Since the very beginning of my fellowship, I have had this great opportunity to attend high level panel discussions on various topics related to the international current affairs, U.S policies and future planning to deal with threatening situations in the world by influencing in a positive way.

Last week I had to attend a discussion forum at USIP on the most appealing topic of “Refugee Crisis, Emerging Needs and Humanitarian Assistance by International Donors” so I thought to write about that discussion to share it with those who could not attend this event and I have tried to make it more like a discussion report rather than a regular blog so that the reader can feel it’s real essence!refugees-1

The speakers included;

  • Carla Koppell

Vice President, Center for Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace

  • Matt McGuire

U.S. Executive Director, World Bank

  • Michael Talhami  

Senior Water and Shelter (WATHAB) adviser, International Committee of the Red Cross (Jordan)

  • Jeff Helsing – Moderator

Associate Vice President, Center for Applied Conflict Transformation, U. S. Institute of Peace

Matt McGuire

Discussing the role of World Bank and other economic entities on mitigation/prevention of conflict generally he mentioned that these organizations were founded to increase stability worldwide. Through decades massive globalization and changes in economies worldwide and the increase in conflict and tensions b/w the countries is also observed, which brought us to World War II that led to think to create such institutions to stabilize the global economy in such a way that these situations can be prevented.

The basic commitment of World Bank would be that by increasing international cooperation and strengthening the economies in developing countries to create the great stability in international order which leads towards more peace and less conflict.

For the first time in almost 50 years there are no live conflicts in hemisphere of north and South America, all this is because of strengthening the economies through liberalization, increase in democracy and support and efforts that multilateral institutions played such as OIS, World Bank and IFC along with free trade agreements that U.S has made.

Recently World Bank has done some efforts for humanitarian institutions, as historically bank has not worked in active conflict countries. World Bank is trying to focus on FCV (Fragile Conflict Violence) affected countries as it is normal in such situations that the institutions become weaker and the governments in power are with some other countries around the world.

During 2015 World Bank created the “Global Crisis Response Platform” which is a suit of new products and facilities that allows the bank to work in various ways with countries are in fragility and conflict situations particularly related to refugee crisis. For the first time in history the bank has provided concessional/cheaper/no interest loans to Jordan and Lebanon although these are the middle income countries but because both countries have had so many Syrian refugees into their societies.

World Bank is looking for its partner governments for their support to secure $2 billion for IDA (unit of WB) which works in poorest countries of the world, so that IDA may work on refugees coming to those countries so that these countries can do anything that increases their economy.

As official development assistance is declined by 40%-50% during last decade and organizations like WFP and others have fewer funds to deal with and World Bank has no any increased money so it is planning on how to partner more effectively with humanitarian organizations including INGOs, UN agencies and other private institutions. World Bank wishes to continue its development work not the humanitarian assistance as it has no expertise in humanitarian work but it can provide solutions on longer term economic development and how to strengthen institutions.

Responding to a question he said that there are about 60M refugees are in the world out of which 20M are cross the borders and 40M are in their home countries, and it is harder to have dialogue with a government that perhaps is a source of a conflict or an active participant, so there is a great need of working on internally displaced people. World Bank mandate is to lend money to the central governments whereas in some cases it lends to the sub-national entities, so the bank is less likely to work with NGOs and other entities.

Michael Talhami

Challenges that humanitarian actors face during assistance includes understanding of required approaches to WASH, energy, waste water treatment, machinery, logistics and others. Services depend upon people, hardware and consumables as it is more than just infrastructure.

Need of ICRC’s presence for water and habitat services in fragile countries is more, as ICRC is serving in Afghanistan since 30 years, in Iraq since 25 years, in Gaza since 9 years, in Syria since 5 years, in Yemen since 5 years and in Ukraine since more than 2 years.

Cumulative direct and indirect impacts lead to services decline and risks to public health.  Shrinking humanitarian space especially in Syria and Gaza where access is unsafe. Lack of respect for rules of International Humanitarian Law, scale of displacement from urban areas.

He mentioned that in Jordan, almost 80% of refugees are living within the host communities, which is also a challenge. To deal with all challenges and essentially provide the services ICRC is strengthening its compliance to rules of International Humanitarian Law by addressing rout causes and providing humanitarian operational support to the local authorities.

To deal with the urban he shared few recommendations including; necessity of long term planning, relationship with local authorities and CSOs, technical competency and logistical capacity should be improved, flexibility and duration of funding schemes should be increased to multi-year programming, strategies to respond should be moved from reactive to proactive to mitigate the causes, innovation in approaches rather than simply innovation in technology, more effective coordination between humanitarian and development actors, all this is required to mitigate humanitarian crisis.

The response in last 5 years in Jordan and Lebanon the development and humanitarian organizations fall predictively within their comfort zones, as in Jordan the humanitarian organizations are primarily working within the camps, although 80% of the refugees are in the host communities. So it will take time for development organizations to tackle those challenges, “Michael said during responding to a question”.

Carla Koppell

The challenges that development and humanitarian actors are facing in the world today are not different than previously mentioned, in 2013 USAID mission moved to Jordan from Syria due to crisis and thought that after 6 months they will move back to Syria but it didn’t work, so there was a need for USAID to adapt a local office as they were looking for long term development in Jordan. There are two USAID Jordanian deputy mission directors, one for humanitarian assistance and other for long term development but working together with mission director and U.S ambassador on how to toggle between two ways that enables effectiveness and all this has real implications for operating environment.

The countries where USAID is working were observed to be increasingly fragile and conflicted affected states. USAID set up a series of global goals related to health, education, combating climate change and addressing fragility and boosting resilience for long term development.

There is a need to see the global self-interest because the maintenance of stability and building resilience within these countries is essential for achievement of global goals.