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On May 23, SDSN held a side event at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul with our partners Action Contre la Faim and the Norwegian Refugee Council. The session, entitled “Making the SDGs work for Humanitarian Needs,” explored the opportunities and challenges of linking and integrating the humanitarian and development agendas, including the practical ways in which the SDGs could become a shared framework for action.

Andrea Tamburini, CEO of Action Against Hunger-USA, imparted experience from the perspective of a “dual mandate” organization that works in both humanitarian and development contexts. He highlighted the importance of partnership with local actors and adopting a development approach, but emphasized the challenges of the existing system. Indeed, short-term funding, administrative burdens, and narrow windows of opportunity prevent durable, sustainable solutions in humanitarian contexts.

Florika Fink-Hooijer, Director for Strategy, Policy and International Co-operation at the European Commission Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), responded from the perspective of the biggest humanitarian donor organization. She argued that both the humanitarian and development frameworks have the same goals, and that EU financing will likely align with the SDGs to work for the humanitarian system.

Bineta Diop, AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Founder and President of Femmes Africa Solidarité, and SDSN Leadership Council member, shared her experience visiting crisis areas in Africa. These crises, like the one in Northern Nigeria, are consequences of the failure of development, so the SDGs are a critical opportunity for solutions. Conversely, Carsten Hansen, Middle East Regional Director at the Norwegian Refugee Council, shared insight from the unique challenges of protracted crises in middle-income countries. The crisis in Syria is not due to underdevelopment, but is causing “de-development,” which should be a core concern for the SDGs.

Reflecting on these crises, SDSN Director Jeffrey Sachs stressed that the only way to merge humanitarian and development is to end conflicts. He lamented the lack of engagement from political leadership at the Summit, citing the absence of senior engagement from all the P5 countries. In closing, he also mentioned the interconnected nature of these agendas, particularly citing the essential importance of implementing the Paris Climate Agreement to prevent the worsening of natural hazards, and thus further crises.

Many of the issues raised in the fascinating panel discussion will continue to be addressed by the SDSN through its Thematic Network on Humanitarian-Development Linkages. For more information, click here and read our WHS background paper.

Image gallery from the WHS (all photos by Eve de la Mothe Karoubi)