Our second regional coordination meeting in Morocco took place in Rabat from 26th-28th January 2015 and was attended by 60 participants from 13 different Arab countries. It was organised in partnership with our hosts ISESCO as well as Qatar Charity and Al Waleed Foundation. The purpose of this meeting was to review the emerging recommendations from the MENA civil society consultations already held and to further consolidate those recommendations, especially those that represent the collective voice, concerns and aspirations for the WHS in three areas:
1) Protection of civilians and humanitarian access,
2) Responding to protracted conflicts and building resilience,
3) Financing and coordinating humanitarian action.
Some of these recommendations are below.
First theme: protection of civilians and humanitarian access
We as humanitarian NGOs, have a duty to raise the awareness of International Humanitarian Law and human rights among society and promote its respect. We also have the duty to monitor these violations and hold responsible all those who cause human suffering during crises, whether individuals or organisations, and push for accountability whether through national or international courts.
It is important to create a database that documents and monitors humanitarian needs at times of crises, and violations of international humanitarian law. Humanitarian actors will jointly feed the database with information that can be utilized in international platforms to expose violations of international humanitarian law and advocate on behalf of the affected groups without politicising humanitarian issues.
The ambiguity of the “War on Terror” concept and how it is used to classify specific aid workers or humanitarian organisations has caused panic, confusion and uncertainties among actors. This led to deprivation of affected groups from their right to humanitarian services, such as restricting bank transfers allocated to help them. This issue needs to be addressed by all actors including the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to resolve the ambiguity.
Detailed and clear criteria must be defined for proper monitoring and investigating humanitarian work by professional bodies representing aid workers, government agencies, NGOs and donors.
We affirm the right of affected people to claim and access humanitarian services. Equally important is the right of humanitarian NGOs to provide services to those who need them. Affected communities have the right to hold accountable all those who prevent services from reaching the beneficiaries and bring them to justice.
It is significantly important to activate all multilateral and international mechanisms to secure civilian protection as a priority in humanitarian crises. Governments should work together to create safe havens and corridors for provision of humanitarian assistance. All humanitarian actors should advocate for respecting International Humanitarian Law.
In light of the United Nations Security Council’s failure to achieve peace, security, civilian protection and ending their suffering in many of the MENA region’s humanitarian crises, the UN should review its approach in addressing conflicts and develop more effective alternatives to achieve these goals.
The participants also encouraged the establishment of an international association or unions that that advocate for aid workers safety and develops their capacity to protect themselves, their families and those affected during crises.
Second theme: responding to chronic crises and building resilience
In protracted crises there is a call to shift from pure relief work into a longer term enabling development one with a focus on sustainable solutions and empowering affected communities to design and implement programmes that best respond to people’s needs.
We must establish a coordination body for humanitarian NGOs in the Arab world to do the following:
a. Promote sharing information between organisations,
b. Encourage joint response to crises and minimize resource waste,
c. Build the capacity of charities in humanitarian work
d. Influence decision-making at the national, regional and international levels and build alliances with others who are committed to humanitarian principles and IHL.
e. Manage an information network that documents and evaluate humanitarian responses highlighting lessons learned and best practices.
Highlighting the priority of the “humanitarian imperative”, governments and multilaterals are requested to fulfil their promise of facilitating humanitarian work and prioritizing the response to most urgent needs.
The concept of Islamic Waqf and its heritage in the region should be considered as a viable mechanism to improve response to protracted crises.
Important to continue promoting volunteerism in communities. Young people should be equipped to address humanitarian situations. It was recommended that humanitarian work added to education curricula.
Third theme: Humanitarian financing and coordination
National and local humanitarian response National legislation should guarantee partnership between INGOs and local or national NGOs. This partnership should clearly include capacity building of the national partner and exit strategy of the international partner. This will ensure sustainable work and expertise within the local community.
The impact of anti-terrorism laws. Some national organisations are working to remove their names from the blacklists. They are seeking cooperation with international bodies like the United Nations, governments and regional organisations. Trust needs to be renewed between humanitarian actors regardless of their backgrounds. A collective commitment to principles of transparency, neutrality, non- discrimination, ongoing documentation and evaluation of programmes needs to be reinstated.For recommendations related to specific countries, see our National Consultations pages.