all strive towards, this will only be possible where state institutions are strong enough to deliver aid to those in need. By definition, the places most in need of assistance tend to be those countries with weak governance structures where the state is unable or unwilling to provide adequate public services to all. Building strong, trusted institutions that can underpin effective social protection programmes must remain a priority in these countries.’
What can development agencies do to better support the Agenda on Humanity?
‘Development agencies have a key role to play in strengthening ties between humanitarian and development interventions. Donors like DFID are already forging a path here, looking at ways social protection programmes can both inform, and learn from, humanitarian initiatives to reduce the impact of otherwise devastating shocks. Whether this simply means scaling-up programmes to reach more people in disasters or developing parallel but interlinked systems, these ties are only going to become more important as we work together to pursue the global sustainable development goals.’
Notes to Editors:
The World Humanitarian Summit takes place in Istanbul on 23-24 May. Convened by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the Summit will provide a forum for world leaders, donors and civil society representatives to commit to key humanitarian principles amid a backdrop of unprecedented levels of global suffering. These principles include, among other things, ‘working differently to end need’, a call to respond to protracted crises and recurrent disasters, building resilience and reducing the need for aid by bridging the gap between humanitarian and development interventions. www.worldhumanitariansummit.org
Shock-responsive social protection systems is a two-year, DFID-funded global research project led by Oxford Policy Management. The project is examining the ability of social protection systems in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asian countries to respond to recurrent of protracted shocks and help inform humanitarian planning in some of the poorest and most vulnerable regions of the world. Find out more here.