Virtual, May 3, 2022, 9:00 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. (NY)
Edited for clarity and length
Good afternoon good evening.
And welcome to this Week of Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships 2022. This is my first.
My thanks, as always, to the Swiss government and our good friend Manuel Bessler for their sponsorship and support for a truly exceptional few weeks of learning and networking, engagement, understanding and progress.
It is a unique event. [Moderator] Kyoko Ono just reminded me that 7,000 participants registered last year – an astonishing number of practitioners from all over the world for constructive, lively and uninhibited discussions.
It is the largest event of its kind and a mainstay on the humanitarian calendar.
We have seen participation grow from eight networks in 2015 to 53 networks now, and from 400 participants to the large numbers mentioned.
It is a gathering that showcases the rich diversity of the humanitarian community: inventors, activists, dreamers and analysts. Diplomats and some of us UN people too.
Events, panels, presentations and exhibitions over the next three weeks are free and feature an incredible array of specializations and problem solving. A richness so specific to the humanitarian enterprise.
And it shows that the humanitarian tent is big and open to everyone. It is not the monopoly of a few. It is an obligation for the greatest number.
It is a global and collective birthright. It’s an honor.
Whether you belong to civil society, academia, government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement or our own United Nations agencies, we all have a role to play.
I really hope that these three weeks will give you the opportunity to make new connections, create new alliances and – here, I read a sentence that I cannot believe – renew our professional mojo.
It’s not so much a conference as a festival.
It’s more inclusive than ever.
It’s a hybrid format that makes it easier for people around the world to connect. And it has a place for face-to-face networking, here in Geneva.
I don’t need to remind anyone here of what I have an obligation to say to so many other audiences.
You know how difficult things are for millions of people around the world in need of humanitarian assistance. 2022 was already going to be very difficult.
Humanitarian needs and funding requests have reached new heights.
We all know what we are facing: conflicts, disasters, hunger, forced migrations, climate crisis, economic and political upheaval, COVID, etc. There is no end to this litany of human causes of misery that we are privileged to address.
And then, on top of all this, the Ukrainian war happened. Many of us have been involved in this particular crisis: the violence, the cruelty, the pain, the destruction, which we all see in many parts of the world.
The shockwaves from Ukraine shook the whole world and that is what makes it a consummate crisis for us.
It also reminded me of how desperately needed the work you do is. And how celebrated when those occasional moments of success cut across stories of suffering and misery: The enduring promise of humanitarian action.
Amid the inhumanity we see all around us, all of you, all of us, carry on.
From the smallest group of volunteers – and I started in the humanitarian world as a volunteer – to the great economists of the World Bank, humanitarians work together, shoulder to shoulder.
One of the great advancements I have seen in the many years I have watched the humanitarian enterprise is the extent to which we are working more and more closely together.
I was struck by Kyoko’s examples of how the networking and discussions we will have over the next three weeks will have a direct impact on the ground and in her efforts to help the Rakhine.
Many say the media and international audiences have short memories and selective attention spans. Let them care more about this crisis. They will forget it. And they are moving forward.
They can do it. It may be true. It is partly true.
But we don’t. We should not. We can not.
So even if we expand in Dnipro, Lviv or even kyiv, we stay and continue in many other places around the world. And we illuminate these many other places and many other people.
The themes for you this year cover not only what we do, but also how we do it.
I spend a lot of time on the crises of the moment. But it behooves me, as I think of everyone else, to stick to a longer-term view and a larger question, namely: how can we do better?
How can we be more accountable to those affected?
How to preserve basic services?
How to eliminate the way in which humanitarian aid sometimes dislodges the structures of the State and its response to the populations?
How can we be diversified?
How can we be culturally inclusive?
All of these things that are true for many other professional communities around the world are really true for us.
This year’s program is ambitious. Nine areas to consider – and I just mentioned a few: accountability to those affected, climate, localization, connection, anticipatory action, security, inclusion, culture and pandemics.
That’s a wide range and it would be hard to rule out any of these issues. And in approaching them, we do so not out of self-interest but with the need to be more effective in our action.
So we need to deepen and expand our rich community.
And that’s what this three-week process tells us.
This is the depth and breadth of the humanitarian community.
The range of different backgrounds.
The extraordinary inclusion of different cultures, but all linked by a belief in certain values and a commitment to a certain kind of world and a certain way of life.
It is linked to the need to respect the individual and to offer everyone a perspective for the future and security.