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A humanitarian reset: impacts of a historic year

Time (GMT +00) 14:00 15:30


Sorcha O'Callaghan @sorchaoc – Director of the Humanitarian Policy Group, ODI


Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety @ReubenBrigety – Former United States Ambassador to the African Union and Vice Chancellor of University of the South, Tennessee

Nasra A. Ismail @Nas_Isms  Humanitarian Expert, Somalia

Ben Ramalingam @benramalingam  Lead Consultant, Innovation for Development, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Hugo Slim @HSlim_Oxford  Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford


2020 has been a momentous year. But will it force a reset, or a rethink, of a humanitarian system highly resistant to change?

As the year has worn on, traditional assumptions about crisis, fragility and solidarity have been overturned. Soaring coronavirus death rates and crisis mismanagement in richer countries have called into question traditional assumptions of a ‘competent global North’ and ‘struggling global South’. The civil unrest in the US in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and in the run up to the Presidential election have raised questions about what constitutes a fragile state.

The acute crises of 2020 come together with longer-term global challenges including the rise of populist nationalism and the accompanying retreat from multilateralism, the erosion of trust in public institutions, and the sharpening climate emergency. Together, they have created a uniquely unstable moment in which systems and hierarchies previously taken for granted seem suddenly open to question.

Looking forward, how will the combination of a global recession, greater attention to racism in the humanitarian sector and restrictions on international aid actors, shift international humanitarian systems and champion local humanitarian leadership?