The three-day Conference "Crisis and Conflict in the Arab World: Localisation of Responses" opened on Saturday December 16, under the auspices of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in cooperation with the Institute for Peace Studies in Oslo, the Hague Institute for Global Justice, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the University of Jena, Germany.
The Conference seeks to identify effective responses that can bring an end to conflict and enable recovery through a localisation of responses that have the potential to empower humanitarian action and reconstruction.
Dr Sultan Barakat, Director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the DI, opened the session noting that the event is the first of its kind in exploring the agenda of localization from a multi - and inter-disciplinary perspective in the context of peacebuilding, humanitarian, and development issues facing the Arab world. The conference, he added, aims to shed light on the local element to conflict resolution, working towards a better understanding of local culture and its role in ending conflict, better management of humanitarian resources, and the distribution of aid in a manner that preserves the dignity of those affected. He also referred to the World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul in May 2016 that affirmed the importance of localizing humanitarian response.
The Humanitarian Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, His Excellency Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Meraikhi, in his opening speech, emphasized some key points he believes are vital to consider when providing humanitarian aid. The first, he noted, is understanding the needs and culture of people if wanting to make the most of humanitarian aid, and prevent it from going to waste by providing aid that is unsuited to the local needs or that conflicts with their culture. Such an approach entails considering people's dignity and provide aid in a culturally sensitive manner so as to avoid causing embarrassment or damage. This, he added, must be achieved by means of specific mechanisms and prior coordination with key actors in the communities affected, given their expertise and knowledge of their communities.
Humanitarian aid must also come in tandem with development when dealing with conflicts and crises over the long term, he added, so as to ensure sustainability. This, he stressed, should be done in cooperation with local partners to identify priorities and draw up plans and mechanisms to implement the desired goals and follow up on them. Meraikhi also drew attention to the role of youth. The importance of benefitting from the energy of youth in local communities and giving them the chance to participate in humanitarian action means capitalizing on their great potential to contribute, innovate, and accomplish. Finally, he pointed to the importance of relying on local leaders within affected societies so as to help define priorities and needs, and draw up a road map to achieve the greatest possible return from humanitarian aid, ensuring it benefits local communities.
The Conference continues on three main themes: a) finding solutions and changing the course of conflicts through local response; b) local responses to relief aid and reconstruction; and c) consolidating structures of local and regional character with specialist knowledge to solve conflicts and for humanitarian action.
The conference has brought together leading scholars involved in humanitarian work from around the world. More than 180 research papers were submitted, of which 25 were selected following peer review, and which will be subsequently published in a journal.