Memories of the reception

On June 13, Ville de Genève kindly hosted the launch reception for the Humanitarian Encyclopedia. Representatives of the humanitarian sector, academia and friends of the project enjoyed a beautiful flow of keynotes, welcome addresses, cocktails and networking opportunities.

The formal reception hosted by the Mayor of Geneva Rémy Pagani was followed by a welcome address by the Ambassador of Switzerland to the United Nations Valentin Zellweger. They both underlined the importance of this project for International Geneva;  and Ambassador Zellweger to continue that, as the humanitarian sector transformed itself in (…) different ways, a process of systematization and professionalization of humanitarian action had tried to make the humanitarian sector more efficient, more effective, and more accountable to the affected populations. The Ambassador added that with the empowerment of local actors and the systematic involvement of affected populations came the realization that each crisis had its own specificities – its own history and its own narrative and that this implied that (…) key humanitarian concepts and approaches would be understood very differently. He concluded that it was (…) of vital importance to engage in an in-depth analysis of core humanitarian concepts and provide a shared framework of reference (read the full speech here).

Prof Doris Schopper, Director of CERAH,  took up from there and put the Humanitarian Encyclopedia in context by explaining why, in the first place, CERAH had come up with that ambitious idea to create a common and living repository of knowledge on humanitarian action: ” It all started with our students who are humanitarian professionals coming from all regions of the world, who have various disciplinary backgrounds and have worked with different organizations. They represent today’s plurality of the humanitarian sector. Throughout their training at CERAH they exchange among each other and they are confronted with the views of a wide range of academics and practitioners lecturing at CERAH. And this can lead to some confusion. For example, when a central concept such as Protection is used in very different ways by ICRC and UNHCR, not even to speak of MSF, students ask us ‘where is the truth?‘. Well there is no truth and there is no place to look this up.”

Dr Hugo Slim, ICRC Head of Policy, offered the audience an enthusiastic keynote address about “The Geography of Knowledge in Humanitarian Action”, underlining the importance to create this project from Geneva, not in Geneva: “Although this new Encyclopedia starts today in Geneva, it will spread out to co-create and encapsulate a diverse geography of humanitarian knowledge that extends all around the world involving experience and empirical fact and the reason and moral values of many different people and places. If all goes well, the Encyclopedia can then accumulate knowledge, cultivate wisdom and redistribute power.” (read the full speech here)

Manu Gupta, Chair of the Advisory Board, and Marco Sassòli, Chair of the Scientific Committee, further developed on the added value of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia on their daily work and why this sound scientific approach is so important.

With weather gods being particularly kind, the assembly celebrated on the beautiful terrace of Geneva’s Palais Eynard to take discussions further and continue co-creating.

What a beautiful day!

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