The World Humanitarian Forum is a global call for action and brings together prominent leaders from the public and private sectors, as well as international thought leaders and pioneers from global aid and international development communities to engage in inspirational, thought-provoking, and future-focused dialogues which aim to shape the future of humanitarian aid and international development to help improving the lives of millions in need. This is an international knowledge exchange at the intersection of government, aid, development, future and innovation.    

The Covid-19 crisis brought the world to a sudden standstill. The economic impacts continue to look worse each day. Hard-won democratic rights and freedoms were already being challenged before the pandemic struck and are even more at risk now. The crisis has also exposed a lack of global cooperation and collective leadership.

The pandemic has radically altered much of our lives around the world in both the short and long term. It raised the stakes, accelerating the need for systemic change and radical yet realistic measures to recalibrate social values and provide more sustainable and equitable pathways for the future. The consequences that have unfolded serve as a reminder that efforts to reduce poverty, fight climate change and create an economy that works for all require bold change.

The world today has a unique opportunity to move from marginal changes to transformative re-development. Using decentralised models of growth, building on opportunities provided by digitalisation and artificial intelligence could ensure climate-friendly sustainable development with a more equitable distribution of wealth.

WHF London will analyse the future of humanitarianism, what the “Global Reset” will mean for humanitarian aid and international development and what exactly will a ‘Global Reset’ look like? WHF London will create a series of conversations across 2 days to interrogate global challenges and chart the practical steps required to create more resilient, equal societies and reimagine a world beyond the pandemic.


The times described below are in British Summer Time time zone.


Wednesday 19th May 2021

09.30 – 10.00: Welcoming Remarks

10.00 – 10.15: High-level Keynote Addresses: The Global Reset

High-level keynote addresses will be discussing building back better and year of hope.

10.20 – 12.25: Re-Definitions

10.20 – 11.20: Re-defining humanitarianism and system change

What does the “global reset” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic mean for the aid? As international aid reaches operational, financial, and ethical limits, what would it take to translate longstanding efforts at reform into meaningful and positive change? From decolonising aid to networked humanitarianism and the make-up of NGO governance, this session will take you on a thought-provoking journey as the panellists explore the future and redefinitions of humanitarianism. The session will discuss the drivers of change affecting international aid, from the increasingly protracted nature of crises, to the funding environment and opportunities offered by digital world.


11.25 – 12.25: Re-defining equality

Covid-19 has exacerbated the inequalities. From digital divide to gender, from minority rights to LGBT rights, have we misunderstood the basis of the term “equality”? Equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world, but what does this term mean in the wake of the “Global Reset Dialogue”?

12.25 – 13.00: Networking

13.00 – 13.30: Fireside Chat: The Future of Global Health

13.30 – 14.30: Re-Imagining Education In Global Reset Dialogue

Innovative learning pathways have emerged from far beyond the four walls of a classroom — from videos, songs, and games to WhatsApp groups and “zero-rated” education portals. These developments are making us rethink traditional views on how we “do” education. We must be vigilant in making sure that the coronavirus pandemic does not result in children dropping out of school and never returning. Is there any better time to re-imagine the future of education and its impacts in building better?

14.35 – 15.30: Preparing For Localisation

The Secretary-General’s call at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, that humanitarian action should be ‘as local as possible, as international as necessary’, has triggered a whirlwind of initiatives, processes and debates within the humanitarian community. However, not enough progress has been made. Covid-19 showed us that the stronger we are on the local level, the more effective approaches there are. Whether referred to as ‘localisation’, ‘local humanitarian action’ or ‘locally-led humanitarian action’, the humanitarian sector is grappling with what actions and reforms are needed to allow a more local humanitarian response and this session will explore the opportunities ahead in the context of Global Reset Dialogue.

15.35 – 16.00: Fireside Chat: Leadership

The response to the coronavirus crisis has generated a heated debate about international cooperation – or rather its absence. Some point to countries pursuing nationalistic agendas, and find international institutions badly wanting. They ask what has happened to the G20. Others leap to the defence of the World Health Organization (WHO), and cite the positive moves of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the EU. All agree, however, that the geopolitical context is in the process of transformation, in a multi-polar world where power is being wielded by new actors with different interests and aspirations.

New vision and leadership will be essential to dispel uncertainty, overcome the current crisis of legitimacy of the multilateral system and build back better.  But what new forms of global cooperation and leadership can emerge from the Covid-19 crisis? What shape should they take? What about regional structures and different networks of leaders, such as mayors of large municipalities, or civil society voices? And what new coalitions and ways of working could emerge?

16.00 – 16.30: Networking

16.30 -17.30: How To Build A Fair And Resilient World Where No One Is Left Behind

Leave no one behind not only entails reaching the poorest of the poor, but requires combating disparities and rising inequalities within and amongst countries, that are often their root causes. As a fundamental principle underlying Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, its emphasis on prioritising the plight of the most disadvantaged groups, if pursued with coherence and resolve, has the capacity to bring about transformative change. The Covid-19 pandemic has stalled global progress on many of the Sustainable Development Goals, join us in this session as we discuss what needs to be done to advance “leaving no one behind”.

Thursday 20th May 2021

09.30 – 09.35: Opening Remarks: Building Back Better

09.35 – 10.35: Keynote Session: Paving The Way To COP26: Mission Possible

We cannot afford to wait to act against the threat of climate change. We must work together to protect our planet and people and ensure a greener, more resilient future for us all. We not only have to highlight the urgency of climate action, but also help navigate the competing visions of a green future, as well as the complex choices and trade-offs facing policy-makers. The core question, ‘What has to happen next on the climate emergency?’ is not as straightforward as it seems.

The roadmap can be summarised as: Motivate; Mobilise; Manage; Repeat. COP26 comes at a right time. On the way to COP26, there is need to bring governments, business and civil society together to drive action across key sectors of the economy to reduce emissions, adapt to the effects of climate change and build resilience.

10.40 – 11.20: Fireside Chat: Food Security

11.25 – 12.20: Decade Of Action: Building Resilience Through SDGs

The greatest challenges facing humanity today – poverty, inequality, hunger, health, climate change– cannot be solved by just one actor or intervention, no matter how large the investment or will. The progressive shift of the government as the sole provider and funder of the public good has been supplanted by new collaborative frameworks between different sectors to better respond to the most difficult challenges in the development and humanitarian fields. Now more than ever, absences in global development require state and non-state actors to align interests and capabilities by building ambitious coalitions that match the scale of the challenges we seek to address in the humanitarian landscape. New alliances, increased engagement and different actors working together mean different funding structures available, broader resources, new revenue stream and innovative ideas directed towards enabling impactful social change. Within this framework, the willingness to engage in productive problem-solving oriented discussions is paramount given the need to acknowledge public pressure for change and increased demands for social responsibility. To achieve the Global Goals by 2030, articulated action is necessary and we are on the Decade of Action. 

12.30 – 13.30: Leveraging Youth: The Need For A Multigenerational Alliance In Building Back Better

The current pandemic has disrupted nearly all aspects of life for all groups in society, highlighting the need for more sustainable economies and more resilient societies. It is important than ever to listen to our young people and invite them to actively help co-design and build back better. An inclusive response to and recovery from the crisis requires an integrated approach to public governance that anticipates the impact of response and recovery measures across different age cohorts. Join us in this discussion as we address the challenges of today generational gap, for our aspirations to build back better and create an intern- generational society that leaves no one behind. You will hear the young leaders in this important session

13.35 – 14.30: Innovative Finance: New Models Of Financing

Climate change, food insecurity, inequality, poverty, the threat of pandemics and sustainable development goals: all require significant funding that goes far beyond what governments alone can provide. Through new partnerships, philanthropy and the development of creative financing solutions, we can bridge the gaps and address the world’s biggest challenges.

14.35 – 15.35: Cross-Sector Partnerships: Creation Of Value

Major shifts are taking place in the context within which partnerships are created and operate. and many are rising to the challenge, in a range of ways and driven by a wide variety of motivations. The private sector can provide new practices and perspectives that contribute to improvements. Therefore, leveraging the knowledge of the private sector into supporting the Global Reset and Building Back Better is vital for the future success. Whether this be expertise in telecommunications, sanitation or financing, the private sector can bring unique capabilities. This session will look at the biggest challenges to public and private partnerships while considering the role of trust, shared values and inclusive growth as business cannot thrive in a failing world.

15.40 - 16.00 Fireside Chat/ Keynote Address: Mental Health

16.05 - 17.00: Unlocking The Potential: Harnessing Innovation

The crisis we are going through will leave traces. We have the responsibility to build the fairer world that our children expect, one in which innovation contributes to the common good. We have used the term “innovation” to refer to the role of technology, products and processes from other sectors, new forms of partnership, and the use of the ideas and coping capacities of crisis-affected people. However, as with many emerging ideas and re-definitions needed, use of the term in the humanitarian system has lacked conceptual clarity, leading to misuse, overuse, and the risk that it may become hollow rhetoric.

A better understanding of the potential and purpose of the innovation cycle and an innovation mindset can bring great benefits in building back better and it is time to invest in innovation.

17.00 – 17.55: Harnessing Technology For Good

The COVID-19 epidemic served as a reality check in many areas. The response to the pandemic was first and foremost human, through an outstanding mobilisation of the caregivers, women and men working on the front line. Their service to the community showed how technology alone is not a cure-all. For many of us, the period was nonetheless substantially digital. Digital practices have experienced a breakthrough, helping to maintain social and family cohesion and accelerating adoption of teleworking, telemedicine, distance learning, and online access to culture and knowledge, among others. These practices, new to some, will not go away when the virus subsides. This great crisis brings many lasting transformations, and digital transformation is not the least.

Beyond paying lip service to CSR, Tech for Good companies, corporate groups and start-ups, will need to transform themselves and, together with the support of civil society and the research community, find development models that put digital at the service of humanity, rather than the other way round. The session will provide an opportunity to collectively draw attention to actions that have been undertaken, and to explore how to mobilise digital technology and artificial intelligence responsibly to meet major humanitarian challenges.

17.55 – 18.00: Closing Remarks 

Timeline and agenda are subject to change.



Each convening of the World Humanitarian Forum is focused on  bringing together a rich selection of world-class, expert speakers  from across the globe. Our Thematic Theatres provide an innovative  platform for these thought leaders to tackle ‘head-on’ the key  issues and challenges facing the sector today. These sessions cover a range of topics, including Tech For Good, Innovation, Supply  Chain Management, International Development, and Finance and  Funding. By initiating themed discussions in front of an international  audience, these theatres inspire attendees and deepen the industry’s  understanding of key trends in the Humanitarian and International Development world. 





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