Hello, my name is Peyton, and I am a student studying abroad here in Vienna and interning for IFOR. Recently, I attended this year´s 5th Humanitarian Congress in Vienna, entitled, “The Future of Humanitarian Aid.” The Congress meets every two years providing a platform for experts in the international humanitarian field to listen to keynote speeches and stimulating debates to collectively gain new insights towards peace. What will aid encompass in the next five or ten years? Will humanity head towards the path of self-destruction or will the human in humanitarian prevail? It is vital to understand the past and present even to try foretelling the future. A well-renowned lineup of speakers, including federal ministers, secretaries, UN representatives, and more, attempted this feat of prophesizing and advising on how to conduct aid. Some of the proposed recommendations are to restructure economic assistance, strengthen international law, and promote Triple Nexus policies. Nexus is the configuration of humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding assistance in crisis areas to alleviate short and long term interventions. Even though a disagreement arose over semantics debating which actions are under the umbrellas of aid or development, it did not hamper the primary object´s punch line that immediate policy changes are imperative to the future of civilization. According to UN Joint Operations Center´s (JOC) Deputy Chief, Daniel Sheeran, the international community has spent $7.4 trillion on assistance towards Afghanistan since September 11, 2001, and the country is still in the middle of a disastrous conflict today. Some past actions have been beneficial but stated by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, it is time to do better. With the experience gained at this Conference and the continual guidance of IFOR, my eyes are opened to new possibilities of peace through the work of NGOs.
Let´s be Proactive
Interlaced within every section of the Conference was how to be proactive instead of reactive. It is the norm to hold annual fundraisers to address current problems at hand, which may include urgent funds to mitigate floods or epidemics. In contrast, the speakers asked us to broaden our minds to think unconventionally. Instead of using the entirety of international resources towards immediate catastrophes, governmental bodies should delegate some of the funds and resources to projects that work towards enhancing humanitarian aid systems and altering destructive human behavior. One could use the analogy of the gun and murder to explain a need for behavioral change. The gun is not the murderer, but it is the behavior and circumstance of the man that creates atrocities. Therefore, we must reduce the risk of violence by disarmament and dissolving the need for man to behave in a disruptive manner. The goal is to alter methods for a long-term effect. It is this mentality to teach a man to fish and to adjust behavior, that will propel humanitarian assistance into the future. Funds should be fundraised over a span of a few years rather than annually to keep projects afloat, international law should be strengthened to keep powerful countries accountable and to limit legalities of war, academics should analyze current systems to recommend improvements to Nexus policies, and aided communities should become independent actors instead of relying on dependency.
Attending the Congress in the prominent University Wien hall that possesses a historically influential past, I reflected on my work at IFOR. While at the office, I am immersed in remarkable peacebuilding teachings and literature at a micro level. Thus, it was inspiring to see a large room filled with prominent humanitarians that share the common goal of making the world a better place. Throughout the Congress, it seems that the peacebuilders´multilateral Triple Nexus might hold the power to make a desired change. It is through development, peacebuilding, and humanitarian aid, where improvements will occur. Diplomacy between nations and enhancements of policies, especially concerning climate change, counterterrorism, and arms trade restrictions, can tackle the complexities of the world, but it is the NGOs, like IFOR, that will assist in elongating behavioral change. And it is the NGO that will be on the ground working with communities and fostering independence. From what I gather, NGO dialogues cultivate understanding and productive interactions between conflicting societies to obtain desired worldwide trust, in which IFOR has exhibited how meaningful dialogues and peacebuilding forums can reconcile and reconstruct regions. The NGOs might not solve every global problem, but it is a step in the right direction. During my time in Vienna and work with IFOR, I have learned that education is fundamental, progress is possible, and hope is indispensable. With hope in mind, the next 6th
Humanitarian Congress will speak of the field’s future successes to come.