On Friday, I had the honour and privilege of hearing the United National Secretary General speak at my alma mater, McGill University.
Ban Ki-moon shared an advance draft of his report “One Humanity: Shared Responsibility”. It paints a stark picture of unmet needs that must force reflection for us all. He keenly emphasized the importance of engaging youth in future humanitarian action.
He spoke of the 125 million people in need of humanitarian assistance; 60 million of which have been forced from their homes. That’s the highest level of displaced people since the Second World War. Only a few years ago the figure was 39 million.
Thirty-seven countries have humanitarian needs totaling $20 billion dollars. That seems like a lot of money. But is it really? Annually, the USA and Europe spend $17 billion on pet food(1).
Ban Ki-moon spoke passionately for the need to prevent and solve conflicts. Conflicts drive 80% of all humanitarian needs. There are so many occurring right now that it’s difficult to keep track. He called on young people of today to hold their government to account.
He also spoke of the innocent civilians caught up in these conflicts. “Every day, civilians are deliberately or indiscriminately killed in wars. We are witnessing the erosion of 150 years of international humanitarian law.” A timely point, so many medical facilities were bombed in 2015, notably MSF’s hospital in Kunduz and so many facilities in Syria and Yemen. Ban Ki-moon reports that “90% of people killed or injured by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians.”
The update is impossible to ignore. The challenges are acute and real and we must act. Ban Ki-moon finished on an optimistic tone: “Dream big, shoot high, have optimism”.
Check out the summary and link to his full report.