Peter Maurer, the president of the Swiss-led International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) listed urban warfare, funding gap, forgotten conflicts, helping vulnerable people set up businesses, and making better use of digital tools as key challenges for the humanitarian sector in 2018.
Speaking as part of a panelexternal link at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday Maurer refuted the claim that humanitarian organisations failed to act in time in Myanmar to protect the Rohingya people despite awareness of tensions.
“You rarely know when the degradation and spiral will happen. We see fragile contexts but don’t know which ones will blow up on our face,“ he said. He spoke to swissinfo.ch about the displacement of Rohingya.
'Big 5' challenges
Maurer also listed some of the key challenges for the humanitarian sector in 2018. He warned that the trend for urban warfare will continue and that small impacts in densely populated areas can have big impacts. Humanitarian organisations will have to focus on reconstruction and rehabilitation of urban environments, he said.
Maurer added that those outside the traditional humanitarian circles must be encouraged to help. According to him, the business community has a role to play in helping vulnerable, displaced people start businesses by providing money, skills and knowledge.
Another role for outsiders, is helping bridge the gap between needs and capacity of the international system. Maurer said this gap will only grow bigger in 2018 and can be addressed only through more and better finance. He cited examples of new financial instruments like Humanitarian Impact Bonds, impact finance and blended finance as future opportunities for raising money.
The ICRC chief also mentioned forgotten conflicts and people, such as in the Sahel, Lake Chad, Great Lakes and Democratic Republic of Congo. He warned that high visibility conflicts like the one in Syria were “sucking money away” from other areas whose needs were great.
Finally, he concluded that the humanitarian community must continue to look at the “digital capacity to do good”. Maurer said digital tools in the areas of cash transfers and data analysis will become more important than ever in crisis situations.