Inaugural humanitarian summit underway without MSF

Istanbul hosts inaugural humanitarian summit without MSF

SBS World News Radio: Governments, businesses, and aid groups are in Turkey to discuss the responses to what the United Nations has declared to be the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen since World War Two.

Governments, businesses, and aid groups are in Turkey to discuss the responses to what the United Nations has declared to be the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen since World War Two.

The start of the first ever World Humanitarian Summit has been marked by the withdrawal of a leading international medical charity.

The opening of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

Some 6,000 participants from 150 UN member states are taking part.

It includes 57 heads of state or government.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the only G7 leader attending.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon wasted no time in setting the agenda for the gathering.

"I urge you to commit to cut in half the number of internally displaced people by 2030, and to find better long term solutions for refugees and displaced people, based on more equal sharing of responsibilities."

The two-day conference seeks to develop a better response to what the UN's calling the worst global humanitarian situation since World War Two.

The UN says there are more than 60 million refugees and displaced people worldwide, and is expecting the number to rise.

It's estimated 130 million people are now in need of aid.

The summit aims to mobilise funds and get world leaders to agree on issues ranging from how to manage displaced civilians to renewing commitments to international humanitarian law.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, used his opening comments to pledge ongoing assistance to those fleeing war-torn countries.

(Translated)"Even this migration flow will continue, it could be Syrians, Iraqis or whoever it is, we don't and we never will close our doors to people who escaped from barrel bombs and who are under serious threat. I want to stress it particularly."

But Mr Erdogan is facing strong criticism for entering into an agreement with the European Union designed to curb the number of asylum seekers reaching Europe.

He has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most vocal critics, and sees his removal as essential to ending Syria's war.

Turkey is sheltering nearly three million Syrian refugees at a cost of around $10 billion since the start of the Syrian civil war.

And now to one of the world's largest refugee camps.

Kenya's announced it will close the facility, which mainly houses Somalis displaced by decades of a still ongoing war.

The UN and some Western states have urged against forcibly repatriating the 350,000 or so people who still live in the sprawling Dadaab camp in the country's north-east, saying it would violate international obligations.

But Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto is appealing for help.

"We expect the international community to work with Kenya in the framework of the tripartite agreement to expedite the repatriation of these refugees back home because we believe that they can make huge contribution in their home back in Somalia."

Mr Ruto argues the camp poses an existential security threat to Kenya.

He claims the Westgate mall killings in 2013 and the Garissa University massacre in 2015, which claimed hundreds of lives, were all planned at Dadaab.

The Summit has also secured some high profile names to bring attention to a range of issues.

Celebrities working on humanitarian issues set out their concerns and hopes.

'James Bond' star Daniel Craig campaigned against landmines.

"Unprecedented numbers of unexploded ordinance, mines and IEDs will continue to litter many urban and rural areas long after any peace is brokered. The human consequences are sadly readily apparent. Every year landmines kill 15,000-20,000 people. Most of them children, women and the elderly, while countless more are severely injured, often losing their limbs, their eyesight or both. This means an expertly trained demining operation is absolutely essential."

Hollywood actress and a goodwill ambassador for the UN Population Fund Ashley Judd promoted female empowerment.

She also shone a spotlight on dangers pregnant young women face in disaster areas.

"The leading killer of girl adolescents is pregnancy and three out of five of those deaths happen in disaster and crisis centres. Being a girl is in of itself a high risk status."

That's an issue the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement also has high on their agendas.

Dr Helen Durham is the Director of International Law and Policy for the ICRC.

She says of particular focus is increasing the protection for women and girls under the laws of war.

"We see over and over again the use of sexual violence during times of armed conflict. These are the sort of matters we have to stigmatise, we have to heavily raise our voices globally when women's bodies are used as battlefields so to speak in conflict zones. But we also need to look at how to increase the protection of women by making sure that infrastructure, that hospitals, that water sanitation plants are not attacked."

The ICRC says it'll be giving voice to the needs of vulnerable communities at a crucial moment in shaping the future of humanitarian action.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, meanwhile, has withdrawn from the Summit.

MSF's John Edwards says the decision was made when it became clear the content of the summit was not going to address its key concerns.

"There was not going to be an acceptance of the gap in emergency response required, there's not going to be a very frank acceptance of the problem with lack of respect of international law and looking at the specifics of those problems. But then it also became clear that there was not going to be a space for debate at this conference. There wasn't going to be an opportunity for us to dissent from the agenda that's been set."

MSF prefaced its withdrawal by saying it believes much of the Summit's content is meaningful, useful, appropriate and important.




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