Humanitarian crises are happening ever more frequently and growing in scale, while technological advances have the power to transform aid coordination. We spoke to Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and co-chair of the Global Future Council on the Humanitarian System, who argues that humanitarian organisations need to work together with a variety of actors to tackle these escalating challenges.
Why is it so important to discuss and try and shape the future of the humanitarian system?
Much of the framework of the present humanitarian system was created in the sixties and seventies to cope with a certain type of humanitarian crisis. What has become evident is that with natural disasters happening more frequently and being more impactful because of climate change, and with violence and conflict spreading and causing instability, fragility and mass displacement of people, this humanitarian system has difficulty coping with the new dynamics. So we are confronted with an important gap between the needs of people and the ability to ensure humanitarian assistance and protection for those people.
A second issue of concern is that conflicts, humanitarian challenges and natural disasters settle in as long-term challenges, which the present system is not fully equipped to deal with. The recent humanitarian crises – be it Ebola, be it the displacement of people from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa – have caused a lot of systemic problems: education systems, health systems, water systems, sanitation systems, housing systems, have been considerably weakened.
For all these reasons, it is important that we start to think how can we build upon the present system but remodel it in such a way that it has an ability to cope with the needs resulting from conflict and natural disaster.