Make peace a priority at World Humanitarian Summit

Humanitarian aid to help people in 21st century emergencies can only be effective if delivered in a way that is inclusive, builds bridges between opposing groups in conflicts and helps foster sustainable peace.

International Alert made this statement ahead of the first ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul on 23-24 May 2016. At the Summit, Alert will hold a side event - Reducing humanitarian needs: Peacebuilding and the prevention of violent conflicts - to be chaired by Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (details).

Harriet Lamb, CEO of International Alert, said:

“We cannot end human suffering without peace. Violent conflict is the key driver of humanitarian crises today (rather than natural disasters, for example), pushing humanitarian demand to unprecedented levels. As much as 86% of aid requested through UN appeals goes to conflict situations, with many conflict-related emergencies dragging on year after painful year.

“That is why it is vital that humanitarians, who do such outstanding work saving lives in crises, work together with peacebuilders, as well as political leaders and development workers to better serve people’s needs.”

Harriet Lamb added:

“Humanitarian actions cannot resolve conflicts, but they can be designed and delivered in ways which make a more positive contribution to peace, while at the same time reinforcing humanitarian principles of impartiality. For example, we can prevent competition over resources by ensuring aid doesn’t exclude specific groups, reducing the risk of violence erupting.

“In Sri Lanka in 2004, humanitarian aid to tsunami victims undermined the peace process and contributed to ending the ceasefire. Or in Zaire in 1994, aid was captured by the exiled Rwandese army there. We must all learn from these sad lessons and ensure emergency aid for today is building peace for tomorrow.”

International Alert, which marks its 30th anniversary this year, is already working with humanitarian agencies to integrate peace efforts into their work. In Lebanon, it has worked with humanitarian organisations to ensure healthcare provision reduces rather than exacerbates tensions between Syrian refugees and host communities by seeming to exclude one or other group. In Nigeria, we are advising humanitarian practitioners on ensuring their employment policies are not contributing to conflict, for example by appearing to favour one ethnic group over another in recruitment.

Harriet Lamb concluded: “There are simple, practical and cost-effective steps we can take.

“For instance, humanitarian organisations are already providing vital education for Syrian refugee children and give them a future. Whenever possible, encouraging refugee and local children to be taught together can reduce discrimination and foster empathy.”

The need to prevent and end violent conflict has been acknowledged by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and will be the focus of a high-level roundtable at the Summit.

International Alert also contributed to Peace promise - a document signed today by several international organisations, including UN agencies, urging for more synergy between peace, humanitarian and development actions.


Notes for editors:


International Alert’s side event, Reducing humanitarian needs: Peacebuilding and the prevention of violent conflicts will take place at the World Humanitarian Summit 2016.


For press accreditation at the Summit, please visit:


  • Peace promise: Commitments to more effective synergies among peace, humanitarian and development actions in complex humanitarian situations
  • Photo story on the role of international aid in promoting social cohesion between Syrian refugees and local people in Lebanon;
  • Report Better together on the role of education in helping foster peace in the wake of the Syria refugee crisis;
  • Blog in The Guardian on the role of aid delivery and peace in post-earthquake Nepal.

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