World Humanitarian Summit


Dr. Selin Yildiz Nielsen and Rawdanur Cuma attended the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit at Istanbul, Turkey.

My 2 cents about the World Humanitarian Summit

As the name suggests, the ’summit' was ‘all Chiefs, no Indians’ and although there were several pledges made, it was mostly a lot of talk. We will see the action in the coming days, I hope.

I would have expected to see more refugees, and ordinary people from countries that are in dire situations connecting with the leaders.

That wasn't the case.

My consolation is at least there was one: Rawdanur Cuma, addressed the leaders in Education in Emergencies Special meeting. She said it all. “We want action, not sympathy!”

Ok my real impression.

First of all, it was a huge ordeal to get in the conference. You needed special invitation from the UN, and no more than two people could represent each organization. So the top of the tops were picked to be there. Also, there were side events which us, mere mortals could attend, and that was just the conference side of it.

The vetting process was really tight. First you proved that you were in the system, invited and registered from months ago; then after gaining access to the premises, you were checked again in another area with your id and had to provide your letter and papers again. There were about 4 stations you went through to convince people that you are you, and you had access.

Inside was a circus of very important people like head of states with large entourages. The more important you are, the larger the crowd of your entourage. Then, there were important people to the Aid World, they usually walked around with some people around them as well. There were Turkish state people, president, ministers, governors, mayors and people from disaster management organizations (Kizilay, AFAD, Red Cross etc.), large humanitarian organizations, and some NGOs.

I heard some conversations among these people I mentioned earlier, and there was a theme. The less important NGOs were trying to get to the heads of more powerful ones, and those were trying to rub elbows with heads of famous organizations and the heads of those organizations were trying to chat with the statesmen. Subject was clear. The tiny ones asking larger ones for money, the larger ones asking the UN or other Humanitarian organizations for money, UN and other Humanitarian organizations asking the governments for money.

Governments pledged millions, US and UK leading in the numbers followed by UAE and others, you’ll probably read about them in the news.

And then, there was Sean Penn, the celebrity raising awareness on the Aid issue. I can say one of my highlights was meeting him, and of course getting tongue tied, stuttering incomprehensible strain of words when his piercing blue eyes met mine. I am a human, after all.

Walking around with Rawdanur, I expected more people to stop us and talk to her. Ask her how she is doing and what she needs, engage in conversation with her, and see in real life what refugees really want.

Of course that didn’t happen.

People were too lost in their important worlds to notice her. But some did. The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, and the President of Ireland Michael Higgins, stopped their entourages, and made a special effort to chat with her when they saw her walking. She turned to me and asked “What should I say?” And I told her "whatever comes from your heart". And she said:

“Please stop the war in my country. I want to live in my own house again, you are a leader, maybe you can help me. I don’t want to be a refugee.” That said it all.

Plain and simple.

Don’t meet in expensive venues discussing how to make band aids, get together to seriously commit to solving the problems.