On the evening of September the 6th 2022 in Berlin, the Global Perspectives Initiative (GPI) and Stiftung Wissenschaft & Politik (SWP) co-hosted an exclusive dinner event where selected guests from German politics, think tanks and non-governmental foundations were brought into conversation on humanitarian efforts in the context of conflict and crisis. The backdrop of the discussion was the urgent hunger crisis in East Africa where approximately 40 million face famine. The crisis – which was triggered by a severe drought – has been made worse by the war in Ukraine, where grain exports have been restricted leaving countries who rely on the imports with a shortfall. Observers have long warned the situation in East Africa risks being neglected as humanitarian efforts are diverted and as donor nations in Europe grapple with an energy crisis.
The President of the International rescue Committee (IRC) David Miliband gave scene setting remarks where he pointed out that when it came to famines and food crises, it often is not a ‘money problem’ but rather a breakdown in the response. Miliband went further in pointing out that there was a lack of alignment among donors and that there was room for Germany’s leadership in fostering cohesion in the donor community thus aligning humanitarian efforts and making the response more effective.
The guests learned that humanitarian organisations like the IRC are filling an important gap in that they are and can be present on the ground in places where multilateral organisations like the UN cannot reach for several reasons, some of those being political. These implementing partners can be more effective if they receive direct funding from state donors who currently give the bulk of their aid contributions to the multilateral institutions. In the case of Germany, the country has scaled back direct funding of humanitarian aid to implementing partners other than the multilateral institutions to just 13 percent.
It also came out in the discussion that there was room to engage Germany’s ‘Mittlestand’, the small family-owned business that account for the largest share of Germany’s economic output and make a significant contribution to the country’s corporate tax revenues. These investors were said to be interested in impact investing and do not necessarily want to work with the state.
The following points also came up in the discussion:
- There was a need for humanitarian response efforts to also address the root causes of the conflicts or problems that are creating crises.
- There was a need for humanitarian action to pursue a ‘feminist approach’ in supporting efforts to empower women and girls
- There is a need to grow the donor community where now much of the load is carried by only a few nations
- There is need for investing in data, and then in pooling and sharing the data so that humanitarian efforts are better coordinated
- Anticipatory measures, that make it possible to foreseeing a crisis and intervening to avoid it, can be very cost effective
Many of these ideas are long-term but there was an emphasis placed on the short term, where
action is needed. Indeed, the challenge resides in developing long term strategies to ensure
food security, while implementing immediate, innovative solutions to prevent acute hunger
crises. Therefore, there was a plea to countries like Germany and others that even as they
experience an energy crisis, this is no time for aid budget cuts. Those resources are urgently
needed and the response has to be fast and meaningful.
- Christine Mhundwa
Rhoda Berger, Project Management