FEEDBACK – The Foundation’s Talks and Debates : Putting the WHS into perspective

Posted by: on Apr 25, 2016 | No Comments

On April 12th, 2016 Handicap International Foundation invited Prof. Antonio Donini, a humanitarian issues and UN reform specialist, to try to put the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) into perspective. Is it truly, as many present it, a one of a kind international forum ? Or can it be seen as a further stage in reforming, improving the UN system ?



On May 23rd and 24th, the United Nations General Secretariat will organize in Istanbul, Turkey, the World Humanitarian Summit. Presented as the very first of its kind, the latter should gather between 10 to 15,000 international solidarity actors with the aim of providing tailored responses to the challenges arising at the outset of the 21st century: intensification of some conflicts; longevity of certain crises; shrinking humanitarian space; multiplication of attacks and threats made against international solidarity actors, climate change, technological and cybernetic risks, etc.
Specialist on humanitarian issues, Prof. Donini has learned to view the upcoming Summit with a critical eye, especially when it comes to the possible impact it could have on coordinated humanitarian action.


Prof. Donini speaks before HI staff members during one of the Foundation's Talks and Debates © Sonia Zdorovtzoff / Handicap International

Prof. Donini speaks before HI staff members during one of the Foundation’s Talks and Debates © Sonia Zdorovtzoff / Handicap International


His position indeed breaks with the dominant perception to some extent, as he does not see the WHS as the proactive event and breakthrough the General Secretariat would like to portray. On the contrary, during the Talk and Debate, Antonio Donini positioned the World Humanitarian Summit in the continuity of the UN reforms and shed light on the challenges of this period of transition, which concerns the community of international solidarity actors as a whole.


Prof. Antonio Donini, Feinstein International Center's research director at Tufts University © Sonia Zdorovtzoff / Handicap International

Prof. Antonio Donini © Sonia Zdorovtzoff / Handicap International

FYI Antonio Donini is a Research Associate at the Global Migration Centre of the Graduate Institute in Geneva and Feinstein International Center’s research director at Tufts University where he works on issues relating to humanitarianism, its evolution and the future of humanitarian action.

Moreover, for more than 25 years, Antonio Donini worked for the United Nations, where he held several positions related to research, evaluation and the development of humanitarian capacities. He was for instance chief of the Lessons Learned Unit at UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), where he managed a program of independent studies on the effectiveness of relief efforts in complex emergencies.


To watch Prof. Donini’s presentation in English or French, click here.


For further information :

  • “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Integration or Independence of Humanitarian Action” (in Afghanistan), International Review of the Red Cross, 92, No. 880, 2010. Disponible en français ici