Can the World Humanitarian Summit help create a new climate for peace?

Aleppo, Syria

Last year was one of alarming crisis. The Syrian conflict and refugee crisis, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and ongoing violence in Ukraine, South Sudan and the Central African Republic pushed governments and the international community to the limit of their abilities to cope.

Sadly, the picture isn’t looking any better for 2016, with 125 million people currently requiring humanitarian assistance and 60 million being displaced – the highest number since World War Two. Moreover, conflicts are becoming more protracted, with the average conflict now lasting 37 years, compared to 19 years in 1990.

At the same time, according to the Overseas Development Institute, for every $100 of emergency aid spent after an event, just $1.30 is spent to reduce disaster impacts before.

Against this backdrop, the United Nations are convening the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) on May 23-24 in Istanbul. For the first time they bring together humanitarians and world leaders with the ambitious goal to make the humanitarian system ‘fit for purpose’ in a rapidly changing world.

The stakes could not be higher. Not only are humanitarian crises and conflict on the rise, but also these crises are changing, largely due to natural disasters -  droughts, floods, typhoons and earthquakes - driven by extreme changes in climate. Increasingly, climate change is converging with inequality, rapid urbanisation, and political instability, meaning that more countries are slipping into fragility and outright conflict.

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Janani Vivekananda is head of the Environment, Climate Change and Security Programme at International Alert, London. Lukas Rüttinger is senior project manager at adelphi, Berlin