Facing Vulnerability in a Changing World, with António Guterres
Listen to António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, discuss the challenges facing humanitarian actors in the years to come.
The speech was delivered on the occasion of the Opening Plenary of InterAction’s 2013 Forum, held on 29 April 2013.
[0.00-8.58] In this section Guteress explains how the humanitarian environment will become increasingly challenging in the decades to come. This is due to the multiplication of new conflicts and the difficulty of resolving old ones, as well as the current historical paradigm.
He adds that the past few decades have seen a major shift from a context marked by clear power relations (i.e. the Cold War era, followed by the dominance of the United States in the 1990s) to a scenario where these are subject to frequent shifts and change. Events become increasingly unpredictable, and are thus liable to produce “the worst humanitarian consequences”.
As a result, Guterres argues, the humanitarian community is often unable to prevent or resolve conflicts effectively, as shown by the recent Security Council deadlock on Syria. We are also facing complex humanitarian crises as climate change, increased competition for ever-scarcer resources and budgetary constraints for both governments and humanitarian actors, compound already intractable situations.
[10.08 - 11.02] In this section, Guteress says that the nature of conflicts is also evolving. Unlike past conflicts, which traditionally saw two parties pitched against each other, today’s wars involve a multitude of actors (e.g. in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Syria and Somalia), which makes it increasingly dangerous for humanitarian actors to reach populations in need.
[11:03 - 13.15] Continuing on this theme, Guterres points out that the humanitarian needs to preserve its autonomy and its principles, namely independence, impartiality and neutrality.
[14.09-19.30] According to Guterres enormous progress has been achieved within the humanitarian system in terms of management capacity, coordination and modernisation, and this has led to improved collective response capacity.
However, efforts are still not commensurate with people's needs, as the system remains too traditional and does not sufficiently leverage modern technology to improve efficiency in humanitarian response.
There is also room for improvement with regard to common advocacy. “We are still scattered”, he explains, “not only in terms of fund-raising, but also in values promotion.” “The UN,” he concludes, “has a long way to go to reduce bureaucracy and overcome ‘institutional arrogance’ vis-a-vis NGOs.” This would allow for a more cooperative approach with other humanitarian actors.
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