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Digital Thoughts from the European Humanitarian Forum

Jean-Louis Ecochard, shares his perspectives and relevant themes emerging for our Members.

April 5, 2023

By Jean-Louis (JL) Ecochard, Senior Director of The NetHope Center for the Digital Nonprofit, Global Head of Innovation

The second European Humanitarian Forum (Brussels 20-21 March) aimed to “offer an opportunity to strengthen the cooperation and partnership among countries affected by the crises, donors, international stakeholders, the EU, and its Member States in a context of sharply increasing humanitarian needs, changing geopolitical realities, and shrinking humanitarian space”. The forum was organized by the European Commission and the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

During the opening plenary, Martin Griffiths Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations reminded us of the local and human-centered approach of our work, that “the humanitarian community therefore, it follows, must be driven by the people we serve.”

European nations representatives and numerous leaders from our Members debated on current issues relevant to humanitarian aid. NetHope European Members DRC, IFRC, IRC, Mercy Corps, and Plan also showcased their programs, some through digital experiences.

At the start of the forum, European nations, along with the European commission collectively pledged €8.4 Billion in support of humanitarian aid for 2023. Germany alone pledged €2.7B to protect the more vulnerable, including an allocation of 5% of its budget for climate anticipatory action. Many nations’ pledges were directed to relieving the consequences of the Ukraine war, gender equity, and global food insecurity. The total amount pledged is a great display of the generosity of European people who are also grappling with domestic issues. Yet these funds will still fall short of addressing accelerating humanitarian needs, such as the recent increase of 100 million people in need of humanitarian aid, forcing the humanitarian community to prioritize, a critical topic discussed at length during the conference.

Through the presentations and debates, a few themes emerged relevant to our Members:

  • The increasing gap between growing humanitarian needs and financial support. Around the world, 379 million people require humanitarian aid, more than the US population. This is not a statistic. These are people and yet only 56% of the funding needs are identified. This is a worrisome trend that NetHope’s Center for the Digital Nonprofit has been alerting the community about for a few years, and a renewed opportunity to unlock efficiency gains with digital solutions. Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General participating in a panel to discuss Soaring humanitarian needs and limited resources explained that financial innovation and the private sector are not working in “free falling” countries, in part due to the lack of humanitarian exemption to sanctions. He shared that “the countries that worry me most are the comprehensive emergencies with conflict on top of climate on top of sanctions on top of bad governance “.
  • The impact of a changing climate to humanitarian aid had a leading and noteworthy presence throughout the agenda and discussions. The consequence of a changing climate is deeply affecting humanitarian needs and responses. The discussions echoed the pillars of NetHope’s Climate Intersection program, of anticipatory action, education, and localization. Fanny Petitbon, Advocacy manager at Care led an inspirational panel on “Leading by example: One year into the Donor Declaration and charter on Climate and Environment.”
  • Despite ample use of technologies during the conference, including virtual reality experiences, we still noticed a lack of discussions of the potential to harness efficiencies, scale and agility made possible by the digital age.

Following Congolese-Swedish artist Tusse singing “I want to be someone who’s loved” and sharing terrorizing childhood memories, Swedish State Secretary for International Development Cooperation, Ms Diana Janse, closed the forum with hope “despite an often difficult political context severely underfunded appeals and daunting logistical changes the humanitarian system continues to provide an indispensable global public good.” she said.

NetHope is a nonprofit organization and consortium of the world’s leading humanitarian, development, and conservation organizations which collaborate across geographies and missions to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. Collectively, NetHope’s nonprofit Members deliver more than 60% of all the international, non-governmental aid and serve 1.2 billion people in 190 countries. Together, with our 60 Members and 70 technology partners, NetHope collaborates to leverage digital solutions for exponential impact.

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