Was the World Humanitarian Summit worth it?
So, was the WHS worth it?
I really can't say. I was far removed from the high level discussions and, honestly, I don't expect or need very much from them. As everyone I talked to said, the commitments are fine and while one could quibble about certain omissions they are good enough to structure our objectives, principals and thinking for awhile.
At a more fundamental level, there was, throughout and minute to minute, an inspirational level of esprit de crop amongst everyone here. These are people who have, by and large, invested their careers and lives towards helping those in dire need and in some of the roughest places on the planet. This was a chance to come together under a global banner and talk, and think, and laugh. It was more than "networking." It was about seeing people that have been lost to the messiness of humanitarians' lives, digging deeper with those who you may have met in an airport or a stray HCT meeting, and meeting others who share your commitments to humanitarian action despite the shitty conditions, the shitty pay, and the shitty respect you get from people "at home" who have no real clue about the work you do. We came together as a community and are leaving as a stronger community. Some have criticised the WHS as being "too much talk." Honestly, I don't think there was enough.
The other striking thing about this odd, complicated, diverse, slightly crazy and prone to all kinds of rambunctiousness, community, is that it has really taken on quite a serious level of professionalism. There were countess side events on operationalising innovation, principles, evidence and the tools, platforms and technologies that support this. There was even one high level event with WFP's ED, the CEOs of Mercy Corp and IRC, and a senior executive at MasterCard who talked about shifting the paradigm to start thinking about affected populations as "customers." While I tend to balk at the term "customer" - I'd settle for "client" -the fact that people were talking in these terms signals just how much the thinking, approaches, and applications are changing.
So, was it worth it? I will let the cynics and doubters cloud the space with their thoughts and viewpoints. I will read as many as I can and consider the most thoughtful carefully. For me and for all the people I talked to, it was worth it. Could I do a proper cost:benefit analysis, as I'm wont to do in many instances? No. However, some things don't need to be quantified.
All I know is that I very much look forward to going to the next one, 70 years from now!