Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) announced that it will not be participating in the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit, calling it a mere “fig-leaf of good intentions” that will not actually hold states accountable for their failure to address the humanitarian crisis in the world today.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon previously called on world leaders to attend the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which will be held in Istanbul later this month. But news that Doctors Without Borders will not be attending the summit reveals how little faith some international aid organizations have that the summit will bring about true change.
“We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations,” Doctors Without Borders announced in a statement on Wednesday. “As shocking violations of international humanitarian law and refugee rights continue on a daily basis, WHS participants will be pressed to a consensus on non-specific, good intentions to ‘uphold norms’ and ‘end needs.’”
The announcement comes mere days after a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital in Aleppo, Syria was attacked, killing at least 50 people, including one of the last pediatricians in the city. It also follows recent news that 16 U.S. military personnel involved in the horrific bombing of a Doctors Without Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan in October 2015 received “disciplinary measures,” but no criminal charges were made. These cases are not new. According to the organization, 75 hospitals managed or supported by Doctors Without Borders were bombed last year.
In its decision to withdraw from the summit, Doctors Without Borders called for greater accountability for these violations of international law, as well as greater attention to the refugee crisis, which the U.N. has said is the largest the world has seen since World War II, with nearly 60 million refugees in the world today.
On Tuesday, the president of Doctors Without Borders, spoke in front of the U.N. Security Council in New York City, and called for an end to the bombing of hospitals throughout regions of conflict. “What are individuals in wars today? Expendable commodities, dead or alive,” Dr. Joanne Liu said. “In Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, hospitals are routinely bombed, raided, looted or burned to the ground. Medical personnel are threatened. Patients are shot in their beds. Broad attacks on communities and precise attacks on health facilities are described as mistakes, are denied outright, or are simply met with silence. In reality, they amount to massive, indiscriminate and disproportionate civilian targeting in urban settings, and, in the worst cases, they are acts of terror.”
[Médecins Sans Frontières ]