A vital component of humanitarian action is the coordination among all actors involved in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Depending on the nature of the crisis, whether conflict or natural disaster, the number of humanitarian actors responding has increased over the past forty years. During the Biafran War in the late 1960s, a relatively small number of humanitarian actors were present most notably the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Oxfam.
The ineffectiveness of international actors in preventing and responding to the Rwandan genocide of 1994 drew attention to the need to dramatically improve the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver on the promise of assistance and protection. The Rwandan experience led to the Joint Evaluation on the International Response to the Genocide which recommended for the international community and humanitarian actors to strengthen systems for improving accountability to beneficiaries of assistance. The recommendations emphasized a commitment to establishing mechanisms for consultation with affected populations and to highlight the power held by actors when delivering such aid.
Security risk to humanitarian actors operating in the field has increased significantly since the 1990s1, with deaths reaching an average of 100 per year from 2001 to 2010.2 Violence peaked in 2008, and 2009-10 displayed a slight downturn in aggression toward aid workers globally.3 This turn was not a result of improved security but rather of the withdrawal of humanitarian actors from the most volatile environments. A small number of exceptionally violent settings (Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan) have maintained a high number of humanitarian actor casualties in these years.4 The risks posed include death, kidnapping, and serious injury, and differ in potential for international and national staff, as well as for male and female actors.
Public International Law (PIL) rests upon two core concepts enmeshed in each of its underlying regimes: those of sovereignty and non-intervention. These privileges are allotted only to recognized States as qualified by the standards set forth in the Montevideo Convention of 1933. Article 1 of the Convention articulates that “the state as a person of international law should possess the following: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with other states”.1 Non-intervention of States into the affairs of other States is a far-reaching principle with only two exceptions: Security Council authorization under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, and self-defense. Sovereignty is a more detailed principle as States strip away particular aspects of their sovereignty with each treaty and agreement signed. Beyond governing States, PIL also regulates international organizations and the relationships among these organizations, States, and individuals.
The sources of PIL are international conventions, international custom, the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations, and judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations.2 While States may decide which conventions to ratify, international customary law applies to all State regardless of consent. To qualify as international custom, a law must be a consistent and general practice among States and must be adhered to by those States out of a sense of legal obligation rather than political action or diplomacy.
The legal regimes within PIL which most relate to humanitarian action are International Humanitarian Law (IHL), International Human Rights Law (HRL), and Refugee Law.
Civil-Military Coordination, or CMCoord, is defined by the UN as "the essential dialogue and interaction between civilian and military actors in humanitarian emergencies that is necessary to protect and promote humanitarian principles, avoid competition, minimise inconsistency, and when appropriate pursue common goals".1 The humanitarian principles referred to above are the four key principles of neutrality, independence, humanity, and impartiality. Aid consisting of necessities must be granted to all who need it, regardless of their party or position, by an organization that remains unengaged in the conflict. The contested issues arising from the coordination discussion revolve around this principle of neutrality: militaries function to further the objectives of a particular party to the conflict, whereas principled humanitarian organizations do not.
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised State border."1 A refugee, on the other hand, is defined by Article 1 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees as someone who, “owing to wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”2 Remaining within the borders of their country of origin, IDPs face many similar challenges as refugees yet the latter benefit from the full authority of refugee law whereas the former do not.
Since the end of World War II, donors in the development field have worked together to define good practices and promote aid coordination. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), established in the 1960s, provided one of the main forums for this work with the aim of collecting accurate and comparable data reporting by its members on aid to developing countries. DAC comprised a wide range of partners and state actors who agreed on principles and practices to improve the effectiveness of development. In addition, several national governments institutionalized aid delivery mechanisms for development including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). However, the committee did not address the delivery and effectiveness of humanitarian aid.
A “cash transfer” refers to the direct provision of cash to households in order to reduce poverty and vulnerability. Cash transfer was originally used as a strategy in middle-income countries, but in recent years governments and international agencies operating in low-income countries have adopted and expanded similar programs.
Among the multiple types of cash transfer programs, approaches employed in humanitarian settings include:
Although changes in climate do not cause extreme weather events, most climate scientists believe that they do influence the events’ frequency, duration, and intensity. While the gradual warming of the planet is certainly a cause for concern, the extreme weather events associated with climate change pose some of the greatest challenges to humanitarian professionals. Rising sea levels and altered ocean currents make storms more severe, while rising air temperatures contribute to an increased risk of drought.
Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyze and minimize the causal factors of disasters.1 Examples of DRR include improving preparedness for adverse events, lessening exposure to hazards and therefore the vulnerability of people and property, as well as strategic management of land and the environment.