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RSC Director, Alexander Betts, spent last week in Lausanne at the global preparatory meeting for the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which will take place in Istanbul in May 2016. The Summit has a mandate from the UN Secretary-General to rethink the international humanitarian system. In his words: ‘We need a truly global and innovative humanitarian summit in which everyone plays a part’.

The WHS is a two-year consultation process with four thematic areas of work: 1) improving humanitarian aid effectiveness; 2) reducing vulnerability and managing risks; 3) transformation through innovation; 4) serving the needs of people in conflict. Each thematic area is supported by an expert working group, and Professor Betts has been selected to be part of the transformation through innovation working group, which includes representatives from UNHCR, OCHA, WFP, the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, as well as business and academia. The Lausanne meeting was the first time that all of the expert groups have been brought together, face-to-face, with the newly formed WHS secretariat.

Alexander Betts speaking at the Lausanne preparatory meeting for the WHS 2016© Kim Scriven‘It was an incredible opportunity to brainstorm, and begin to shape the agenda for May 2016. We are trying to move beyond a narrow view of the humanitarian system to something much more inclusive which recognises that rather than a Western-centric group of international organisations, there is now a much broader humanitarian ecosystem, comprising affected communities, business, and faith-based organisations, for example. The challenge is to enable this ecosystem to take a human-centred approach to crisis’, explained Professor Betts.

During the 3-day meeting, Professor Betts addressed the plenary session, setting out the case for an innovative approach to humanitarianism, and debated a range of ideas including how to improve the analytical capacity of the humanitarian system, how to consolidate the normative framework of the humanitarian system, and the need to create an enabling environment that allows crisis-affected communities to better help themselves.

The RSC's Humanitarian Innovation Project is feeding into this process through its research, including a new UN OHCA report Humanitarian Innovation: The State of the Art, co-authored by Alexander Betts and Louise Bloom.

Professor Betts was also an expert adviser on the recently published UNICEFreport, again focusing on innovation, The State of the World's Children: Reimagine the future - Innovation for every child.

Related information

Alexander Betts  People

Louise Bloom  People

Humanitarian Innovation Project  Research