Launch of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy

DFID, Save the Children and KPMG are launching the Humanitarian Leadership Academy.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP


Thank you for that introduction. I’m delighted to be here with you for the launch of the new Humanitarian Leadership Academy.

I want to say a huge thank you to Save the Children for their work making today happen…Jan Egeland for hosting…and to KPMG for the use of this venue and the support you’ve announced for the Academy today.

And to everyone here today that is backing this venture.

Justine Greening speaking at the launch of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy. Picture: Louis Leeson for the Humanitarian Leadership Academy.
Justine Greening speaking at the launch of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy. Picture: Louis Leeson for the Humanitarian Leadership Academy.

This is a hugely exciting and much overdue initiative which will help transform how the world responds to crises. It will enable local people, already on the ground when a crisis hits, to provide life-saving support to their own communities.

I believe that in time the Humanitarian Leadership Academy will play an absolutely critical role in helping to make our humanitarian system faster, more innovative and more cost-effective than ever before.

I know we are all here today to celebrate the launch but I’d also like to take this opportunity to put the work of the Academy into context by talking about the challenges facing the wider humanitarian system. And, a year before the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, setting out what I believe are the key priorities for meeting those challenges.

Thank you to Baroness Amos and Stephen O’Brien

I’d also like, firstly, to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Valerie Amos for her exemplary service over the past three and half years as the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

And I would like to wish Stephen O’Brien, Valerie’s replacement and of course a valued former DFID Minister and Conservative Party colleague, all the best in his new role.

The UK leading in emergencies

In the UK we have a long and proud history of helping those in urgent need.

When disaster strikes or conflict erupts anywhere in the world, the UK will be at the heart of the humanitarian response.

Since arriving at the Department for International Development two and a half years ago, the number and size and the complexity of humanitarian emergencies we’re dealing with has simply grown and grown.

  • In 2013 we were among the first on the ground in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan…

  • We continue to support the people of Syria after four years of brutal conflict…

  • Last year we helped to avert famine in South Sudan…and in Iraq came to the aid of hundreds of thousands of people trapped on Mount Sinjar with the help of the RAF.

  • And only last week we provided aid to Vanuatu following the devastation of Cyclone Pam…

And it is one year on from the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone where the UK has mounted one of our biggest ever operations. We are now cautiously optimistic that we can beat this terrible disease…though we still have a long way to go.

I’m proud of my own staff at DFID who go into fifth gear, working around the clock during major humanitarian emergencies like the Ebola outbreak and Typhoon Haiyan… And I’m proud of our heroic soldiers, medics and humanitarian workers who work in some of the toughest, most inhospitable places in the world, helping to give millions of people a lifeline.

The humanitarian challenge

But for all that hard work, at the same time none of us can be under any illusions…whoever you talk to today it’s clear that our global humanitarian system is being stretched, almost to breaking point.

Towards the end of 2014, 102 million people were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, compared to 81 million in December 2013.

Financing requirements in the UN’s humanitarian appeal reached a record $19.2 billion in 2014, with much of the growth in funding requirements driven by the most serious Level 3 crises.

And, as others have been saying, the reality is that we are facing ever more demands on the system, as we deal with the effects of a changing climate, growing populations, conflict and extremism.

We face a growing gap between needs and resources and it’s really up to all of us - governments, NGOs, the private sector, humanitarian and development actors - to work out how we can forge new alliances and a new business model for preventing and responding to humanitarian emergencies…

…And a 21st Century approach that will go beyond an objective of providing immediate relief and ultimately also help to build a safer and more resilient world.

Preparing for disaster

What practical actions can we take to achieve this? At DFID we have taken a comprehensive look at our humanitarian work and today I want to set out some of the work we’re doing, as we approach the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.

Firstly, I want to mention reducing risk and preparing for disasters.

Today natural disasters are increasingly predictable events…the science of understanding risk is improving all the time.

Yet current global investment in emergency preparedness remains extremely low…only 6% of humanitarian assistance is allocated to disaster risk reduction.

In the future it’s essential that our focus shifts from primarily being about responding to disaster to focusing on preparedness and building resilience. This approach saves lives, saves livelihoods and, frankly, saves money.

At DFID this is now a top priority with several projects working on this. For example we are investing £38million in the first ever joint UNICEF, UNHCR, OCHA and World Food Programme disaster preparedness project. This project is pre-positioning relief items locally so humanitarian responses can kick off immediately after disaster hits.

Serving people in disasters and emergencies

Secondly, we need to respond effectively to serving people in all disasters and emergencies: natural disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan, protracted crises like in South Sudan and conflict settings such as Syria. Each of these situations present different challenges.

But however different, we need to ensure support for those most at risk when a disaster strikes. This is why I’ve made protecting women and girls in emergencies a key priority.

Since 2012, the UK has increased six-fold, our programming to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies.

And in 2013 I brought together Governments, the UN, NGOs and Civil Society in London to sign a ground-breaking communique which is based on the principle that keeping girls and women safe is a life-saving priority in an emergency.

The former Foreign Secretary William Hague has also done vital work putting these issues under the spotlight - hosting the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Conference last year.

It’s critical that we keep up the momentum and continue driving all of this up the global agenda.

There are also increasing challenges around getting aid to civilians under fire, with humanitarian access in conflicts like Syria shrinking.

The UK played a key role backing the UN Security Council Resolution 1265 which strengthened the legal framework to allow safe access across the border into Syria.

We’re also thinking about medium and long-term strategies for the people whose worlds are really turned upside down by crises.

We have to realise that humanitarian emergencies that clear themselves up in 1 or 2 years, are the exception not the rule. Two thirds of refugees in the world and more than half of those internally displaced have been displaced for more than three years.

Our humanitarian responses, which focus on immediate, life-saving relief, are simply not set up to deal with this.

For example, in Syria there is a clear risk that without urgent action a whole generation of children will grow up with no education, no skills, no jobs, no hope for the future – and all too vulnerable to the toxic messages of extremism.

That’s why in 2013 I helped set up the No Lost Generation Initiative to call on the international community to give these children an education and a future.

Since then we’ve seen significant increases in funding from around the world. The UK has dedicated £94 million specifically for the protection, trauma care and education of children affected by the Syria crisis. More resources are needed.

But we also need to bring this approach to other protracted crises beyond education, including livelihoods and day to day healthcare, for example access to family planning.


A third crucial part of a humanitarian system fit for the 21st century is investing in innovation.

For example the UK-funded Jakarta Flood Alert monitors water levels in high-risk areas of Indonesia and provides warnings through social media.

We also invested in GloSea4, the UK Met Office’s state-of-the-art weather forecasting system, which predicts the onset of monsoon rains in Africa where millions depend on rain for crops.

Innovation is also about the way we do things after emergencies have happened. For instance, there is mounting evidence that delivering humanitarian assistance in the form of cash transfers is more effective, cheaper and preferred by affected communities…yet in-kind programming still predominates.

DFID has established an independent panel of leading finance, technology and aid experts, which meets for the first time this Friday, to identify ways in which we can bring cash to scale and realise its full, transformative potential.

Improving the effectiveness of humanitarian action

The final area to be tackled is improving the overall effectiveness and ability of humanitarian action to respond to the sheer scale of crises we face.

This of course means doing everything I’ve been talking about…building resilience, coming up with long-term solutions for people caught up in protracted crises, investing in the latest innovations and technology…

But ultimately at the heart of every humanitarian effort are the people who organise and deliver complex work on the ground so investing in people is the most fundamental thing we can do to improve our humanitarian responses. That’s why today’s launch is so important.

At the moment in every major emergency there are still significant numbers of people on the ground who don’t have all the skills, the training and the practical support that they need to be working as effectively as they could.

In particular, we know that it’s local workers and local NGOs that suffer the most from a lack of high quality training, and we know local capacity is invariably at its weakest in the most high-risk countries.

Yet it’s these groups who are so critical to survival in the immediate aftermath of a disaster…as well as in places like Syria where access for international staff to deliver aid is collapsing.

As we’ve heard, this Academy will provide high quality training to people engaged in humanitarian and resilience work from around the world - but with a particular focus on local and national organisations in those countries that are most vulnerable to crisis.

I’m therefore very pleased to announce today that the UK will invest up to £20million in this Academy.

This will help the Academy to train 100,000 humanitarian workers and provide professional development to 150,000 people over the next five years. Ensuring they have access to the very best global practise for handling every stage of a crisis whether that’s how to stop cholera after flooding or how to help the victims of sexual violence in conflict zones.

Ultimately I believe the Academy will serve as a global clearing house for sharing the latest research and life-saving technology and the very best ways of working in every type of emergency.

I want to urge others to step up and support this vital initiative too – other donors, other governments, and private sector companies too. It’s essential the Academy draws on expertise from the private sector - who are increasingly major players in humanitarian emergencies.


I want to wrap up by saying that the World Humanitarian Summit next year provides a critical opportunity to forge new alliances between development, humanitarian and climate actors, governments and the private sector…

…And before then, 2015 also offers unprecedented opportunities to put our humanitarian system under the spotlight.

In July we have the Financing for Development Conference in Addis…in September the UN agrees the next set of global development goals…and finally in November we have the Climate Change Conference in Paris.

It’s really critical that we are using all of these moments to deliver tangible change for the poorest and most vulnerable people - and we can’t do that unless our humanitarian system is at the centre of these discussions.

Building a better, faster, 21st Century humanitarian system is a shared challenge and a shared opportunity for all of us. I hope that today’s launch can be part of how we seize the opportunity to build a safer, more resilient and more prosperous world.

Thank you.

Published 25 March 2015