A call to action for UK Parliamentarians on World Humanitarian Day

19 August 2015 Zarina Khan

On World Humanitarian Day, Zarina Khan and Shelagh Daley urge parliamentarians to get involved and work with NGOs to promote a safer world.

Currently there are more than 40 conflicts happening across the world, only a small proportion of which feature in the numerous reports of war and violence in our daily headlines. These realities may seem far removed from our own experiences in the UK and it can be difficult to make sense of the human suffering that inevitably accompanies war, let alone feel able to address it.

World Humanitarian Day was designated by the UN as a chance to increase public awareness about humanitarian assistance to those in desperate need, whether this is a result of conflict, disaster or other emergencies. It is a day that encourages action and activism at all levels: from local fundraising initiatives to declarations from the heads of government, and everything in between. This year Bond (the UK membership body for NGOs working in international development) are looking to galvanize action from parliamentarians in the UK who have an important role to play in reminding us and our government that peace is possible. The new briefing State of the World’s Emergencies gives incoming and returning members of Parliament an overview of the world’s most fragile contexts, reiterating why it is important to maintain a vital focus on conflict affected and fragile states within all parts of the UK’s international policies.

The working groups of Bond are an invaluable resource for those who work in and with the sector, including parliamentarians. The Conflict Policy Group for instance, chaired by Saferworld, exists as a forum to analyse, debate and engage with UK policy on peace, conflict and security, and recognise its importance for development, particularly in light of the centrality of peace in the recently agreed Sustainable Development Goals. Other groups bring together agencies working on specific crisis situations, such as Yemen and Somalia, working constructively with officials, parliamentarians and government to identify practical ways in which the UK can support humanitarian relief efforts and push for peace.

The need for action cannot be overstated: war, conflict and insecurity are the main causes of displacement for populations around the world, and are a major focus of humanitarian effort. By the end of 2014 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence, or human rights violations; 13.9 million individuals were newly displaced due to conflict last year alone. As such, World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to reflect on and consider the often complex, challenging and devastating set of circumstances that mean millions of people around the world rely on emergency relief for their survival.

Parliamentarians have an important role to play in promoting UK action to prevent and respond to conflicts and emergencies, as well as questioning policies that undermine humanitarian efforts. On this World Humanitarian Day, we urge new and returning parliamentarians to take up this task and work in partnership with the dedicated NGO community in the UK to make sure we effectively support those suffering the consequences of crisis and war.

Zarina Khan is Saferworld’s UK advocacy officer. Shelagh Daley is UK advocacy coordinator.

“Parliamentarians have an important role to play in promoting UK action to prevent and respond to conflicts and emergencies, as well as questioning policies that undermine humanitarian efforts.”

Zarina Khan, Shelagh Daley