A 10 step manifesto for the world's humanitarians

Children play in a makeshift shelter after losing their homes to weeks of rain in Caracas November 30, 2010.
Image: REUTERS/Jorge Silva

We certainly live in interesting times. No doubt, these are disruptive times. Especially in these times, the mission of The World Economic Forum - to improve the state of the world - has never been more challenged or more relevant. The Forum has always embraced disruption, just as its members have always been humanitarians in the broadest sense. Improving the state of the world is a profoundly humanitarian mission.

The challenge for all of us - regardless of our politics, but especially for we humanitarians of all stripes - is to discover the positive opportunities in disruption and to denounce the dangerous downsides. To avoid being buffeted by today's political winds and ongoing global turbulence, we have to know where we stand, what we truly believe in. So here is my humble offering of a humanitarian manifesto, an expression of where we stand:

1. We believe that a better world is possible, and it takes all people of goodwill - whatever our faith, ethnicity, national origin, race, sexual orientation, and abilities - to make this happen. Even people of seemingly of less goodwill can be persuaded to take powerfully positive actions.

2. We especially stand with the lost, the least and the left behind. With the world's oppressed, with civilians caught in cycles of conflict and disaster, with the powerless. We stand with them; we advocate for them, and believe that they can own and lead their own change.

3. We believe in a seamless web of compassion that connects a homeless child in San Francisco or Shanghai with a hurting child in South Sudan, that suffering anywhere is a call to action everywhere. To the degree that we embrace this web, we build stronger communities around the world... and in America and Europe.

4. We believe that all nations and people are capable of exceptionalism, of transcending their own self-interests to help others. We see this exceptionalism in our work every day.

5. We believe that every act of selfless service and love is transformational - and that even self-interested acts count as well. Good often happens in strange and mysterious ways. Just ask frontline humanitarian teams who express and experience extraordinary acts of courage and grace each day.

6. We proudly promote pluralistic, multi-cultural societies. We celebrate diversity and differences, enjoy light-hearted, loving fun around our own stereotypes, and note that all people share the same DNA. Our genetic "genes" fit the same.

7. We support open minds, open hearts and open societies - while respecting local traditions. We build bridges and break down barriers - everywhere. We tackle root causes, not just treat symptoms.

8. Among many great global challenges, we ultimately see rising fragility and violence, increasing inequality and disparity, and a hotter planet as the defining issues of our time. We humanitarians will double down on reducing fragility and violence - while also doing everything we can to create opportunity and inclusion and a more sustainable world.

9. We believe that big social problems get solved when government, business and civil society work together, guided by three core principles: accountability/transparency, inclusive participation, and peaceful change. We catalyze these interactions. As much as we might wish it, there are rarely fast fixes or shiny solutions to big social challenges. As much as we might wish otherwise, we work with the legitimate leaders that exist - in government, in the private sector, and in civil society. We relish the opportunity to bring people together for the common good.

10. We believe (as prophets have proclaimed) that the long arc of history bends toward justice, equality and dignity... and that we each have a responsibility to accelerate the pace and flatten the curve - regardless of our politics, faith traditions, national origin, race, ethnicity, or any other characteristic of identity. Headwinds may blow; storm clouds may gather. That's when we get going.

Yes, these are turbulent times. And this is when we humanitarians truly get going. This is when the World Economic Forum matters most.

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