03 November 2015

Put 'Human' Back In Humanitarian Aid

Put ‘Human' Back In Humanitarian Aid

The Pioneer & Daily Sabah

October 19, 2015 I President of The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) writes SERDAR ÇAM

To fix the global system, focus must be on human consciousness, rather than on specific interests of states and large corporations, writes SERDAR ÇAM

As the Syrian refugee crisis worsens, it is clear that the global humanitarian system has failed. Although there have been attempts to help, nothing close to an overall, concrete solution has surfaced. The humanitarian space is the physical geography in which aid is provided in various forms by those who can afford to help in order to address humanitarian problems. Emergency situations, i.e. natural and man-made disasters, put pressure on the humanitarian system to identify the borders of this space. However, in real terms, such space has been continuously redefined and restructured by the humanitarian system.

The notion of the humanitarian system has thus turned out to be nothing more than popular terminology, a system we take for granted, put into place by the endeavours of the UN, international organisations, nation-states, and humanitarian NGOs. An industry of humanitarian and developmental aid has emerged that determines the nature of humanitarian interventions mostly in a competitive mood. The spirit of competition does not serve the greater good in an increasing number of cases. Additionally, the political interests of the actors are at the apex of the hierarchy of the humanitarian system.

Traditional donors in the Western/Northern hemisphere, emerging donors in the Global South, and newcomers from the periphery have, separately, defined humanitarian spaces of their own with differing priorities. However, these various attempts do not constitute a meaningful operational space. This is evident in light of the failing humanitarian response to tragic situations such as the Syrian refugee crisis.

The reasons for this failure center around two issues in mainstream thought: First, lack of cooperation and coordination, and second, lack of official and civilian capacity for a functional humanitarian system. In other words, the actors of the humanitarian system have failed to coordinate amongst each other and cannot raise enough interest to generate help for their interventions.

Although it is not yet in total disrepair, the humanitarian system cannot address human suffering within different geographies. The focus on structures, financing, and capacities is not enough to recalibrate the existing system. Further, despite the emergence of different actors from different geographies, the humanitarian space is shrinking. It is now time to humanise the system — if it is already not too late. Human consciousness should surface on a systemic level, remembering that the individual self has been at the center of civilisations and all other human good through history.

There is need for a holistic approach toward humanitarian aide, but it should emerge from the human consciousness rather than the specific interests of the states and/or large corporations. We must begin to think that it is not voluntary but necessary to help others. Indeed, to help others is to help one's self. The responsibility to protect the humanitarian sense belongs to human beings and the individual self. Only after humans begin to care for others can we create a system that will begin to put an end to human suffering.

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) engages in both humanitarian aid and development cooperation. TIKA offers a holistic approach to pursuing multiple activities in order to help alleviate suffering, while planning and building a sustainable future for the communities under focus. The rationale behind this is Turkey's humanitarian diplomacy, which is human-centered and undertaken with the notion of avoiding dualities in the international system such as interests versus ideals. India has another successful model of humanitarian and development aid with a positive impact to preserve a humanitarian space. The emerging roles in this field promise much to provide additional aid capacity in an era of perception of "helplessness" in humanitarian theater.

Such humanitarian diplomacy is mobilised with the consciousness of the Turkish people. So far, Turkey has embraced almost two million Syrian guests. And in response to the increasing impact of societal demands on foreign policy, Turkey has opened up to new geographies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, providing humanitarian and development aid to people in these geographies. The motivation is not self-interest, although Turkey does make political and social gains by expanding its own humanitarian space.

A similar perspective taken in the overall humanitarian theater will help reverse the deteriorating humanitarian situation and will restore global consciousness. Once human consciousness is taken into consideration in humanitarian projects, then the world can create a new humanitarian vision and, accordingly, mechanisms and policies to alleviate the sufferings of many people around the globe. Through such an endeavour, we may also discover the concept of “us” again.

(The writer is President, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency )


The article was published also in Daily Sabah 

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