The first ever World Humanitarian Summit takes place in Istanbul on May 23-24, but one of the world’s most respected humanitarian organizations will not be there. Doctors Without Borders announced it was pulling out, even though it helped plan the summit for 18 months. In announcing its decision, the organization acknowledged that the gathering has “never been more needed,” but also noted that shocking violations of international humanitarian law and refugee rights continue daily. They say the summit has become a “fig-leaf of good intentions.”

We discuss this decision with Sandrine Tiller, Programs Adviser for Humanitarian Issues for Doctors Without Borders UK:

Tiller says one of the big debates surrounding the summit is a recent push to combine development and humanitarian work. “It’s a bit like saying the ambulance guy should be doing health promotion activities,” she tells us. “Well, who’s going to man the ambulances? The humanitarian summit is asking humanitarians to get involved in ending need. Ending need is a laudable goal of course, but it is beyond the capacity we’re in. We’re in the business of saving lives, not of ending need.”

Additional Resources

Foreign Policy’s “The UN’s World Humanitarian Summit is a Total Mess

Doctors Without Borders report, “Where is Everyone?” which describes the shortcomings in humanitarian response, co-authored by Sandrine Tiller.

New podcast from Doctors Without Borders: Everyday Emergency

An op-ed from the former executive director of MSF-UK: Don’t blur the lines between development and humanitarian work

Aid Leap: Why we need to buy in to the World Humanitarian Summit NOW