At a time when humanitarian action is facing mounting challenges across the globe, the guiding principles of the humanitarian action urgently need to be better understood. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the House of Wisdom - a Gaza based think tank - joined efforts in co-organizing the third Humanitarian Diwan on the theme "People in Gaza need more than humanitarian aid." This forum was established in 2019 to strengthen dialogue and mutual understanding between civil society, community leaders and the ICRC in Gaza.
In Gaza, the uncertainty that conflict and the closure brings has become a cyclical norm for many who have survived five rounds of hostilities and countless escalations. With the emergence of new conflicts, or the intensification of existing ones, community representatives indicated that many of them and those they represent feel forgotten. The results of a recent online poll, conducted by the ICRC amongst Gaza's residents on the impact of 15 years of restrictions on the movement of people and goods imposed mainly by Israel, provide further insight into challenges that families and communities across Gaza face.
The majority of respondents (87%) believe that they live an abnormal life compared with other societies around the world. According to them, this is mainly caused by the conflict in Gaza, followed by the restrictions of movement imposed on people and goods as well as the internal Palestinian political divide. 94% of the respondents believe that the past 15 years have had a negative impact on at least one aspect of their lives, be it quality of life, health, mental health, income, or social life.
"In the absence of security and stability as well as the increase in needs for assistance, humanitarian aids alone are not enough to get the Palestinians out of the reality of misery and deprivation,"
said Dr. Ahmed Yousef, Head of House of Wisdom, in his speech.
Discussions focused on how to maintain a neutral space in the context of increasing politicization of principled humanitarian action. Together, the participants discussed how humanitarian workers need to overcome challenges of access and lack of understanding. It also explored how to build and reinforce trust and support for neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian action in times of increasingly complex crises.
"I had the opportunity to exchange ideas with different people who participated in the Diwan. They expressed their sense of uncertainty about what the future will bring to their families. As a humanitarian organization, we do believe that only political solutions can bring sustainable improvement to resolve the deep humanitarian crisis in Gaza."
– Mirjam Muller, Head of ICRC in Gaza.
In a nutshell, the Diwan recognized the key role that community leaders play in promoting humanitarian values and creating a conducive environment for neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian action. Furthermore, it explored the persistent need of communities for sustainable solutions to address the humanitarian consequences of conflict, occupation and closure in Gaza. Moreover, it reaffirmed the key role that continuous participatory dialogue and trust-building plays between the ICRC and communities in Gaza.