Agenda for Humanity Annual Synthesis Report 2018 - Staying the Course: Delivering on the Ambition of the World Humanitarian Summit

The World Humanitarian Summit was a landmark moment that launched a vital agenda for change. Participants made thousands of commitments to deliver the Agenda for Humanity, a five-part plan to alleviate suffering, reduce risk and lessen vulnerability on a global scale. As the implementation of commitments progresses, stakeholders must stay the course in their ambition to deliver results for the millions of people affected by crises.

In the second year since the World Humanitarian Summit, 152 stakeholders reported on their efforts to achieve the changes called for in the Agenda for Humanity, demonstrating wide support for the aspirations set out by its five Core Responsibilities. The achievements recorded by stakeholders on the online Platform for Action, Commitments and Transformation (PACT, available at between January and December 2017 contribute to the broader work of the international community to bring people in crises closer to the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Although still in its early stages, the Agenda for Humanity is beginning to reshape global and local approaches to preventing, preparing for and responding to humanitarian crises, laying the foundations for greater changes to come. Humanitarian-development cooperation is being taken forward at the highest levels of the United Nations and reshaping Member States’ aid strategies, while at country level, the New Way of Working is gaining operational momentum. Stakeholders are responding to early warning by funding and delivering early action to mitigate the impacts of crises. A group of committed Member States and international organizations have adopted legal and policy changes that are enabling new approaches, including direct funding of local actors and multi-year funding in support of collective outcomes. International humanitarian actors are directing resources towards strengthening local and national capacities to prepare for and respond to crises, while working to make international action more transparent, efficient and effective. The Grand Bargain and other multi-stakeholder initiatives launched at the Summit—such as the Charter for Change, the Charter for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action,
Education Cannot Wait and the Connecting Business Initiative—have laid the groundwork for collective action in key areas.

In spite of these real achievements, progress remains uneven. Some of the Agenda for Humanity’s 24 transformations have maintained momentum; some have seen progress slow as the impetus of the Summit fades, while others have yet to receive the attention they need. The lack of sustained and predictable financing for conflict prevention and peacebuilding remains a major impediment to more coherent programming across the humanitariandevelopment-peace nexus. The UN Secretary-General’s new vision for sustaining peace and reinvigorating the UN’s peacebuilding architecture should provide a much-needed catalyst and direction for guiding progress in the coming years. However, there is no such road map for curbing the devastating suffering of civilians in today’s conflicts, as widespread violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) continue unabated, and concrete measures to increase accountability remain elusive.

Progress in both of these areas will require a great leveraging of political will, leadership and advocacy that extend far beyond the humanitarian community.
Internal displacement remains relatively low on the global agenda, despite some positive developments in 2017. National and local humanitarian organizations remain under-represented in decision-making processes, in particular at the global level, and meaningful partnerships between international and local organizations need to be strengthened. Affected people still have little say in decisions that affect their lives, at both global and local levels, despite the efforts of a small group of committed stakeholders to improve participation, transparency and accountability. Finally, little progress has been made to find new resources to meet growing humanitarian needs.
Mobilizing the political will, partnerships and resources to address the shortfall remains perhaps the greatest challenge in the years to come.

For the first time, stakeholders reported on the specific challenges they face in implementing their commitments. The greatest obstacle overall was the scale and complexity of humanitarian need, which again reached record heights in 2017. In this context, stakeholders reported that funding and capacity gaps were the top two challenges they faced, reflecting their struggle to deliver assistance and protection with limited resources, often in very difficult conditions. The need for better data and analysis was the third most frequently cited challenge. The humanitarian sector’s lack of capacity to gather, analyse and use data to inform decision-making was highlighted as a constraint accross all transformations.

Stakeholders also faced challenges in implementing the change agenda itself. The work of operationalizing commitments, and of turning ambitious pledges and well-meaning policies into practical action on the ground, has brought to light the structural barriers, legal restrictions and capacity gaps that must be addressed. Solutions to these challenges are especially urgent in efforts to include diverse voices, provide multi-year and flexible financing, and fund national actors directly. The lack of time and resources invested in doing things differently, and the reluctance to adapt entrenched systems, processes and attitudes, mean that, for the most part, progress has been limited to what can be achieved within existing humanitarian structures. Changes that require rethinking the established way of doing things, including those that call for the inclusion of a more diverse set of actors in decision-making, have made less headway. Finally, in the absence of a clear framework for measuring progress and outcomes, stakeholders struggled to assess whether changes are having the desired impact for people affected by crises.

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