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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, Opening Remarks at Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Weeks (HNPW), 3 May 2022


Virtual, 3 May 2022, 9:00 AM - 9:45 AM (NY)

Edited for clarity and length

Good afternoon, good evening.

And a warm welcome to this 2022 Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Weeks. It’s my first.

My thanks, as always, go to the Government of Switzerland and our good friend Manuel Bessler for their sponsorship and support for this really truly exceptional few weeks of learning and networking, engaging, understanding and making progress.

It’s a unique event. [Moderator] Kyoko Ono just reminded me that 7,000 participants registered last year – an astonishing number of practitioners from all over the world for constructive, lively, uninhibited discussions.
It’s the largest event of its kind and a mainstay of the humanitarian calendar.

We’ve seen participation grow from eight networks in 2015 to 53 networks now, and from 400 participants to the big numbers mentioned.

It’s a gathering that showcases the rich diversity of the humanitarian community: the inventors, the activists, the dreamers and the analysts. The diplomats and some of us UN people as well.

The events, panels, presentations and exhibits of the coming three weeks are free and show an amazing array of specializations and problem-solving. A wealth which is so unique to the humanitarian enterprise.

And it shows that the humanitarian tent is big and open to all. It’s not the monopoly of the few. It’s an obligation of the many.

It’s a global, collective birthright. It’s an honour.

Whether you’re from civil society, academia, Government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, or our own UN agencies, we all have a role to play.

I really hope these three weeks offer you an opportunity to forge new links, spark fresh alliances and – here, I am reading a phrase I can’t believe I am going to say – renew our professional mojo.

It’s not so much a conference as a festival.

It’s more inclusive than ever.

It’s a hybrid format that allows people all over the world to connect more easily. And it has a place for face-to-face networking, here in Geneva.

I don’t need to remind anyone here what I have the obligation to tell so many other audiences.

You know how difficult things are for millions of people around the world in need of humanitarian assistance. 2022 was already going to be very difficult.

Humanitarian needs and funding requests have hit new highs.

We all know what we’re up against: conflict, disasters, hunger, forced migration, the climate crisis, economic and political upheavals, COVID, you name it. There is no end to this litany of man-made causes of the misery that we have the privilege to address.

And then, on top of all that, the Ukraine war happened. Many of us have been involved in this particular crisis: the violence, the cruelty, the pain, the destruction, all of which we see in many parts of the world.

The shockwaves from Ukraine have rocked the entire world and that’s what makes it a consummate crisis for us.

It’s also been a reminder of how desperately needed the work you do is. And how celebrated it is when those occasional moments of success poke through the stories of suffering and misery: The enduring promise of humanitarian action.

Amongst the inhumanity which we see all around us, you all, we all, keep going.

From the tiniest volunteer group – and I started in the humanitarian world as a volunteer – to the great economists of the World Bank, humanitarians work together, shoulder to shoulder.

One of the great advances I have seen in the many years that I have watched the humanitarian enterprise is the degree to which we work more and more closely together.

I was struck by Kyoko’s examples of how the networking and discussions we will have in these next three weeks will have a direct impact in the field and in the efforts that she makes to help the Rakhine.

Many say the media and international public have short memories and a selective attention span. That they care more about this crisis. They’ll forget about it. And they move on.

They may do that. It may be true. It’s partly true.

But we don’t. We shouldn’t. We can’t.

So, while we may be scaling up in Dnipro or Lviv or even in Kyiv, we’re staying and pushing on in so many other places around the world. And we shine the light on those many other places and those many other people.

The themes for you this year cover not just what we do but how we do it.

I spend a lot of time on the crises of the moment. But it’s incumbent on me, as it is I think on everybody else, to hold on to a longer view and a bigger question, which is: How can we do better?

How can we be more accountable to affected people?

How can we preserve basic services?

How can we remove the way in which humanitarian assistance sometimes dislodges the structures of the State and its response to people?

How can we be diverse?

How can we be culturally inclusive?

All of these things that are true for many other professional communities across the world are really true for us.
The agenda this year is ambitious. Nine areas to look at – and I have just mentioned some of them – Accountability to Affected People, Climate, Localization, the Nexus, Anticipatory Action, Security, Inclusion, Culture, and Pandemics.

It’s a broad canvas and it would be difficult to exclude any of those issues. And in addressing them we do so not out of interest but with the need to be more effective in our action.

So, we need to deepen and broaden our rich community.

And that’s what this three-week process tells us.

It’s the depth and breadth of the humanitarian community.

The range of different backgrounds.

The extraordinary inclusion of different cultures, but all held together by a belief in certain values and a commitment to a certain kind of world and a certain kind of way of life.

It’s bound up in the need to respect the individual and to provide each individual with a prospect for a future and for safety.

Thank you.


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