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Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos: Lecture at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia - "The Future of Humanitarian Action"

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I am very pleased to be here today at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia to share some thinking on the future of humanitarian action.

Just as Universiti Teknologi Malaysia is working to become a global organisation by attracting international students and linking with other universities around the world, we in the humanitarian system are keen to expand our network of partners to include universities and other institutions. I was particularly impressed by your humanitarian initiative in Sudan last year. We need greater involvement by students and young people in humanitarian action --and from civil society, the private sector, faith-based organizations, the military and others.

The global humanitarian system as a whole is at a crossroads. It is time to take stock and reshape our thinking around humanitarian response, so that it is fit to meet the daunting challenges we face.

Today I would like to discuss these challenges with you. I hope many of you will leave with the sense that you have a role to play in humanitarian response efforts; that we can overcome barriers to cooperation and collaboration and develop a system that is truly global, inclusive and accountable.

Let me say a few words about the humanitarian landscape, which has changed beyond recognition in the past 20 years.

Global challenges like urbanization, population growth in some countries, environmental degradation, conflict, climate change and resource scarcity mean that humanitarian needs are rising beyond the capacity of the global humanitarian system to cope. Disasters do more damage, last longer, and have a tendency to recur. And costs are rising too.

Between 2004 and 2013, the number of people targeted for humanitarian assistance through inter-agency appeals – that is, the UN's humanitarian agencies and our partners – rose from approximately 30 million to 70 million. And the costs of funding those appeals doubled from $6bn to over $10 billion per year.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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