Doctors without borders on the un summit: “missing the core problems”.

Next week, the UN is hosting the first "World Humanitarian Summit." Angela Merkel will attend, Doctors Without Borders have cancelled.

Ruin of a hospital in Idlib, Syria, which was supported by Doctors Without Borders Photo: dpa

site: Why aren’t you going to Istanbul?

Florian Westphal: The summit misses the core problems of humanitarian aid. In Syria, Yemen or South Sudan, millions of people need acute emergency aid, but they don’t get it because there is no safe access for aid organizations. But this is hardly on the agenda. Instead, the focus is on dovetailing humanitarian aid with development policy.

What’s wrong with that?

Development cooperation is important for stabilizing countries in the long term. In armed conflicts, however, one must first ensure that the most urgent needs are met.

Other organizations support the linkage, arguing that development cooperation can prevent acute crises from happening in the first place. Are they wrong?

Of course there are questions about the right linkage. The only thing is that development cooperation is always a political undertaking and is usually based on support from governments. Humanitarian aid, on the other hand, can only work if it is independent; and aid workers can only gain access to people if they consciously act independently. They must not concentrate on implementing political ideas.

Florian Westphal is executive director of the German section of Medecins Sans Frontières.

Apart from this issue, what expectations do you have of Angela Merkel, who will be speaking at the summit on Monday?

Last year, 75 hospitals operated or supported by Doctors Without Borders were bombed. We hope that the German government will reaffirm that such attacks must be truly investigated independently and those responsible held accountable.

Has the federal government done enough to do that so far?

There have been correct trends. Germany has, among other things, supported a UN Security Council resolution dealing with attacks on medical facilities. But we also expect the German government to use its bilateral contacts with belligerent states to really push for international law to be respected – through diplomatic channels and publicly.

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