President Michael D. Higgins has made a passionate call for a profound rethink of international politics to end the global humanitarian crisis.

He called on the United Nations to act decisively against poverty, conflict, displacement and climate change.

He told 6,000 world leaders and heads of state at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in Turkey, “For too long, empty pledges and fine words have died in our mouths. Now is the time to turn promises into action for this generation.”

The two-day summit, which opened on Monday, is hoping to improve how aid is given and how the world reacts to crises.

The summit was organized as part of efforts by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon to see how and why humanitarian help is falling short when more people had been forced from their homes than at any time since the Second World War.

“To achieve the changes which the secretary-general calls forth requires much more than any re-statement of aspirations,” Higgins said.

“It requires a profound and integrated rethink of international politics, and of our theory and practice of economics, development and trade; it requires a reform of the representational structures of the world’s peoples; and indeed it demands little less, I suggest, than a new paradigm of thought and action, grounded in a reconciliation between ethics, economics, ecology and cultural diversity.”

Higgins said it was his firm belief that the goals of Agenda 2030 – the UN bid to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030 – would only be realized if people, especially the most vulnerable, were put front and center in deliberations and decision making.

“Ireland will promote humanitarian responses that are empowering, that put decisions into the hands of affected people, that helps to build strong communities, and that supports resilient and robust states,” he said.

Eamonn Meehan, executive director of Irish Third World aid agency, said the summit was much needed -- although half the world’s governments had declined the invitation. He insisted this highlighted the lack of political will to deal with the crises.