The world in 2025: predictions for the aid industry

The global humanitarian landscape is in a state of flux, buffeted by forces as diverse as technology, population growth and climate change. From education, to employment, to the advent of mobile money, our team of experts offer their predictions on how the industry will change over the next decade

Aid: the long game

The Middle East will dominate the humanitarian sector over the next decade, quite simply because we have failed to respond adequately to the crises in the region. Today, we boast cutting-edge technology in everything from transport, to logistics, to IT. Yet we aren’t able to deliver online education to displaced children in camps, or provide digital cash transfers for refugees.  These are simple problems to solve. The days of handing out basic pots and pans and plastic sheeting to desperate refugees must end.

Refugees are no longer a short-term concern. The Syria conflict alone has given rise to millions of children in refugee camps, with no stability or access to education. If, as an industry, we fail to address this and do not look beyond emergency aid, we risk creating a generation of disaffected youth.

A critical influence in the industry going forward will be the involvement of the private sector and philanthropists. Governments are slow to change, but many philanthropists and foundations take their lead from the private sector – and with that comes efficiency. The humanitarian sector has for too long relied on temporary fixes; band aids for vast, complex problems. What we need is a hard-headed, sustainable approach.

The humanitarian sector cannot afford to continue approaching emerging disasters as it does. As an industry, we should never have found ourselves spending billions of dollars responding to the Ebola crisis. Aid has been channelled to West Africa for more than 30 years, yet there isn’t even a semblance of a sustainable primary healthcare system there – proof, if it were needed, that the industry is falling short.

By 2025, our intervention methodologies must focus on preventing disaster, rather than responding to it.  If we fail, the consequences will be vast.

Kevin Noone, Executive director, International Medical Corps UK, managing director, International Medical Corps UAE

Youth employment: a tipping point

Education and employment top the list of issues set to create an outsized impact on the future of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Long before the Arab uprisings catapulted the region’s youth unemployment issue into global headlines, skills and opportunity gaps had left record numbers of youth locked out of the labour force. The International Labour Organisation forecasts regional youth unemployment will rise to 30 per cent by 2018, and many predict the situation will only worsen through 2025.

This moment is the tipping point. A decade from now, the region will witness a deepening crisis with social, political and economic reverberations. Or, massive improvements in the employment outlook for youth will unleash tremendous creative energy and growth. I am hopeful for the latter.

Over the next decade, the private sector has the chance to drive a transformation in education and workforce development practices The global media’s unrelentingly negative narrative of MENA and its “demographic time bomb” is overdue for change. Some news organisations are beginning to tell another side of the story, and individuals – from the youth breaking into the job market, to the CEOs hiring them – are changing perceptions. As more recognise the tremendous asset of a young and dynamic population, we’ll see increased investment that creates job and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Over the next decade, the private sector has the chance to drive a transformation in education and workforce development practices. Indeed, a handful of early adopters have already begun making major, multi-faceted investments. Firms like Consolidated Contractors Company, the Abraaj Group, and Accenture understand that investing in youth employment produces returns beyond near-term corporate social responsibility benefits, by positively impacting the long-term, broader business environment.

In 2025, these companies won’t be the exception they are today. Because of this, classroom education will be more closely aligned with the skills that companies need, and we’ll see the first signs of education systems and businesses working together to anticipate future skills needs.

A growing sense of urgency will also produce new champions, who will commit to supporting long-term investments. I see youth employment becoming a major draw of philanthropic capital, attracting support from within the region in the same way health and emergency aid issues do now. As a result, more experimental approaches will be possible, and we’ll see the pace of innovation and scale quicken.

The changes outlined above will not occur easily, but they are possible. Ten years from now the education and employment outlook for young people in MENA can be far brighter than it is today.

Ron Bruder, Founder, Education for Employment

Gender: closing the gap

Worldwide, women are still not equal to men. They earn less, they are highly vulnerable to violence and they are under-represented at every level of leadership. These inequities are being heightened by conflicts and by the growth of fundamentalisms around the world.

Yet – despite all this – I am hopeful, because I believe that our world is finally recognising that achieving gender equality is not only the right thing for the world’s women, but one of our best levers for eradicating poverty, minimising conflict and achieving a sustainable world.

In 2025, I’d like us to look back over a decade that saw exponentially more funding for women’s rights – especially for the grassroots women’s groups we know are the best mobilisers of lasting change. I’d like us to be applauding the fact that we attained every one of a challenging set of Sustainable Development Goals, because we put investments in women’s rights at the centre of our effort on every goal.

With money and policy behind us, we’d see a different world in 10 years’ time. By 2025, I’d like to see dramatically reduced rates of violence against women; with not only the right laws on the books, but consistent enforcement of those laws. I’d like to see wage equality and parity in political representation and leadership. I’d like every woman to have access to contraception and safe, legal abortion. I’d like women and girls worldwide to know that they are valued for their brains as well as their bodies, and for all of them to have equal chances to learn and access new technology.

Now is the time for gender equality. We simply need to amass the money, energy and will to get us there. We welcome the support of all parties in this goal, whether as advocates, donors, partners or activists. Together, let’s champion women’s human rights so the world is a better place for everyone by 2025.

Musimbi Kanyoro, CEO, Global Fund for Women

Mobile money: complex cash

Mobile money did not exist 10 years ago and it may not exist 10 years from now. At the heart of the industry is the mobile wallet, an electronic account that can be used for payment or converted to cash. It is a great innovation, filling the gap between bank accounts and cash, but key trends are pulling it in different directions.

Globally, over-the-counter transactions (OTC) – where clients use an agent to cash in a money transfer – are soaring. This is because OTC is unregistered and easy to use for low-income clients. At the same time, quick loans are exploding and showing lenders that digital credit can be a tremendous driver of revenue.

The Commercial Bank of Africa and Safaricom’s M-Shwari loans, or Chile-based financial services provider Tiaxa’s emergency advance, are key examples.

We could see a growing pay-as-you-go economy

To this mix, we can add technology trends that could affect how mobile money develops. We’re seeing the rapid expansion of mobile data, smart devices and social networks in developing countries, alongside India’s massive effort to create portable, digital identities. Each of these trends weakens the hold of mobile network operators on clients.

In the next decade, we may see the mobile wallet torn asunder by the draw of informal, unregistered services on the one hand, and the freedom to choose among any service through mobile data and smart phones on the other.

Should countries follow India’s lead, digital identities would allow customers the freedom to shop around for specialised providers who offer products to meet specific needs, whether saving for school fees or crowdfunding a wedding. We could see a growing pay-as-you-go economy, with banks and regulated, deposit-taking institutions the likely platforms for these digital transaction accounts.

The flipside is that fraudsters will be ever present. Our greatest challenge will be protecting clients from the hackers and fly-by-night money shops that prowl the new digital dimension.

Tillman Bruett, Manager, mobile money for the poor, UN Capital Development Fund

Migration: winds of change

Migration, or human mobility, will be a megatrend well beyond the first half of this century. There are more people migrating today than at any other time in recorded history. While a portion of this is forced migration, driven by conflict, persecution and disaster, the important thing is to recognise the inevitability in the next 10 years of mass migration.

The challenge we face is two-fold. First, we must try to change the narrative about migration from the current negativity, to reflect the historical reality that migration has always been overwhelmingly positive.

Politicians are increasingly prepared to win votes off the back of the migrant issue, rather than acknowledging the inevitability and necessity of migration

The second challenge is to help countries learn to manage social and economic diversity, as well as ethnic and business diversity. That will be a major challenge. Europe, for four centuries, was a continent of origin. Now, for four decades, it has become a continent of destination. That requires a significant psychological and political shift in how migrants are regarded.

The other priority is to put in place policies that will save lives. Today, politicians are increasingly prepared to win votes off the back of the migrant issue, rather than acknowledging the inevitability and necessity of migration. The next five years will be very difficult, but beyond that, the issue will become less complex simply because societies will recognise that they are only hurting themselves by not bringing their policies on migration up to date.

Over the next decade, I hope to see more countries passing laws to allow dual citizenship, and to see regulations that support the portability of social security benefits. I’d like to see countries join one of the many regional dialogues on migration, to talk about the issues at hand, rather than allowing it to become politically exploited.

Lastly, I would like to see a move towards humanitarian border management. In a crisis situation, such as that now in Syria, borders must be more open to those fleeing conflict. That would allow us to save lives in places like the Mediterranean, where we’ve seen 22,000 die in the last 15 years. We’ve lost thousands this year alone. It will not get better, and the boats will keep coming, unless our policies towards migration change.

William Lacy Swing, Director general, International Organisation for Migration

Education: beyond the classroom

There are 58 million primary-age children across the globe today without access to education. What is more worrying, is that a further 250 million primary-age children are not able to read, write or count adequately. Making quality primary schooling accessible to every child – regardless of nationality, creed, religion or gender – is more pressing now than ever before.

Education is a central driver of social and economic change. It is a primary mechanism to tackle poverty, increase income, reduce conflict and aid sustainability. Basic education for boys and girls gives them greater power to initiate change. In the next decade, we hope to see greater emphasis on quality of learning, transforming the ‘one-size-fits-all’ tradition towards more relevant and applicable education based on children’s needs. We would also like to see further progress towards greater equity in education provision, transitioning to a more inclusive model from the old ‘chalk and talk’ model.

We look forward to seeing more and better prepared, better compensated and better-supported teachers across the developing world. We hope to see the realisation of country budgetary reforms funneling more domestic resources into the education sector. In addition, we foresee better use of those funds to ensure adequate teacher development, as well as sustainable, equitable and inclusive school environments.

We also expect advances in technology to enable developing countries to afford education management systems that track and report on contextual learning indicators.

In the MENA region we hope for more stability that can support long-term development efforts in education, as opposed to emergency response tactics. We’d like to see nations perform better on learning outcomes, especially in science, maths and literacy. In more stable environments, such as the UAE, we hope to see the realisation of a knowledge-based economy through investments in local research and innovation. Lastly, we hope to see further investments in programmes that provide youth with 21st century skills.

Tariq Al Gurg, CEO, Dubai Cares