Report of the UN High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing: “Too Important to Fail – Addressing the Humanitarian Financing Gap”

Workshop on
Reaffirming Global Solidarity, Restoring Humanity
Casina Pio IV, 22 February 2016

EU Commission VP Kristalina Georgieva

Eminencies, Excellencies, I want to start with a word of gratitude to the Academy, to President Archer and to Bishop Sánchez Sorondo for hosting us. It is a place where we do feel connected as people and we want to thank you for giving us that opportunity today. I also want to recognise Professor Jeffrey Sachs. It was with him in August, just before the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, when in the Alps of Austria we had a conversation on the importance to bring faith as a source of moral direction and encouragement in the discussion on humanitarian action.

His Royal Highness and myself have been very honoured to co-chair this High-Level Panel. One of our colleagues, Danny Sriskandarajah, is here with us. Nine of us were charged with the task to identify ways to raise more funding, make it more predictable and secure better use of money for the people that are left furthest behind, those who, for no fault of their own, see their lives and their livelihoods destroyed by conflicts and natural disasters.

It is a world of ours that has become richer and yet one where those who are devastated by wars and by force of nature are growing in numbers, even for us as a panel, and we have been working on this, it was a shock to realize that while people living in extreme poverty – luckily the numbers are going down and down – those that are facing humanitarian emergencies are going up and up. Since the beginning of the millennium they have almost quadrupled. Today, if people in need for humanitarian aid were a country with a population of a hundred and twenty-five million, this would be the 11th largest country in the world, just between Japan and Mexico, and life in this country is life in fear.

Children in this country, in their vast majority, especially if they are girls, do not go to school. Adults have no jobs, they rely on our kindness to survive and it is a moral duty for us to recognize that the world has changed dramatically, whereas our action is falling also dramatically behind. The conclusions we drew are written down in a very readable report – this is the report – I always say it is a report not just with numbers, it is a report with a heart and these conclusions that we will present very briefly with my Co-Chair start with the following: No more humanitarian emergencies are what they used to be: local events that are short-lived, help comes in, does the right thing, helps people and then leaves.

Today humanitarian emergencies are a global phenomenon, they affect not only a large number of people, but their repercussions are felt way beyond the borders of affected areas and we don't need to look any further than Europe to understand that message, that trouble travels. They are also much more protracted, meaning that it is not good enough to bring food and shelter to people, we also need to bring hope and schools and jobs, and because a number like 125 million become so big that it is abstract I want to talk about one of these 125 million.

It is a girl. Her name is Aishe. Now she's almost sixteen. I met her about three years ago in Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. She was working the fields to help her handicapped mother and I asked Aishe how she felt about the Syrian war that sent them fleeing to Lebanon. She said it was terrible, but the most terrible is that "I cannot go to school anymore" and I wanted to say to her, “Aishe, I hope you will go back to school”, but I knew that I would be lying to her, that most likely she would marry early, most likely she would not see school, and then I went back – here is my colleague Christos Stylianides, he took this from me as humanitarian commissioner – and we made the pledge that we would build not just humanitarian assistance but also schools for children, and now 200,000 Syrian children go to school because we realized that the war is not going away anytime soon.

Our second conclusion is very sad and it is that we do not see prospects as a panel – and we are a panel of optimists – but we do not see prospects for this trend to be stopped or reversed anytime soon, because of the dual hammer of violent extremism that has been unfortunately on the increase, and climate change. The IPCC predicts that by 2025 displaced populations because of climate change – climate refugees – would be a hundred million people and 2025 is just around the corner. So this is the bad news.

Well, there is a third conclusion of our panel that there is good news and the good news is that we can identify the financial need and we can mobilize in our rich world enough money to provide help and hope to people whose lives are destroyed. We assessed the shortcoming to be today $15 billion. We actually also concluded that never before has the world been so generous to people in need. In the year 2000 we spent two billion dollars: last year we spent twenty-five billion dollars, but also never before has our generosity been so insufficient and that shortage of fifteen billion dollars is a difference between life and death and it is the difference between hope and hopelessness.

I will tell you a little story. I was talking to young people and I asked them to close their eyes and imagine that they are among those 125 million, to imagine life, and then I asked them "How did you feel?" and universally they said "Hopeless". So that fifteen billion we need also because if we have millions of people with no hope, we are generating not only tragedies for them but instability for the rest of the world and that instability I don't think it's worth economizing on 15 billion dollars.

So then we asked ourselves, how can we come up with the gap to be filled, and we came up with three conclusions. I will talk about two of them, and my Co-Chair will talk about the most important one, how we get the money. Our conclusions are, first, the best way to deal with humanitarian emergencies, as we all know, is not to have them in the first place, that there has to be a much more forceful concentration on conflict prevention, conflict resolution, disaster risk reduction, and the time has come for official development assistance to concentrate, to focus much more forcefully where it matters the most, that no more the development world and the humanitarian world have the luxury to be a world apart, that in these protracted crises situations there has to be unity of purpose and that help needs to follow the people in need, not the countries.

So if Jordan has a million refugees and in Lebanon they are 30% of the population, while they are middle income countries notionally, they should be eligible for grants and soft loans to follow the people in need and help them survive. And, of course, a very critical conclusion is that, for the humanitarian community, mentally to move away from emergency assistance to providing future to people, to providing schooling for the kids and jobs for the adults and I know that Ertharin Cousin has been doing quite a lot on that, help people to help themselves.

We also concluded that we are hopelessly behind as funders and as implementers to cope with this changed world of ours, that we need to reform and I am particularly proud to speak about it here in the Vatican, where we started the day today talking to some of the senior external people you have invited to help you reform.

If an institution that is two thousand years old recognizes that change is a necessity, if the Vatican is embracing change, we sure can do it in the humanitarian community as well. And we need it so we can earn the trust of our citizens to have that 15 billion that is currently missing.

So we are proposing what, for the shortage of a better word, became known as "the grand bargain". For the funders to simplify and harmonise what they want as reports and engagement to direct more money to long-term, predictable programs to reduce earmarking, to say to you – I'm looking at the President of the Federation of the Red Cross – you know how to spend the money, we trust you, and also to be more mindful that most of the help is given by local people and local organizations and yet most of the funding today – 99.8% of the funding – goes through international organizations. How to empower local organisations is absolutely critical. And then we want to see the implementers to harmonize their cost structures, so we can collectively strive for efficiency to work together to go beyond what we today believe is a competitive inefficiency world. Have assessments that are jointly adopted, division of labour, collaborative spirit, so we can do more with resources we have.

One of our colleagues used a very good image of what needs to happen. He said humanitarian aid is like gold. It is so precious because it is about saving lives, nothing can be more precious than that, but our gold today is ranging from very low-carat gold, 9-carat gold to 24-carat gold. We have on $1.00 only $0.40 making it to the end beneficiary – and this is the 9-carat gold – and we have 95 cents on the dollar making it to the end beneficiary and I always quote the Russian ambassador who said "So you take a dollar and you end up with a rouble", and that we have to, we have to improve, we have to collectively make our gold if not 24 carat at least 18 carats so we can make a real difference. And if we do that we believe we can raise more money.

And now His Royal Highness will answer the most important question, "How".

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