Ploumen to play leading role in efforts to make emergency aid more innovative

The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, will launch a debate on innovation in humanitarian aid on Monday 29 February. The first meeting on this topic, which will be attended by 16 major donor countries and 16 aid organisations, is being held in Amsterdam. ‘There is an urgent need for more efficient humanitarian aid. Some 125 million people are dependent on emergency aid. At the same time, the large funding shortfall means that it will not be possible to give everyone the support they need. Therefore, a new approach is needed, one where both donors and aid organisations will need to look beyond their own immediate interests. That requires more mutual trust,’ said Ms Ploumen.

In addition to Ms Ploumen and the EU Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Kristalina Georgieva, the meeting in Amsterdam will be attended by representatives from the US, Germany, the UK, the UAE, the UN’s refugee organisation, UNCHR, the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Red Cross and UNICEF. The challenge facing these key players is how to come up with much-needed innovations in emergency aid. The goal of the so-called grand bargain on efficiency is to reach agreements on more efficient and transparent aid, in exchange for better financing, so that more people in need can be helped. ‘Aid organisations and aid workers do difficult work under difficult circumstances, often at risk to their own lives,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘Without wanting to detract from the work they do, it is possible for us to collaborate more effectively, work more cost-effectively and avoid duplication of work. For example, the World Food Programme (WFP) purchases enormous quantities of food. If the WFP can get long-term assurances on funding commitments, they could reduce their purchase prices by a third.’

The meeting in Amsterdam next week is the first in series of ‘grand bargain meetings’ that will take place in the coming month. The goal of these meetings is to reach an agreement on which government leaders and ministers can make a decision at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which is being held in Istanbul on 23 and 24 May. Innovation is high on the agenda at the WHS. An expert report on this topic was recently submitted to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Dubai. On the basis of this report, Ms Ploumen has decided to play an active role in relation to this topic. ‘This report exhibits many similarities with the policy on emergency aid pursued by the Netherlands in recent years. For example, instead of imposing restrictive rules, we allow UN aid organisations to decide for themselves where aid is most urgently needed – to a far greater extent than other countries do. At the same time, however, these organisations must collaborate more effectively, and be more open about the kind of aid they provide, in what areas and to what people. If they do this, donors will be more prepared to work with them. And the time to encourage discussion on this topic is now.’

There have not been this many refugees and displaced people since the end of the Second World War. The UN has calculated that last year’s funding shortfall amounted to over 10 billion dollars. Too little aid deprives millions of people of support and further depletes food rations. Ms Ploumen is convinced that the business world also has a key role to play in meeting the challenge of providing better humanitarian aid in the future. She wants to involve representatives from the private sector in the next round of sessions in order to come up with a joint approach.