The June 2022 Discussion – ‘Relief Chief: A Manifesto For Saving Lives In Dire Times’

As the leaders of the G7 prepare to meet in the Bavarian Alps for their 47th Summit on 26th June, they face a host of intractable humanitarian challenges. Ever more frequent climate change-related disasters, the increase in global food insecurity, the continued impact of the pandemic, long-standing conflicts such as in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, and newer ones as in Ukraine, have all contributed to an unprecedented era of human need. As the sheer scale and complexity of global suffering increases to record levels, many fear the present international humanitarian system could buckle under the strain.

During his tenure as the United Nation’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator from 2017 to 2021, Sir Mark Lowcock was tasked with coordinating the global response to saving lives and protecting the most vulnerable. His new book, Relief Chief: A Manifesto For Saving Lives in Dire Times, offers both an insider’s behind-the-scenes view of the UN as it faced a perfect storm of crises, and an expert’s practical roadmap to delivering effective humanitarianism in the future.

What urgent changes are needed before the current situation becomes untenable? How important is financial reform? Can the international community find a way to solve crises more effectively? How do we protect the most vulnerable – all too often women and children? What are the unspoken ‘rules of war’, and how do they impact the situation in Ukraine? How well did the UN adapt to cope with the biggest global crisis in modern history – the Covid-19 pandemic – and what has been its legacy? How important is the role of world leaders in shaping the global humanitarian system? And how is the role of relief changing – and what can we do now to future-proof it?


Relief Chief addresses all those issues and more, and we were therefore delighted to welcome Sir Mark Lowcock to GSF to discuss them with us. He was in conversation with Professor Michael Clarke, Director-General of RUSI (2007-2015) and GSF Advisory Board member, on the subject of Relief Chief: A Manifesto For Saving Lives in Dire Times.

To watch Sir Mark and Professor Clarke in conversation, please click here


SIR MARK LOWCOCK KCB was appointed United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator in May 2017 and served in that role until June 2021. Prior to that he was Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Development from 2011-2017. In his distinguished career, Lowcock has spent more than 35 years leading and managing responses to humanitarian crises across the globe. He has written opinion articles for The Washington Post, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, Le Monde, CNN, and others. He was twice awarded medals by HM Queen Elizabeth II for public service, particularly to international development, including a knighthood in 2017. He is a Visiting Professor of Practice in the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics and a Distinguished Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CDG). His book, Relief Chief: A Manifesto For Saving Lives In Dire Times, was published by CDG in May 2022.

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