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World Humanitarian Day – While Celebrating a Meaningful Day…

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Aug 23, 2022 - 08:03 AM

ISTANBUL (AA) – As pointed out by the ‘Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction’ published in 2022 under the auspices of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the effects of climate change and its repercussions coupled with the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the realities on the ground. There is no doubt that we live in turbulent times. According to data presented by the Institute for Economics and Peace, there has been a ten-fold increase in the amount of global natural disasters in the last century. 2022 has been no different. From the Wolf Volcano eruption in Ecuador in January, to the disastrous effects of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption in Tonga within the same month, from the effects of Tropical Storm Ana in Mozambique, to the flooding in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the wildfires in Afghanistan in June, to the recent floods in India and Russia are all clear indicators that no matter where we are located in the world, we are not immune to such disasters. In addition to natural disasters, humanity as a whole is also facing numerous man-made disasters with ongoing conflicts in the Ukraine, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria to name a few. The culmination of these events have led experts to the estimate that 274 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance throughout 2022. [1]

Whether it be global hunger, poverty, climate change, climate induced disasters or the crippling effects of a global pandemic, as humanitarians, we are on the frontlines each and every day, using all available means at our disposal to ease the suffering of those in need while focusing on new and innovative ways to adapt and implement approaches in order to re-vitalize and strengthen our collective response. On the occasion of the World Humanitarian Day I am honored to commend the sacrifice and dedication of humanitarian aid workers worldwide and applaud them for their courage under often times the most challenging of circumstances. According to the Aid Worker Security Report as published by Humanitarian Outcomes in July of this year, in 2021, 460 aid workers were attacked while performing their duties. Of those aid workers targeted, 140 have lost their lives. Operating in conflict zones has become more challenging than ever before. As the recent developments in the Ukraine, Yemen, Syria and other conflict zones have demonstrated, as fighting increasingly takes place in urban settings with high densities of population, there is also an increase in the targeting of civilians, health workers and humanitarian aid personnel. The targeting of humanitarian aid personnel is also a threat to the rights of affected individuals in receiving the lifesaving humanitarian assistance they are in urgent need of. As humanitarians we need to raise awareness regarding the obligations of all parties to abide by International Humanitarian Law. We are Not a Target.

In addition to the direct effects of conflicts on defenseless civilians and humanitarian personnel, there are also indirect effects which are further contributors to world hunger, poverty and global food insecurity. The instability in traditional agricultural production zones such as Syria and the Ukraine have not only been catastrophic for the respective economies of those countries but have also had far reaching and destructive effects on global food security. When looking at the effects of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine which is one of the world’s leading wheat producers, there has been a more than 80 % decrease in the country’s grain exports since the onset of the conflict, from 6 million tons of grain per month before the conflict, to levels of around a million tons per month currently.[2] This in return has had adverse effects on the food prices at a global scale, further contributing to food insecurity. In order to mitigate these effects, there has recently been very productive rounds of humanitarian diplomacy with Türkiye acting as an honest broker between the Ukraine and Russia as well as coordinating its diplomatic efforts successfully with the United Nations. As a result of these efforts, a deal was reached to reopen relevant Ukrainian ports to allow the export of Ukrainian grain. This endeavor once again underlines the importance of humanitarian diplomacy in resolving political differences with the end goal of alleviating human suffering.

The necessity for the humanitarian community to equip themselves with new tools and mechanisms to respond to such crises has become more urgent in this decade. In the face of changing dynamics in the humanitarian domain, the Turkish Red Crescent has incorporated new coping strategies to enhance sustainable approaches to aid delivery. To achieve integrated aid operations, our programs and activities are structured on three pillars: social, environmental, and economic sustainability. Indeed, current phenomena have resulted in these domains of action to be more interlinked than ever. Considering today’s multi-layered and intertwined contexts in humanitarian settings, there needs to be a holistic approach to instrumentalizing innovative and field-informed solutions.

There needs to be a focus on giving the beneficiaries a platform to help us define and address the root causes of the difficulties and challenges they experience on a daily basis. Such an approach will thus enable us to enhance social cohesion and achieve sustainability in the solutions that are generated. Once beneficiaries are able to have an effective input towards the use of the resources we have at our disposal, a more coherent and informed discourse will emerge, which will then result in a better grasp of the context by all humanitarian actors.

As the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) we have been focusing on systematizing a community-oriented approach as an enabler to a bottom-up modality. One such example of an innovative approach to enhancing social cohesion has been put to use in our Community Center modality. Since their foundation, our Community Centers have been striving to achieve sustainable contributions towards community resilience through the provision of an array of services aimed at bolstering the socio-economic and psychological well-being both at a community as well as at an individual level. Within this modality, we have been able to successfully establish the Community Center Advisory Boards and Committees. Advisory Committees act as a bridge between the TRC and the community in order to address the current and changing needs on key themes such as healthy living, environment, climate change, and battling the effects of poverty. The Advisory Boards composed of members of the community are thus able to get together and have direct decision-making influence on determining strategic decisions that will increase the well-being of their own communities.

By recognizing the complex interpretations and conceptualizations of the humanitarian issues through local and institutional agents; a conceptual transition is achieved which enables in setting the localization agenda as the core principle. As a result, meaningful outputs are obtained by enabling local actors to advocate their community’s needs and generate locally informed discourses.

Innovative approaches have enabled the TRC to pursue financial sustainability as a core principle and supporting pillar of its services. This is especially the case in cash-based assistance programs across Türkiye which enable service provision to almost 2 million beneficiaries. Cash assistance is a means for beneficiaries to have freedom of choice and help them live in dignity. It paves the way for beneficiaries to be conscious of their purchases and allows them to better manage their personal finances. TRC passionately works toward awakening this financial consciousness in beneficiaries. Therefore, it is extremely crucial to have an innovative twist to the traditional financial models which have generated immense know-how over the course of years. We value this experience and take many initiatives to make the know-how exchange possible with other National Societies.

The objective of sustainability is not limited to the sphere of community resilience and cash-based programs. It is a principle that guides us humanitarians in all services that we deliver to communities in need. It is an end goal that is of equal importance in combatting the disastrous effects of climate change. Reducing the environmental footprint of humanitarian assistance should continue to serve as a main pillar of our activities as the humanitarian community. Incorporating environmentally responsible steps into humanitarian operations and programs is the key for overall accountability of a humanitarian agency. The future of humanitarian assistance infrastructure investment needs to be undertaken through a ‘green model’, ranging from environmentally friendly architectural designs to materials which have no adverse effects on their habitat.

World humanitarian day is an important occasion for us to refresh our innovative ideas, increase our solidarity and raise awareness regarding issues and challenges affecting us all. But it should not be the only time of year where these ideas are brought to the forefront. Whether it be the need to advocate for the effective implementation of international humanitarian law, or the need to undertake humanitarian diplomacy to overcome impasses that have direct consequences for humanity, we need to be engaged in such discourse all year round. The innovative and sustainable solutions we seek are all around us, all we need to do is focus at localizing decision making mechanisms and ensure that they are taken into the highest consideration by local and state actors alike.

 

[1] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2022) Global Humanitarian Overview 2022. UNOCHA. https://gho.unocha.org/

[2] John Reidy. (06.06.2022). Ukraine grain exports reach 47.2 million tonnes so far for 2021-22. World-Grain.com.

 

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

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