Day 1: 15 March 2021
Mr. Paul Wilson, Executive Director of Planning, Business Development & International Relations, INDEX Holding, speaking on behalf of H.E. Dr. Abdul Salam Al Madani, Executive Chairman of DIHAD and DISAB, welcomed the participants to the 17th Session of DIHAD, held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. In this year with the world continuing to face many humanitarian challenges, such as the corona virus and climate change which need sustainable solutions, the gathering is of particular importance. He thanked DISAB, the many companies, speakers and participants for their contributions, and in particular H.E. Ms. Hessa Bint Essa Buhamaid, Minister of Community Development, for her work and her participation in the Conference.
H.E. Mr. Saeed al Eter, Chairman, UAE Government Media Office; Director-General, the Executive Office of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum; Deputy Secretary- General, Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum Global Initiatives, welcomed participants and gave special thanks to the DIHAD Chairman. He wished great success to the conference and exhibition. In light of the COVID-crisis and the huge challenges facing the humanitarian aid sector, he made special reference to the Minister of Community Development and wished for her to continue her excellent work. Despite challenges due to travel restrictions, an unprecedented amount of aid was delivered to the field. With its humanitarian aid budget reaching US$ 13 billion in 2020, the UAE managed to send medical aid to over 120 countries, and benefitting over 1.6 million medical staff. Modern technology is important to ensure nobody feels isolated in the crisis from which we all are suffering. It provides an opportunity to build strong partnerships with billions of people to empower them and make them part of the humanitarian community, e.g. to provide relevant educational videos and articles on the WATERFALLS website. Some 18,000 persons responded to the call for educators, of whom 300 were selected. Funding was also provided to a hospital in Egypt while ten million meals were given to workers who became unemployed due to the crisis. Many individuals and companies contributed to the campaign. Working in such a way renders the work of the humanitarian community sustainable, and puts a new imprint on the humanitarian path followed by the UAE under the leadership of the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was the pioneer of humanitarian aid in the UAE.
H.E. Dr. Hamad Al Sheikh Ahmed Al Shaibani, Director-General, Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD), referred to the launch of DIHAD’s 17th edition. DIHAD is one of the major humanitarian events in the region to which IACAD has contributed over the last 15 years. In researching the files, he had found that with the Prime Minister’s vision and proactive approach Dubai had managed on the global scene to deal with crises through charitable activities in Dubai. DIHAD provides a good platform to reach out to other stakeholders. The 2020 health crisis has had a major fall-out in social and economic fields. UAE and Dubai have shown how to be peaceful and be leaders to achieve social stability despite the pandemic without discrimination in beneficiaries. Through the Community Solidarity Fund established by IACAD in 2020, more than AED 343 million was raised, of which 70% from the private sector. IACAD focuses on sustainability of aid and SDG-9 and cooperation of various stakeholders including those facing health problems, and has signed an agreement to support medical research. He expressed his thanks to the UAE Government and private institutions for their support and hoped that charitable initiatives will continue to be successful. Lastly, he announced the signing of an agreement between IACAD and the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences in confirmation of the UAE’s investment in scientific research and medical sciences.
H.E. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), in his statement delivered virtually, pointed out that the COVID-19 crisis has underscored that our fate as a global community is intertwined and our collective resilience is only as strong as the weakest among us. Overstretched health systems, together with political instability and the lack of security, allow contagious diseases to strive. In Africa, the impact of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases has been paramount, but with strong leadership and health systems, and strong and contained donor support these crises can be tackled. Investment in strong health systems with focus on basic health care is the best way to create health security and the foundation of universal health coverage. The rapid development of vaccines has brought the world much needed social hope. Although vaccines are an important tool, what counts is the way they are utilised. The fastest way to move out of the pandemic is by suppressing the virus, but the more chances the virus has to spread, the more it can undergo mutations which could make vaccines less effective. Equity in vaccine distributions is in every country’s own interest. Half of Africa will have vaccination programmes underway by the end of March. Continued support to the COVAX-facility is the best way to control the pandemic, restore confidence and drive the global economy. “We are all in this together and will only get out of it together.” (see attachment)
H.E. Dr. Sergio Piazzi, Secretary-General, Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), mentioned the large variety in progress in the vaccination campaigns globally and in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region in particular. While several countries in the region are well advancing, such as Israel, UAE, Morocco, Turkey and Bahrain, other countries are currently turning mainly to China and Russia for vaccine support until Europe will have been able to accelerate its lagging internal vaccination programmes and become a key external partner. He stressed the need for equal access to and distribution of the vaccines for the population in the region, including the more than 17 million refugees and Internally Displaced Persons who need investment in solidarity. To better support countries lacking resources or vaccine manufacturing capacity to access sufficient vaccines, COVAX must be strengthened for multilateral coordination to lead to successful outcomes. It is in everyone’s interest to protect ourselves, to escape from this crisis and promote economic recovery. PAM plays a relevant role in strengthening vaccine policy by recommendations for parliamentary action and seeking additional partners for vaccine support where needed. “Nobody is safe until everyone is vaccinated.”
Furthermore, the UAE has recently become a member of the Assembly, which is a confirmation of the longstanding successful cooperation with the UAE authorities such as the Federal National Council and Ministry of Interior, especially on issues related to security, counter terrorism and de-radicalisation. Therefore, further engagement with the UAE will benefit the political and security issues in the region, including the political process in Libya, the search for a Two-State solution in the Middle East, and easing of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. (see attachments: Covid-19 Vaccination campaigns; The Race to Vaccine Distribution in the MENA; Covid vaccinations in MENA region in numbers)
H.E. Mr. Rashid Mubarak Al Mansouri spoke on behalf of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President, United Arab Emirates Red Crescent Authority. DIHAD provides an opportunity to foresee the future of humanitarian and development aid and have a new imprint on the UAE humanitarian aid initiatives. The UAE has been a leader in support of many humanitarian initiatives to achieve stability and development. It delivers on its responsibility to meet big challenges caused by armed conflicts, wars, climate change, drought, desertification and the current health crisis. Core issues related to strengthening the African continent to face these many challenges have been recognised by the UAE. Some 120 countries have received their aid, in particular in the medical sector with most of the 1.7 million tons of supplies delivered to Africa, including a field hospital in Darfur, and planned for Mauritania and Sierra Leone. WHO got medical aid from the donor community and the stock in the International Humanitarian City (IHC) for distribution in Africa. Relief programmes have been supported with over AED 2.37 billion over the last three decades. He hoped it will be possible to tie over the challenges Africa faces and to underpin values to achieve the goals of the DIHAD gathering.
H.E. Dr. Janez Lenarcic, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, virtual delivery, considered the Conference being held at a critical moment with the fall-out of the pandemic, which disrupts health care, food delivery in countries in Africa and around the world with a huge surge in needs and ever greater funding gaps. Hard and sustained work is needed on funding, closer cooperation to reach humanitarian goals, and furthering efficiency of action, following up on the Grand Bargain, and upholding International Humanitarian Law. The EU wants to work with all on this shared agenda to meet the gap between needs and available resources. The team Europe approach has budgeted over Euro 450 million in third countries for the pandemic, but a rapid roll-out of the vaccination campaign is also necessary. The COVAX facility and creation of a buffer are supported. Euro 100 million has been set aside for Africa, working closely with African centres for disease control and support to weak countries for peace, security, rule of law and protection. The Commissioner looked forward to attending the next DIHAD in person. (see attachment)
A video was shown detailing the extensive work carried out by the Waterfalls Initiative for continuous education and health care which, under the supervision of His Highness Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior, Deputy Minister of the United Arab Emirates, has so far benefitted over 263,000 beneficiaries through 291 webinars organised in cooperation with DIHAD. The value of DIHAD, which since its establishment in 2004 is bringing together experts from international and non-governmental organisations as well as governments and the private sector was duly stressed. (see attachment)
Mr. Mohamed Yousef Alali, MC, announced the names of the recipients of virtual awards made by H.H. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior, to those who had presented several of the webinars as well as members of the DISAB.
H.E. Amb. Gerhard Putman-Cramer, Director DISAB, on behalf of the DISAB and its Chairman, thanked the UAE leadership for the outstanding support in providing rapid humanitarian assistance to the victims of the pandemic all over the world. COVID 19 pandemic has had many repercussions and the UAE has provided many forms of support. A large percentage of international assistance to the victims in the affected countries originates from the UAE, including 1,789 tons of medical supplies to 134 countries worldwide, assisting some 523,000 medical professionals in 47 countries throughout the world. The UAE has so far distributed seven million vaccines, while the global contributions include – but are not limited to – the conversion of exhibition space into field hospitals in the United Kingdom; mobile hospitals to several countries and transportation of field hospitals to Ghana and Ethiopia; fresh meals packages and groceries to the USA; facemasks and gloves to China; medical supplies and support to health workers in Iran; evacuation and repatriation of students and their families from several countries; and US$ 10 million in-kind aid to the WHO. Its contribution to stem cell therapy for critical patients of COVID-19 is also remarkable. He announced that on behalf of the global humanitarian community and members of DISAB, the 2021 DIHAD International Personality Award for Humanitarian Relief, in recognition of the global efforts in response to the pandemic and appreciation for the generous response to the global challenges, was given to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, for the UAE’s outstanding contribution, continuous support and seamless efforts in providing humanitarian relief all over the world.
OUTLINE OF THE CONFERENCE PROGRAMME
H.E. Amb. Gerhard Putman-Cramer, Director, DIHAD International Scientific Advisory Board (DISAB), welcomed all to the Conference and expressed special appreciation to the many having worked so hard to make the event possible. He introduced the proceedings of the Conference with six sessions with panels, several key note addresses, special sessions or presentations, several of which by pre-recorded messages or virtual participation. He wished for an interesting and inspiring conference.
SESSION 1: “Africa: The Impact of Conflicts and Humanitarian Crises”
H.E. Mr. Patrick Youssef, Regional Director for Africa, International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) – Chair – introduced a scene-setting session in view of the importance of addressing the many problems and pains caused by the current health crisis. Insecurity and armed conflicts are main drivers of the humanitarian crisis in Africa, with war impacting on social development, social, political and economic status of communities bearing the brunt of intensifying violence, protracted conflicts and crises. Off-the-grid people are increasingly affected and dependent on protection and humanitarian aid while receiving far less than needed. With over 30 million refugees / IDPs in Africa living in camps for many years, the social cohesion of the communities with traditional justice is severely affected. The civilian population pays the price by not being able to participate in a reconciliation process, leading to the need for dialogue to address their status. Some 60 million people live in non-state groups led areas and are also entitled to humanitarian assistance. In the CAR, the impact of war has created a blockade around the capital making food unaffordable. Conflict becomes centre stage with a focus on winning the war and not on ending it. Criminality, demography and internal crises between ethnic communities also concern land ownership. Unsolved problems add fuel to the fire and there is a shared responsibility to address these. Conflict, climate change and increasing foreign military presence need a proper analysis to bring about positive change. Shrinking humanitarian space is reducing access for humanitarian actors; attacks on medical facilities have led to closures of at least 100 health facilities in Burkina Faso.
On a positive note, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel in continuity, capacity and resilience by states to resolve and heal to treat the root causes of crisis to move to the nexus approach by improving lives in protracted crises to leave investments behind, being seconded by humanitarian and development operators. The Chair invited a generous exchange with participants.
Dr. Nathalie Ndongo-She, UN Resident Coordinator, Kingdom of Eswatini, in a virtual presentation, focused on armed conflict continuing in Africa, and six of the 13 peacekeeping operations worldwide in Africa. Poverty, famine, mass displacement, corruption, and gross human rights violations put pressure on humanitarian actors to address the needs of 8.5 million IDPs and 4.6 million refugees in East Africa alone. In Southern Africa, severe food insecurity means that close to 16 million people are dependent on food assistance. Mozambique sees rising violence leading to extensive displacement, limiting the Government’s capacity to address needs and affecting social cohesion and political stability. Two examples of conflicts on the continent were given to illustrate the human, economic and development cost of conflict: South Sudan following its independence saw a total economic collapse, killing tens of thousands and displacing millions, a loss of US$ 22 to 28 billion, and causing widespread famine.
Despite its richness, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 64% of the population is extremely poor, with 4.5 million IDPs many of whom facing severe acute malnutrition and limited assistance. Increasing needs and vulnerability during conflicts, disasters or outbreaks of diseases. The looting of armed groups targeting of humanitarian actors makes it nearly impossible to reach large shares of the population in need.
Up to US$ 53 billion could be saved if conflicts were solved in the East African region. Vulnerability must be addressed before, during and after crises in a more integrated response to enable capacity sharing between humanitarian, political and development actors which also requires rethinking of finance mechanisms. The Nexus framework is more likely than before to have an impact with aid that is coordinated, funded and achievable. With only ten years remaining to achieve the SDGs, a sustainable focus must be placed on SDG-16, seeking to promote peaceful societies to enable development, access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions by 2030. “Together we must silence the guns.” (see attachment)
Mr. Mohammed Abdiker, Regional Director for East and the Horn of Africa, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), appreciated the commitment of all partners in the Conference despite the many challenges due to the COVID pandemic. Crises entail physical impact and death as well as marginalisation or discrimination. Over 4.2 million refugees and asylum seekers are in the region, mainly in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, and 8.8 million IDPs, most of them in Somalia, Ethiopia, and in South Sudan. These crises can lead to more displacement, extortion and trade in migrants. The most pertinent challenges are caused by conflict and flooding in South Sudan with over 700,000 newly displaced, with severe food insecurity, lack of access to safe shelter and water, health and education and human rights violations. The pandemic has negatively affected humanitarian and development funding and humanitarian actors’ ability to address needs and prevent death, interlinked with previously existing inabilities to build social cohesion and resilience at community level. Food stocks already emptied before the current crisis due to floods, locust invasion, and a confluence of shocks, could lead to further conflict, exhausting resources of the affected population and host communities across the region, and preventing durable solutions. Humanitarian registration for food distribution may miss a large part of the displaced population, showing signs of malnutrition in children of uprooted but also the host communities.
Issues to address include structural inequalities in opportunities, especially for youth, with unemployment as a key driver for joining violent extremist groups, and the need to scale up response to immediate humanitarian needs through coordinated and integrated activities with peacebuilding and resilience capacity building. IOM has developed a Community Stabilisation Approach to move from a humanitarian context to transition and lay foundations for stability to benefit from development assistance. Parallel displacement and returns, housing, land and property rights must be addressed by evidence based responses. Area based programming is necessary to create alternative solutions and build resilient and sustainable livelihoods for the most vulnerable. We need to be more creative and work together to ensure “no-one is left behind”. (see attachment)
Ms. Ann Encontre, Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ethiopia, illustrated how peaceful life in Tigray was before the outbreak of the conflict in November 2020 that has led to full disruption of the social structure, violence and insecurity. In response to the question what humanitarian actors and governments can do to help prevent conflict and better work together to address the challenges in conflict-affected and hard-to-reach areas, she raised three points: Women can be true agents of change, even in the most dire situations; it is important to listen to the affected populations and do better to find local solutions to local problems; with ever increasing unmet needs, UN agencies must work more effectively together to be able to facilitate earlier development and sustainable investments. Due to power struggles, ethnic tensions or natural disasters, the largest impact is invariably on the civilian population and most importantly on women and children. Several examples of previous experience in different settings were given with testimonies on women’s role providing opportunities among challenges, stressing the need to be accountable to the local population, listen to their requests for education and self-employment to rebuild their lives, health care, and not to decide what is best for them with pre-conceived projects. Even in the most severe crises support to the increased leadership role of women and investment in healthcare and education can bring the future these people envision, not what we decide to be best for them. (see attachment)
Comments from the floor:
What are the reasons for attacks on medical facilities and for closing them? Attacks are often multiform to take over resources or kidnapping health staff for armed groups to obtain control over regions by moving people out of a region.
Is the nexus of humanitarian – development – peace enough to get a good outcome? To what extent is the humanitarian community asking for accountability, and does Nexus also include accountability? Humanitarian funding for far too long is being used for structural projects to make humanitarian aid delivery possible when support for infrastructure and development projects is lacking. Prevention is the key to response, whereas only a fraction of the budget spent on arms is devoted to humanitarian aid. Accountability has to be to the people we serve as well as to donors, even if those are also the ones providing arms causing the crisis. Humanitarian agencies have to be modest in their attitude and rather put people at the centre of the response to provide sustainable solutions. They need to team up with other voices to achieve more than can be achieved when working alone, and together bring something more sustainable. There is a need to learn and acknowledge that the triple nexus is a possible recipe for disaster if not driving social change in the communities we are trying to serve.
There is a need to acknowledge that so far no prevention technique has been invented that works, and that panaceas offered from outside do not work. We need to be less moralising and not offering humanitarian aid as a way to a better world.
A positive outlook on social cohesion can only be ensured by providing dignified responses, putting human rights and IHL and protection at the centre, building resilience and livelihoods, and caring for the most vulnerable lacking a voice.
Partnering with others with brilliant minds is needed and acknowledge the advances reached on the ground.
KEYNOTE ADDRESS “Harnessing Capacity Building and Foreign Assistance in Covid-19 times: Continuity and Innovative Solutions”
H.E. Amb. Eynat Shlein, Head of Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel, focused on “Foreign Assistance in COVID-19 times: continuity and innovative solutions”. MASHAV was established in 1958 as an international development agency while Israel was still a developing country. It has entered into partnerships with many international agencies in development, emphasising capacity building, food security, education, health care, community development and resilience. The agency is active in Africa in education, and in agriculture with focus on innovation as a tool for the future. COVID-19 presented itself as a true problem making it impossible to build new projects with as participants are stranded.
Examples of cost-effective innovation include 3D-printing to produce face shields in Ghana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and of special automatic handwashing devices. Locust invasions were fought by spraying at night groups identified by drones, thus reducing the poison on land. This was first tried in Ethiopia during COVID, and local groups were trained for further deployments. She called for innovative approaches even to old problems, in particular when traditional solutions do not work. Investing in cost-effective innovation helps to create simple or complex solutions. (see attachment)
SESSION 2: “Africa: The Impact of Climate Change”
Dr. Robert Kweyunga Kwesiga, Secretary-General, Uganda Red Cross Society – Chair – focused on the socio-economic impact of climate change at the community level. While there are frequent discussions about the issue, these are remaining short of action. There is a nexus between climate crisis, health and natural disasters. Most pathogens affect animals as seen in Ebola or cholera. Over 20 million people a year in Africa have been forced to move, putting financial pressure on the population, in particular in Northern Africa. Its impact on livelihoods of SMEs, households or small holder farmers includes food insecurity due to price increases. Climate change affects women differently, in particular how their human rights have been impacted.
The Red Cross movement approaches climate change by four steps: increase understanding of climate crisis and mobilise positive action; influence areas of investment, laws and policies; strengthen expertise and volunteer base to reduce impact of climate crisis; and innovate tools and approaches. Areas for investment include estimating the current pattern of climate sensitive diseases and impact of climate change on health; and identify adaptation options to reduce disease burden. It is important to focus on bottom-up participatory processes. (see attachment)
H.E. Mr. Ovais Sarmad, Assistant Secretary-General, Deputy Executive Secretary, UN Climate Change Secretariat, Bonn, virtually shared his concern on the situation of climate change and linkages to the pandemic. Targets to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by the end of the century are by far not going to be reached. The “Climate in Africa” report stressed the impact on health and society in all parts of Africa. There will never be a vaccine for the climate unlike for the current pandemic. The year 2021 and COP-26 will be a make or break opportunity for the world to make progress on implementation of Paris 2015, in particular for the humanitarian impact of climate change. While 2020 has created havoc, the pandemic is no reason for non-action but rather to double it. Implementation of the Paris agreement with the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) with the long-term goal to keep temperatures to well below 2 – and preferably below 1.5 °C – pre-industrial level is the focus of the Secretariat. The climate emergency in Africa increasingly threatens human health. Coastal degradation and erosion will increase, while 53 of 54 African NDCs have identified climate change as a key priority. Food security will be severely impacted, in particular in East Africa.
Notable progress has been made in using climate data for sustainable efforts and NAPs to minimise climate risks and address potential losses, including loss to cultural heritage, and resulting population displacement. The Santiago network of the Warsaw mechanism will connect providers to local actors through surveys in the aim to create a climate resilient future. The year 2021 provides a great chance to emerge from tragedy and create sweeping lasting transformation and a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a healthy, safe, climate friendly and more prosperous environment for all people. Multilateralism is the only way forward to address climate change, recover from COVID and achieve the SDGs. (see attachment)
Ms. Clare Dalton, Head of Mission, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UAE, raised an additional dimension with respect to countries during climate change when conflict or war is also occurring. Climate funding and action must reach people in conflict areas as well. The natural environment is often in need of protection in times of conflict in view of IHL. There is a need to be environmentally sustainable and making sure humanitarian actors through national societies will see to it that interventions do not harm the environment and reduce the environmental footprint. For this purpose, the Movement is preparing a charter for humanitarian organisations on environment and climate for humanitarian organisations, such as in cases of mass migration impacted by the climate shocks to be less harmful to the environment.
Ms. Lois Quam, CEO and President, Pathfinder International, Washington D.C., joined virtually. She stressed that the pandemic is not the only problem, that climate change is leading to dramatic situations. It particularly impacts on women, who are not just the victims but are often holding the solutions to climate change. Women must be supported in leadership roles to get the full benefit of their innovative initiatives. They are frequently the primary providers of basic needs who produce 60-80% of food in most low and middle-income countries and almost half of the world’s food production. They are first responders in crisis and entrepreneurs of green energy. As agents of change they often develop solutions towards a sustainable future, so a focused investment in women’s actions is important to achieve their full potential. Access to family planning allows for education and women’s self-subsistence and resilience, an area in which Pathfinders is working with local partners to package information about conservation and family planning together. Women’s empowerment is the key of building of societies. She gave an example of the importance to invest in African women to become part of resource management decisions, the ripple effect of which will be felt throughout the entire community. “Necessity is the mother of invention, it is the driving force of most inventions.” (see attachment)
H.E. Dr. Nawal Al Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA, in her virtual presentation stressed the impact of climate change on the society and economy in Africa. The WMO report on the status of climate change in Africa clearly shows that it impacts on food, health and economic status. Tackling climate change requires transition to renewable energy and a low carbon economy. IRENA analysis shows deployment of affordable renewable energy is a promising energy provider and can respond to the challenges at hand. Some 2.9 billion people in Sub Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, and more than 2.2 billion people will still be reliant on non-renewable energy. The COVID-crisis amplifies the need for energy access, interlinked with health, education, and food security. Investing in renewable energy such as solar power makes it more interesting than investment in traditional energy sources. A business model requiring new approaches with combination of traditional and renewable energy sources is essential for economic growth and achieving the SDGs. The UAE has incorporated renewable energy in its humanitarian programme to achieve SDG-7 for developing countries. A successful transition to green energy requires collective efforts of all stakeholders. Africa especially needs support to enable access for all and create a green sustainable economy. (see attachment)
From the floor:
Family planning is a key factor in fighting climate change and can be expanded to population policy in general also in order to achieve the SDGs. Women play central role bringing the necessary innovation for which they must be able to exercise their rights to education and family planning.
What does the ICRC do in regard to achieving sustainability?