It’s the 5th anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria, what has meant a humanitarian drama just seen before during the WWII and, according to ACNUR, 4.715.695 Syrian refugees in nearby countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt or Iraq. Moreover, 7,6 millions of Syrians are internally displaced living an untenable situation.

The challenges coming from changing contexts in emergency situations make necessary the reflection on the effectiveness of Humanitarian Aid.

Last March 9th took place in the Ambassadors’ Halls of Arab House, in Madrid, the seminar “Humanitarian Aid Effectiveness: New Humanitarian Actors in the Middle East”, organized by FPSC’s Middle East Studies Centre (CEMOFPSC) in collaboration with the Euro-Arab Network of NGOs for Development and Integration (READI) and Arab House, being funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAEC).

This seminar made clear the necessity to discover the new non-humanitarian actors working in this field, and with whom it’s necessary to look for synergy.

Topics such as the way in which the humanitarian necessities of those affected by the crisis can be satisfied in an effective an sustainable way were discussed, as well as how humanitarian workers collaborate with local actors or what changes are necessary in the humanitarian field.

The seminar was opened with the collaboration of the Secretary of State for International Cooperation and Latin America (SGCIB) Jesús Gracia; Pedro Antonio Villena, Director of Arab House; and Jumana Trad, President of FPSC. With the first interventions was made clear once the crisis breaks out, Humanitarian Aid comes too late and with little room for manoeuvre, so that anticipation and prevention are really necessary.

Increase of the complexity of conflicts and the necessity to use proper mechanisms fitting the new humanitarian contexts

Francisco Rey Marcos, co-director of the Institute for Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action (IECAH), proposed to improve the common mechanisms of quality, transparency and accountability.
In his opinion, it is a challenge to preserve neutrality in humanitarian aid, “the main goal is to help every single victim, no matter which side they are in”.

The participation of local actors in humanitarian crisis

Rabih El Chammay, Head of the Mental Health Programme of the Ministry of Public Health of Lebanon, highlighted the role of public institutions in the context of humanitarian aid, stating the main problem in his country related to this crisis –with 1,132.000 Syrian registered refugees- is the lack of core resources. He also thinks it is necessary to maximise the resources available looking for synergy between the organizations and the agendas.

Izzat A. Zeidan, project manager of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees in Palestinian Territories, talked about the destruction and suffering in Gaza. He stated sometimes the most important thing is to guarantee human rights instead of meeting the necessities.
Amer Hizaji, President of the Association to Support the Syrian People, talked about the changing situation of his country during the conflict, “there are changing necessities, harsh winters and new offensives”. He also highlighted the relevance of trusting local actors.

The participation of non-humanitarian actors in humanitarian crisis

María Luisa Clavera i Maestre, General Director of the Spanish Association of Social Responsibility Management, emphasised the role of public-private alliances and companies in humanitarian aid.

Colonel Juan A. Mora Tebas, Analyst in the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies (IEEE), referred to the role of the Armed Forces, indicating their indispensable mission to guarantee security by being sure the basis and impartiality of humanitarian aid are not endangered.

The role of Religious Institutions in humanitarian aid was addressed by Riay Tatary Bakry, President of the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain, and Monsignor Audo, Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo and President of Caritas Syria, who declared humanitarian actors must look for “dignity, humanity, brotherhood and the common good”.

Finally, Blanca de Mesa, President of READI highlighted the fact that in Humanitarian Aid there is room for every single actor, being common coordination necessary to guarantee the effectiveness of its response.

Interview with Monsignor Audo, Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo and President of Caritas Syria: ABC March 10th 2016