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World Humanitarian Summit opens in Istanbul to tackle crisis

ISTANBUL — An unprecedented summit to revamp humanitarian aid and global responses to modern-day crises opened on Monday in Turkey.

The first World Humanitarian Summit is being convened in Istanbul in a bid to better tackle what the United Nations has described as the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

The two-day gathering was conceived four years ago by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In preparation, 23,000 people were consulted in over 150 countries, according to U.N. officials.

"We are here to shape a different future," said Ban Ki-moon at the opening of the summit. "Let us resolve ourselves here and now not only to keep people alive but to give people a chance at life in dignity."

An estimated 125 million people worldwide require humanitarian assistance, among them 60 million people displaced from their homes.

Ban urged those gathered to commit to reducing the number of people displaced from their homes by half by 2030.

The guiding principles of the summit include conflict prevention and resolution, strengthening the protection of civilians, and reducing humanitarian funding shortfalls.

"Very often pledges are being made but the money doesn't get where it is most needed," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her opening remarks.

She also called for a renewed global consensus regarding humanitarian principles, saying it is a "disaster" that leaders "need to talk about international humanitarian law being adhered to" in the face of schools and hospitals being bombed in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed hope that the summit will prove a "turning point" and encouraged more countries to share the burden of emergency response. Turkey is home to more than 3 million refugees making it the largest host of refugees in the world.