There are some grounds for hope. Under the leadership of President Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank has demonstrated its readiness to support the creation of job opportunities for those forced to flee to middle-income countries. The commitments made at February’s Supporting Syria and the Region Conference in London, where international financing – and trade preferences – were offered in return for job opportunities for Syrian refugees point the way forward, as do pledges to ensure that all refugee and vulnerable host community children in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are enrolled in school by the end of the 2016-17 school year. Canada’s strong show of solidarity with these countries, in resettling tens of thousands of vulnerable Syrians across the Atlantic, is an example to all able states, and should be emulated. The ‘Grand Bargain’ struck six months ago in Istanbul between the top 30 international donors and aid agencies endorsed a general shift towards the greater use of cash transfers as aid. September saw world leaders gather in New York for two summits aimed at tackling the global displacement and migration crises.
Crucially, the heroism and commitment of aid workers – in settings from Mali to Myanmar – proves that the fundamental humanitarian impulse is alive and well.
The task for donors over the coming months and years – possessing as they do the money, leverage and bearing, therefore, the responsibility – is to capitalize on that impulse, overcome the muscle memory of the past 70 years, harmonize their efforts, focus on outcomes rather than inputs, and break out of the moribund categorizations that events on the ground have long left behind. If the incoming UN Secretary- General can galvanize the necessary political and institutional energy to take such an agenda forward, then the world has a chance to radically transform the lives of those in Dadaab and elsewhere, and to build – for the first time – a humanitarian system worthy of its name.