By Marcus Skinner
Preparations are well underway for the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) that will take place in Istanbul in May 2016. HelpAge has been actively engaged in the process to ensure that the Summit recognises the significance of global ageing and the implications for humanitarian action. (c) Lydia de Leeuw / Handicap International – HelpAge International
To ensure the views and perspectives of national and regional actors are reflected in the positions taken to the 2016 summit, consultations have already taken place in Eastern, Southern, West and Central Africa, North and South Asia, as well as Europe and "others" (North America and Australasia).
Middle East and North Africa consultation
There are still three consultations to come, with the next meeting taking place in Amman, 3-5 March to generate recommendations from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
The intention is that the summit will set an agenda to make humanitarian action more effective, inclusive, global and fit for the future. It focuses on four themes:
- humanitarian effectiveness
- reducing vulnerability and managing risk
- transformation through innovation
- serving the needs of people in conflict
The summit was initiated by the UN Secretary General and is being organised by OCHA. Unlike processes such as the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the WHS is not an inter-governmental process, but rather the content is being led by humanitarian actors including national and international NGOs, UN agencies and civil society.
Conclusions from other relevant events will also contribute to the WHS including the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015 in Japan and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals summit.
Ensuring older people are acknowledged
HelpAge, represented by Frances Stevenson, Head of our Humanitarian Team, was one of the 35 international NGOs invited to participate in the Europe consultation held in Budapest, 4-5 February.
She said: "This is the first time there has been a World Humanitarian Summit. The consultations and outcome will be whatever we, the humanitarian community, will make of it.
"The input HelpAge and its Affiliates and partners make will be absolutely crucial to ensuring older people are acknowledged and their needs are addressed in the consultation process and in the outcome of the Summit."
Dramatic demographic changes
Today, about 12.2% of the world's population is aged 60 or above (895 million people). In just four years' time, this number will surpass 1 billion.
Currently, two-thirds of the world's older people live in developing countries, where disasters are more likely to occur and the effect to be greater. This has huge implications for humanitarian action.
For the Middle East and North Africa region where the next consultation is taking place, demographic change is highly relevant.
The region is experiencing dramatic demographic changes, which must be taken into consideration in current and future humanitarian programmes and policies.
Life expectancy at birth has increased from 60 to 70 years between 1980 and 2010, and 13 of the 22 Arab states now have a life expectancy at birth which is higher than 70 years old.
How the HelpAge network is involved
These global and regional demographic changes demand humanitarian assistance, including health and nutrition interventions and disaster risk management interventions, are adapted to the specific needs of older people and the risks they face in conflicts and disasters.
If older people are not fully included in humanitarian programmes and policy, the overall efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian operations will be seriously undermined. This could even constitute a breach of the principle of impartiality.
The HelpAge International global network will:
- actively participate in the regional consultations - both the online discussions and the regional meetings
- contribute papers on the four global themes
- engage with the WHS Steering Committee to ensure ageing and older people is mentioned in the UN Secretary General's report on the consultations; which is expected in July.