World Humanitarian Summit wrap up – connecting business and investing in humanity

I recently returned from the UN World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which brought together government, civil society and the private sector to address global humanitarian challenges.

World Humanitarian Summit wrap up – connecting business and investing in humanity

I just read the summary report from the chair of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS): Standing up for Humanity, Committing to Action. The report highlights the fact that there were more than 9,000 participants from 173 member states, including 55 heads of state and government, hundreds of private sector representatives, and thousands of people from civil society and nongovernmental organizations, and it is reported that more than 1,500 commitments were made for humanitarian action at the Summit

It is hard to find a single number, or one big bang from the event. The WHS was the result of a massive multi-year consultation (we hosted the Scandinavian business consultation in April 2015). Commitments were made to strengthen accountability, respect international standards, protect women and children, reduce suffering, and find solutions to multi-faceted and interlinked challenges and issues. The summit also represented a clear move to put people at the center and to invest in education, resilience building, and the formation of new alliances and initiatives, including the Connecting Business Initiative (CBI).

CBI was launched with a commitment to better link private sector skills and resources before, during and after emergencies. Both the mobile and satellite industries are seen as having a key role in humanitarian response and much is ongoing to improve connectivity for affected populations, something we from Ericsson have been working with for 15 years, which is why we quickly embraced the CBI initiative.

We are also part of the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter and actively involved in setting up one of the first networks in the Philippines, together with the World Food Programme, the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster and others.

At WHS we also announced a new commitment in the area of mobile financial services, called Ericsson Emergency Wallet, and it was great to see the role of mobile financial services reflected in the official outcome document of the summit:

New innovative partnerships were announced between humanitarians and private sector financial and technology companies, who will lend their expertise in digital payments, mobile money and other areas to help meet people’s needs more quickly and efficiently.

The Summit embraced an eco-system approach to humanitarian efforts, unlike many other intergovernmental UN events like COP or the UNGS, the WHS was the first UN event where there was a true attempt at integrating the private sector – we were no longer on the sidelines.

We hosted the Connecting Business Initiative dinner, and the evening had a truly exciting buzz among what I call "the coalition of the willing." The importance of finding real, viable and scalable solutions cannot be underemphasized, and the private sector simply must be brought in even more as time goes on.

Lastly, the star power was in full force at WHS, with many leading names using their brand to raise global awareness about the state of affairs for the 130 million most vulnerable people. But it wasn't just visibility; I also saw them participate substantively in different sessions. Forest Whitaker was very active in CBI, but also in his role as the UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace. Sean Penn, deeply engaged in rebuilding Haiti, also spoke about the importance to address the refugee challenge in urban settlements.

The World Humanitarian Summit was a step in the right direction for multi-stakeholder action on humanitarian issues, as well as the intersection of humanitarian and development challenges, highlighted in the Summit’s Commitment to Action . We will continue our long-standing commitment and action together with our partners, including the World Food Programme, UN OCHA, International Rescue Commission and WPDI, among others. We look forward to building on the recognition from the UN on the fundamental role the private sector plays in addressing humanitarian challenges.

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