I had the pleasure of attending the World Humanitarian Summit in May on behalf of Bread for the World. While I attend a lot of academic meetings, this certainly was a lot different from the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. First, there was art – visual and performing art woven into the conference. That was an unexpected pleasure and very well done. Second, I walked past both Angela Merkel and Sean Penn in the hallway, enough said. Third, there were all sorts of small ways in which the experiences of individuals in need of humanitarian assistance were incorporated into the conference from the lunches that were based on the rations given to refugees in different countries to the emphasis on the terrible choices that people have to make in humanitarian emergencies. Sometimes this became a little extreme; at the innovation fair I had some people talking to me in detail (which I will not share because it is gross) about why the body bags they had just started to make were better than the standard UN body bags.
Hunger and Faith-based Organizations
There were several high points for me. One was hearing a rousing speech by Irish president Michael Higgens on ending hunger by 2030. He emphasized the fact that food security – three nutritious meals a day – underpins efforts to achieve all of the Sustainable Development Goals. Another high point was participation in the faith-based organizations meetings which were very focused on getting the UN to take faith based organizations seriously as humanitarian actors. This is particularly important since local faith-based organizations are usually on the ground before a crisis, endure through it, and stay afterwards. The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities has compiled five research briefs documenting the evidence related to the positive role that faith-based organizations play in humanitarian emergencies. You can find them here. The outcome document – Charter for Faith-Based Humanitarian Action is also available and very interesting reading.