Cihan Sultanoğlu: One year after the World Humanitarian Summit

May 18, 2017

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Welcoming remarks by Cihan Sultanoğlu, UN Assistant-Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Europe and the CIS at the Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit anniversary meeting on 18 May 2017.


Excellencies, distinguished participants,

Let me begin by expressing my appreciation to the Government of Turkey, and to His Excellency Ahmet Yıldız, Deputy Foreign Minister, for the opening of this important event and for hosting us today in Istanbul, to showcase progress in advancing one of the major outcomes from the World Humanitarian Summit, the New Way of Working. 

The Summit was the first of its kind, a complex and important endeavor bringing together Member States, people affected by crisis, development and humanitarian agencies, NGOs, the private sector, academia and many more to agree on the changes that we need to make—all of us—if we are to better respond to the crises and the human suffering they cause.

Every day we see individuals and families leave their homes, their communities, their countries in the face of the effects of crisis and conflict.  About 1.5 billion people are estimated to live in countries affected by violence, conflict and fragility. Over 60 million people are displaced around our world, with 3 million of them hosted in Turkey, which is now the largest host of refugees anywhere in the world.

The Sustainable Development Goals represent a universal, integrated framework for a new approach to ensure we reach all those who are left  behind,  especially our fellow human beings who are forcibly displaced. We will not achieve this unless we make it a priority to work together across the development, humanitarian and peace and security pillars, with national, international, NGO, private sector and other partners, to jointly meet and reduce the needs of people in crisis, and to ensure that no one is left behind.

In particular, forced displacement requires not only humanitarian solutions, but also development solutions that tackle the root causes.  It requires a resilience based approach.  Development actors need to support community and national efforts to build resilience – including efforts to reduce poverty and to generate employment opportunities, including for women and youth.

The United Nations Secretary-General himself, in his inaugural address on 12 December 2016, reminded us that “we must […] bring the humanitarian and development spheres closer together from the very beginning of a crisis to support affected communities, address structural and economic Impacts and help prevent a new spiral of fragility and instability. Humanitarian response, sustainable development and sustaining peace are three sides of the same triangle.*”

The underlying motivation behind the commitment to a New Way of Working made by humanitarian and development communities at the World Humanitarian Summit, is working together at the country level to advance collective outcomes. These collective outcomes are at the center of the commitment to the New Way of Working necessary to more effectively respond to the immediate needs of the affected populations; as well as build resilience as an investment towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals populations by transcending the humanitarian development divide.  Since the Summit, we have also committed to working towards sustaining peace, and to closer collaboration with all relevant actors without compromising humanitarian principles.

On the UN’s side, we signed the Commitment to Action, which was the starting point to the rolling out of the New Way of Working with the endorsement of the World Bank and many others.

The New Way of Working is about coherence but very importantly, the coherence needs to be contextualized. There is no “one–size-fits-all.” It is also about breaking down the silos and working together to advance country-level joint analysis; to better align our interventions through joint planning to ensure that we are targeting the most vulnerable; to empower our country-level leadership to take decisions in a manner that responds to the needs on the ground; to coordinate more effectively; and to work towards multi-year, flexible financing with partners. 

In March this year, we went further in articulating the challenges and opportunities of the New Way of Working at the Copenhagen high-level meeting, where we agreed to support efforts led at the country-level towards more joined-up flexible, multi-year planning, programming and financing, for humanitarian action and risk-tolerant development engagement, especially in protracted crises and to prioritize prevention.

All of this is particularly important when we look at solutions to protracted displacement situations, an issue that has moved the world, and is very pertinent in this region, and to Turkey as a host to such large numbers of displaced people from the region and beyond.

In April, at the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC, we reinforced the importance of national and local ownership of the New Way of Working and, where possible, the responsibility of international actors to support government leadership of this approach.

In Washington, we also reiterated that this agenda is for everyone to implement, not only the UN. Governments, international and local NGOs, IFI’s and others have an important role to play in ensuring that we work in a more joined-up manner. International actors have an important role to ensure that solutions are driven by local realities and allow for local actors to take the lead.

In this connection, since the World Humanitarian Summit the UN system including UNDP, is moving forward policies and tools to advance joint analysis and planning both within each organization and with system partners. In particular, many UN country teams have shown leadership in reorienting  recovery and resilience policies to operationalize the New Way of Working and to work towards collective outcomes.


  • In Burkina Faso, the team has for the first time used the humanitarian needs overview to inform development planning to ensure that interventions truly leave no one behind and target the most vulnerable populations.
  • Similarly, in Sudan the UNCT and HCT are working to harmonize their planning, coordination and financing instruments to respond to a rapidly changing context.
  • In Yemen, the UN and the World Bank are working jointly to ensure that basic services are upheld during the conflict in a complimentary manner to the humanitarian response, with a vision to work towards collective outcomes in the long term once the situation allows for it.
  • In Ethiopia, international actors including the UN are working closely with the government to leverage an area-based approach to joint interventions that utilizes government investment in areas of extreme vulnerability.


Let me also highlight the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), which represents a strategic shift in the response to the Syria Crisis. It has provided an important umbrella for humanitarian and development cooperation. For example, the 2017-2018 3RP Turkey Chapter includes inputs and support from 11 UN agencies—including UNDP-- and 26 NGO partners working with the Turkish government in key sectors, such as: Protection, Food Security, Education, Basic Needs, Health and Sanitation, and Livelihoods. This includes a stronger focus on supporting national and local institutions,  including municipalities, and host communities.

This is only a snapshot of progress, and we look forward to hearing more examples and how we can push the envelope further from everyone here in the coming days.

This meeting in Istanbul, today and tomorrow, is another important milestone in our collective efforts. I would like to leave you with the following thoughts as you discuss the next steps of this work:

  1. We have the global policy environment. We now need to concentrate on making this a reality on the ground. This entails channeling all our collective support to country teams to enable them to operationalize the New Way of Working in a way that impacts the most vulnerable populations on the ground. This should be the joint starting point of our conversation here in Istanbul today.

  2. Change does not happen overnight and we need to be open to embracing the cultural and behavioral change needed to truly work jointly across communities, systems, and pillars. We fundamentally need to trust each other’s expertise, and be open to thinking differently about our own “old” ways of working. We need to incentivize collaboration and joined-up approaches, and avoid turf battles.

  3. It is important that we gather the experience from country-level work on the operationalization of the New Way of Working and utilize it for the benefit of others. This entails openness around discussing the challenges and innovation around finding new solutions to sometimes old problems.

  4. Finally, the UN is embarking on a set of ambitious reforms led by the Secretary-General to improve its own way of working in these critical situations. But the donors need to come to meet us half way, which is also the spirit of what we have committed to in the Grand Bargain. Incentives for better system- wide coherence to enable better country-level cooperation need to be at the forefront of these efforts.


The Agenda for Humanity declared at the World Humanitarian Summit one year ago has provided us with a vision. It is up to us, leaders and practitioners on the ground and policy makers in capitals, to make it a reality and to truly impact people’s lives. The challenges before us demand nothing less. 

I wish you a very fruitful conversation and look forward to hearing the results from this meeting. Thank you.  


*UN Secretary-General speech to the General Assembly after taking the oath of office, New York, 12 December 2016

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