AAfter the devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey – the latter of which is reeling from two powerful aftershocks – the global humanitarian ecosystem appears to have once again failed to serve its purpose.
Domestic pressure and international politics have come under the grip Disparity in the way international rescue, relief and rehabilitation assistance is provided to thousands of Syrians Compared to peers in Turkey who deserve the same care and attention.
Time and barrier-free access are key to humanitarian response to disasters. I learned this while mocking up rapid response exercises in an imaginary country from some dedicated people at the Victorian Emergency Management Institute.
I am a former war correspondent in Afghanistan and the week-long Essentials of Humanitarian Practice course in Melbourne helped me to trace the history of many of our households in the region, how they are coping or failing. International politics.
The setup designed for the training was fictional, but what we’re seeing in places like Syria and Afghanistan are not mock drills for the worst kinds of disasters but a toxic cocktail of arrogant human policies overlapping with natural disasters. Our global humanitarian ecosystem has no solution for this, it seems.
The recent twin earthquakes of magnitude 6.4 and 5.8 in Turkey are just another reminder of the power of nature beyond state borders, and the humanitarian response must be without limits.
Generally speaking, the Syrian regime is at odds with much of the world — and certainly with many of its own citizens. According to reports by the White Helmets, a rescue group run by the Syrian opposition, this is one of the main obstacles preventing aid convoys and volunteers from reaching those in need.
The Assad regime has given the UN access to only two border crossings from Turkey for thousands of earthquake victims, missing crucial time to save lives. We can add this to the list of atrocities committed by the Damascus regime.
Does this mean that we take this experience as a point of hope and leave critical human responses above and beyond all political boundaries? Of course not.
The First Geneva Convention of 1864 laid the foundation for many of the rules governing the mandate of humanitarian workers. Since then we have seen the emergence of a series of large organizations such as the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and many others. Our complex world today requires more robust and binding laws globally to be effective in preventing conflicts in the first place and to ensure universal rights and humanitarian access wherever, whenever needed.
Afghanistan is another horrific example of humanitarian support being left at the mercy of a brutal regime when the West abandoned the country to the Taliban, ignoring the needs of the country and its people. Sanctions now imposed on Kabul, particularly its banking sector, make the delivery of vital aid to the war-torn country nearly impossible.
The The World Health Organization suggests a third of the population In Afghanistan, approximately 28.3 million people will need urgent humanitarian assistance in 2023, a 16% increase from the 24.3 million people in need of assistance in 2022.
When the Taliban came up with their “gender-apartheid” idea of not allowing women and girls to work in non-governmental organizations, including UN agencies, there was some reaction from the humanitarian world but certainly not enough.
Another example of humanitarian aid being a victim of politics is the ban on several international non-governmental organizations in Pakistan following the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
All of these make headlines but so far no individual, group or country has been able to lead to a more effective and humane system that will not disrupt the delivery of life-saving aid to any corner of the world.
United Nations agencies as well as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies with its 192-member National Societies comprise an amazing global institutional network ready to come to the rescue of humanity when local governments fail in whole or in part. Yet, the potential of these bodies is largely exploited due to competing political influences that undermine the real resilience of humanitarian actors on the ground.
These groups need to have sufficient resources and power to replace constant appeals for aid with more sustainable methods.
When tragedies like the current ones in Syria and Turkey happen—we feel senseless stops at humanitarian activities and then forget. We need to make free humanist ideas like climate change, press freedom and gender equality a truly respectable global agenda. To achieve this, we must do some soul-searching and find a way to eliminate all obstacles to future assistance.
Otherwise what is happening now will happen again.