x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dubai meeting throws spotlight on universities and their role in delivering humanitarian aid

The three-day Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development (Dihad) meeting begins today.

DUBAI // An annual aid conference will push for more partnerships between donors and universities to tackle critical humanitarian issues.

The 10th Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development conference and exhibition, which begins today, will put the spotlight on "building effective and sustainable partnerships in humanitarian assistance and development".

"The aim is to bring humanitarian actors and the developing world to Dubai to plan for aid discussions and policy work," said Brigitte Khair Mountain, a member of the group's scientific advisory board.

She said universities around the region and the rest of the world are involved in researching effective and innovative ways of delivering aid.

"Design schools are involved in designing new tents and collapsible jerry cans. This kind of research is primarily carried out by universities.

"A lot of research is happening on digital technology as well as phone technology, geographic information systems and global positioning systems … useful for environment monitoring, early warning systems and monitoring people's movements."

Valerie Amos, the UN under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordination, said the use of technology and social networking sites had mobilised communities to rally in support of disaster victims and become involved in relief work at a grassroots level. She said social media was radically changing the way people responded to emergencies.

Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is one of the key speakers at this year's conference. Mr Guterres will discuss the plight of refugees in the region, notably those fleeing the crisis in Syria. He is also expected to visit the agency's stockpile of aid at International Humanitarian City (IHC) in Dubai, along with Princess Haya of Jordan, chairwoman for the IHC.

Workshops are also being held on the sidelines of the conference.

At the first workshop yesterday, Khaled Khalifa, head of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs GCC office, stressed the need for different aid groups to work together.

"Effective partnerships should be inclusive, based on equal rights and take into consideration the benefits of people involved.

"We are seeing new and innovative models in the region. We are discussing the good models and success stories," he said.

The three-day conference will also explore solutions to food security, trends in the humanitarian sector and challenges faced in providing aid.

pkannan@thenational.ae