Wednesday, 11 June 2014

World Humanitarian Summit (Natural Disasters and Opportunities for Action - Part 3)

In a fight between Mother Nature and all the politicians in the world, my money is on Mother Nature. In fact, my money is always on Mother Nature. How arrogant of us to think that we can tame or prevent nature from acting as it chooses. Governments can only expect to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. But even then, the preparation and response operations are so overwhelming, it is (understandably) easy for governments to lose sight of who needs saving. 

This is when international organizations and charities often step in to fill response gaps. And international organizations such as the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres, UNICEF, and so many others, work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of those affected by natural disaster, conflict, and war.

Their work is to be commended, but for me, their work is still distant to my own life. I still feel a bit helpless. To once again quote Henry Dunant: “The moral sense of the importance of human life: the human desire to lighten a little the torments of all these poor wretches, or restore their shattered courage; the furious and relentless activity which a man summons up at such moments: all these combine to create a kind of energy which gives one a positive craving to relieve as many as one can” (Dunant, 1959, p. 73). Indeed the awesome power of natural disasters to kill and destroy the lives and livelihoods of so many people, triggers a ‘human desire to lighten a little the torments’.

In order to satisfy that ‘craving’ to provide assistance, consider the following: international organizations are organized groups of people working toward a common goal – disaster relief, medical assistance, education – dependent on their organizational mission. We don’t have to belong to a formal organization, though, in order to collectively improve the lives of those affected by natural disasters.

In fact, the UN is now looking to individuals for ideas on how to make better policy for humanitarian intervention. Over the next two years, the UN Secretary General is hosting a World Humanitarian Summit. The goal “is to find new ways to tackle humanitarian needs in our fast-changing world” and they are asking everyone in the world to contribute to these talks. There are to be formal regional and global consultations between now and 2016. In the meantime, there are on-line forums for anyone with an interest in humanitarian related issues to offer thoughts and ideas for action. Register, think, contribute, and #ReShapeAid

Dunant, H (1959) A Memory of Solferino, International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva

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