Those caught in conflict and natural disasters are part of growing trend exemplified by Syria, South Sudan and the Philippines
The Guardian, 28 February 2014
For the first time the UN has declared three simultaneous crises – in South Sudan, Syria and the Philippines – as level 3, the highest band of emergency. So this is a period of intense activity for NGOs such as the International Rescue Committee. But it is also a good time to reflect on the goals and working methods of the humanitarian system.
Approximately $18bn (£11bn) is spent annually on humanitarian aid by more than 140,000 staff. UN appeals solicit life-saving help for 52 million people across 19 countries. Yet the entire system is under unprecedented strain.
Civil strife means that whole populations are caught up in conflict. In Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Zimbabwe, an average of 75% of the entire population have been directly affected. Worldwide, more than 172 million people were touched by conflict in 2012. Last year, there were 35 million people displaced – 10.5 million across borders, and double that number within countries.
These trends have profound implications for humanitarian action. First, while huge numbers of people in Asia and Africa continue to rise out of poverty, those who remain are increasingly in fragile states, exposed to war and crisis. In 2005, just 20% of the global poor were in conflict-affected and fragile states. Today that figure is 50% and set to rise to more than 80% in 2025.
Phi Beta Iota: Humanitarian assistance today is morally and intellectually corrupt. It is a pretense of care combined with an abdication of responsibility to exercise due diligence. The USA, for example, should not be best pals with all but two of the dictators on the planet. The members of the UN Security Council should not be the top warmongers and proliferators on the planet. The so-called humanitarian agencies, led by the Red Cross, should not be allowed to get away with 1% (Bono) to 20% (at best) delivery of donated funds to the end point. What is required is an earnest commitment to ethical evidence-based decision-support such that we stop spending close to two trillion a year on war, and instead spend at least half that amount on peace. We do not lack for resources — we lack for integrity.