The French National Humanitarian Conference was first held in 2011. It is the leading French forum for concertation, reflection and dialogue for all actors of humanitarian action, including NGOs, international organizations, humanitarian donors, members of parliament, the government and corporate foundations. It is organized jointly by the Crisis and Support Centre of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and French humanitarian NGOs. The Conference underlines France’s commitment to humanitarian action and respect for international humanitarian law, as well as the strength of its partnership with field actors to address the sector’s major challenges.
The sixth National Humanitarian Conference was held on 19 December 2023. During the Conference, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna presented France’s commitments under its new 2023–2027 Humanitarian Strategy. More than 300 international and national actors, members of parliament, journalists, academics, policy makers and business leaders interested in humanitarian issues took part in the event. Three round tables were organized to discuss the implementation of the 2023-2027 Strategy and the main challenges of humanitarian action.
The National Humanitarian Conference has been held five times since its creation in 2011. Here are the main conclusions of these key humanitarian events.
The fifth National Humanitarian Conference, attended by the French President, was held fully online in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and involved more than 700 participants. The participants addressed various subjects linked to the humanitarian context. The Conference was an opportunity to carry out a mid-term review of the French Republic’s Humanitarian Strategy (2018-2022).
Various subjects were discussed, including protection of humanitarian personnel, the consequences of climate change for humanitarian needs, the impact of COVID-19 on humanitarian aid, how sanctions regimes and counter-terrorism measures affect humanitarian action, and strengthening ties between humanitarian actors.
At the fourth National Humanitarian Conference, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian presented France’s Humanitarian Strategy for the period 2018-2022, which scaled up the country’s humanitarian action and set a clear course, with far greater resources. The resources for humanitarian action were more than tripled and reached €500 million per year in 2021. This unprecedented increase in funding was accompanied by reforms aimed at improving the effectiveness of our aid through streamlining and transparency. The Minister also stressed the importance of coordination between the humanitarian assistance managed by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the development action of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency). Common response strategies were implemented, with a joint analysis of needs and coordination of calls for projects. The Minister also announced the creation of a capacity-building mechanism for local actors and underlined the fundamental importance of international humanitarian law in France’s foreign policy.
The third international humanitarian conference was held in 2016, addressing the future roles of international humanitarian actors in the aid architecture. The discussions were an opportunity to look at the recommendations of the report from the Secretary-General of the United Nations that was published on 9 February that year and resulted from long, inclusive consultations ahead of the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on 23 and 24 May 2016, with the aim of forging a renewed international partnership for humanitarian action. The third Conference’s work formed one of the contributions of French actors to the Summit. France advocated a series of measures to strengthen and facilitate the operations of the aid ecosystem, focused on populations, structured by humanitarian principles and fostering the diversity and complementarity of actors.
At the second Conference, the participants underlined the need for a comprehensive and multidimensional approach to address every aspect of a crisis. As prevention plays a major role, Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius announced a ring-fencing over five years of the French development assistance dedicated to prevention of natural disasters. The growing diversity of actors and the globalization of humanitarian assistance were and remain realities in a constantly changing humanitarian landscape, where NGOs, international solidarity organizations and traditional donors like States, the UN and the European Commission are joined by “new” actors on the humanitarian stage. Heightened coordination between donors emerged as a crucial dimension in ensuring effective and efficient interaction.
In the discussions held during the first National Humanitarian Conference, in the presence of Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Alain Juppé, the strengthening of humanitarian concertation forums emerged as an essential issue. The principle of a regular National Humanitarian Conference was approved in the context of increasing humanitarian needs. Global demand for financial support was rising in response to increasing large-scale disasters and ever more complex conflicts. The Conference recommended the drafting of a French humanitarian strategy within the European consensus, which came to fruition in 2012 with the publication of the French Republic’s Humanitarian Strategy (2012-2017).