What is the World Humanitarian Forum?

On the 17th and 18th of April, the World Humanitarian Forum runs in London, bringing together prominent leaders from the public and private sectors. But the event comes with a hefty ticket price:  £650 (+VAT), to be exact. We speak to WHF CEO Feraye Ozfescioglu to find out more about the “premium” event’s audiences, its scale and the inclusivity of humanitarian events.

WHF CEO Feraye Ozfescioglu – picture by Aid & Trade

By Carolina Are

The World Humanitarian Forum

Inspired and organised by the official event management company behind the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016, the World Humanitarian Forum claims to be “a call for action” for the sector. It offers round-tables to discuss the future of humanitarianism, as well as showcasing a range of innovations and solutions. It is aimed at government officials, civil societies, NGOs, philanthropies, academics, media and private sector experts. And, according to CEO Feraye Ozfescioglu, it offers an important platform for thought leaders and officials to share their knowledge and expertise.

Picture courtesy of: Aid & Trade

The forum is split into four events: the World Humanitarian Forum,  International Disaster Management Exhibition (IDME), Emergency Show London and Aid & Trade. While the business-focused Aid&Trade London is now in its third year, it is the first year for the World Humanitarian Forum, which is an export from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.  Emergency Show London is also in its first year, showcasing products and services is for anyone in procurement across the emergency and blue light sectors.

Ms Ozfescioglu says the Forum is expected to attract more than 5,000 global public and private sector officials from over 50 countries. Guests include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Cherie Blair CBE QC and the First Lady of Turkey Emine Erdoğan. Other speakers come from across politics and civil society. They include a UN Assistant Secretary Generals; the former president of Sierra Leone; NGO directors; activists and actors.

Humanitarian Events And Inclusivity

The WFH is a timely global meeting, the organisers say: natural disasters and conflicts are affecting and displacing an increasing number of people; the number of people displaced by conflict alone has risen to 59.5 million compared with 37.5million a decade ago. Donor financing hasn’t kept up with this need, meaning that we urgently need new ideas and partnerships to help those affected.  The event organisers say they are working to gather a more inclusive audience. But the high ticket price – and focus on celebrity thought leaders – does not quite align with this ambition.

The organisers attribute the price tag to the scale of the Forum, and its four separate events. Ms Ozfescioglu says: “Putting together this scale of event is expensive, but still, we keep the International Disaster Management Exhibition (IDME), Emergency Show London and Aid& Trade free for delegates. The World Humanitarian Forum is invitation-only” and requires the payment of a fee.

Picture courtesy of: Aid & Trade

On the question of gender and diversity, she adds:

“Conferences tend to have more men than women participants. The panels are also generally more male-heavy. However, we are making serious efforts to have more women panelists and speakers. We have good representation of very high profile women who are excellent role models. We are also encouraging participations from Africa and Middle East – both as speakers and as delegates.”

Despite the WHF’s attempt at inclusivity in terms of speakers, the attendees will likely be less diverse, owing to the ticket price. It is, after all, a self-proclaimed premium event: and discussions of the future of the humanitarian sector will be firmly in the hands of business and political elites.

*Disclaimer: The WHF offered us a press ticket to the event, but we were not able to make it.