H.E. Amb. Gerhard Putman-Cramer
Chief Executive Officer,
DIHAD Sustainable Humanitarian Foundation
Humanitarian diplomacy is the activity that aims at ensuring that all concerned with humanitarian aid act in the interests of the intended beneficiaries, this in accordance with acknowledged humanitarian principles, human rights and International Humanitarian Law. While exact definitions vary, the activity in question most often consists of any or all of the following: a dialogue, written communications, negotiations and mediation. It is oftentimes undertaken to ensure the following: access to those in need of assistance and/or protection; the necessary financial and logistical mechanisms for such assistance to take place; the security of those receiving the aid and of those charged with its delivery. It is often essential in ensuring there is coordinated humanitarian action, information sharing, advocacy and impartiality.
As assistance requirements are evidently ever-increasing, this possibly in contrast to the levels of resources made available to meet them, so is the importance of humanitarian diplomacy. While enhancing access to humanitarian assistance in so-called “complex emergencies” has always been a challenge, it is clear that the number of these emergencies is growing, and that their complexity is often further amplified by new actors and diverging priorities. Now it can be argued that humanitarian diplomacy is a contradiction in terms, diplomacy being essentially a search for compromise while humanitarian action is wholly principled. In actual fact, a compromise arrived at on account of humanitarian diplomacy often enables principled actions to be effectively implemented. Special interests taken into account at the time of negotiations may well ensure the sustainability of arrangements arrived at. Then there is also the leverage of public opinion as well as support from other networks (which may well be the result of previous/parallel humanitarian diplomacy efforts).
Generally speaking, in regard to most countries who are prominent promoters of humanitarian engagement, we know that the humanitarian diplomacy activities they undertake are often motivated not only by values and principles, but also by geopolitics and economic interests. Looking at the UAE, one notes that since 2004 (the year Dubai first hosted the DIHAD Conference and Exhibition), the country not only has become a very generous donor in terms of both development assistance and humanitarian aid (it is in fact the world’s largest per capita aid provider), it has made the provision of aid an essential part of its foreign policy and indeed of its public image.
To illustrate agreements resulting from successful humanitarian diplomacy, we need only read our dailies or switch on our television sets; the original “grain agreement” in the Black Sea and the cease-fire in Ethiopia which enabled all parties in the conflict to receive urgently needed assistance are two examples which underscore the vital importance of these initiatives.
At this time in the world’s history, we are collectively going through a growing multitude of crises. Climate Change seems to be intensifying both the number and the severity of natural disasters. The ever-increasing number of humanitarian emergencies cause us – at a time of financial instability and competing demands on what we hoped to be recovering economies – to also struggle with, inter alia, questionable energy sources, decreasing food supplies and ever-increasing migration flows.
It is in this light, while looking back at the themes of DIHAD events held over these last 20 years (and wanting to revisit some with new insights), that the International Scientific Advisory Board of the Foundation has decided to have, as the theme of DIHAD 2024 (our 20th edition):
“ DIHAD 2004-2024: Humanitarian Diplomacy and a Journey to the Future ”
Sessions will focus on Humanitarian Diplomacy in relation to Access and Human Security; to Climate Change; to People on the Move and to Global Health Challenges. Moreover, we will attempt to identify the links between Humanitarian Diplomacy, Leadership and New Actors as well as how Humanitarian Diplomacy can provide for a greater focus on the role and potential of both Women and Youth.
It is indeed of interest to examine whether humanitarian diplomacy, now further developed and more widely utilized, is making a real difference in the above-mentioned contexts. It is clear that, since 2004, we have collectively been changing our aid-related “methodologies”, this now undoubtedly requiring re-defined systemic structures and a possibly less HQ-guided country-based priority-setting and coordination mechanism, thus enabling specific local requirements to get more immediate and more effective attention.
At DIHAD 2024 we will once again gather friends and colleagues from national government authorities, international and non-governmental organizations, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, foundations and charities, academic institutions, the media and the private sector. As in all previous editions of the Conference, we will attempt to come up with a number of actionable agreed conclusions and recommendations.
On behalf of the International Scientific Advisory Board of the DIHAD Foundation, I am very pleased to invite you to attend the event’s 20th edition. We much look forward to welcoming you and to thank, on that occasion, all who have actively contributed to the acknowledged success of DIHAD events these last 20 years. We will also seize the opportunity to review and share the highlights of the Foundation’s activities, as these have developed.
Each edition of the unique annual DIHAD event, held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime-Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, highlights different aspects of our collective humanitarian aid and development endeavors. This year, we will try to coalesce landmark themes of events gone by, while introducing new perspectives to these through the prism of humanitarian diplomacy, thereby determined to further reinforce our combined ability to face the challenges of tomorrow. Moreover, the selected theme and related presentations as well as all interaction within and in the margins of the event, continue to enhance the knowledge that humanitarian and development actors have about each other, thereby ensuring greater understanding and clarity in regard to respective roles, capacities and mandates and further reinforcing the notion of effective coordinated action.
DIHAD 2024 promises to be a memorable event (and anniversary)!