Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller - Remarks at the Humanitarian Networking and Partnerships Week: Opening Session of the Inter-Network Day

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 06 Feb 2019

International Conference Centre, Geneva, 6 February 2019

As delivered

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

I am delighted to be here today to kick off the 2019 Inter-Network Day, which is a key event to strengthen cooperation across different sectors involved in crisis preparedness and response.

I would like to take a moment to thank our host, Mr. Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and the Government of Switzerland for its generous contribution towards the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week.

I was asked to speak today about the future of coordination in a changing humanitarian landscape. A big topic – and one that I am sure we could debate for hours or even days.

Rest assured, I won’t keep you that long.

In thinking about this topic, I kept coming back to one word. A word that is central to today’s event and this entire week. This word is collaboration.

Allow me to explain why this is so important. 132 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2019. If they were a nation, they would be the tenth most populous country on the planet. Humanitarians are maintaining operations in places that are experiencing years – some even decades – of conflict. And we are scaling up when new crises arise or when existing ones worsen. Many organizations are operating in some of the most dangerous pockets of the world, where civilians and aid workers find themselves increasingly under attack.

In short, the humanitarian community is facing unprecedented challenges. But the solutions to these challenges cannot be found solely in the humanitarian sphere. Only by working together, and adopting collaborative, holistic approaches, will we be able to address these issues.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Last October, I travelled to the Philippines, where I met Rakima. Rakima had been displaced by violence, and now lives in a temporary shelter outside Marawi City, which was almost totally damaged. She struggles to support her family and told me that her biggest wish is to go home, even if there is nothing left there.

While she receives help from humanitarian organizations, their assistance is not enough and is not the answer. Rakima and her community need support beyond humanitarian assistance in getting access to education and job opportunities for the long run. Most importantly, they need political solutions so that they can return home.


In order to address these types of challenges, we need to bring together humanitarian, development and political actors. But we also need broad collaboration among a wider group of stakeholders to create a better future for the millions of people around the world affected by humanitarian crises.

I want to quote the UN Secretary-General, who said last month, quote: “whether people like it or not […] the power of governments to solve problems is today much more limited. […] We need to make sure that we bring together the voice and influence of the business community, the civil society, the scientific community, and all those others that are essential to address together the very dramatic problems we are facing.” Put in other words, we are stronger when we work together. By joining forces as a global community, we can use the different skills, experiences and resources that we all bring to the table.

But this is not only about our strength in numbers. We need global collaboration because our problems are increasingly global and interconnected in nature.

In 2017, the World Economic Forum conducted the Global Shapers Survey, where they asked over 30,000 millennials from 186 countries and territories about their priorities, concerns and attitudes. When asked about what they thought were the most serious issues affecting the world today, a great many of them listed global issues, like climate change (which came in at number 1), food and water security and large-scale conflicts.

When reading through the list, I also realized that many of the issues they highlighted were very much related to humanitarian action.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Creating genuine collaboration among a diverse set of actors is no easy task. But we have so much opportunity starting in this very room to move towards this goal.

We have representatives of Member States, national and local authorities, civil protection actors, regional organizations, UN agencies, NGOs, the private sector and many others. We are already finding common solutions to some of our most pressing problems.

So, as you start the Inter-Network Day, I encourage you all to talk, network and seek out new ways to collaborate. Because only by working together will we be able to meet the extraordinary challenges facing the world today.

Thank you!

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