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The state of the international humanitarian system

Briefing/policy papers

Briefing/policy papers

Five years ago the ODI Briefing Paper Recent Changes in the International Relief System reviewed the context and origins of changes then underway within the international system for providing assistance to populations affected by conflicts and natural disasters. The pace of change since then has been extraordinarily rapid. The international humanitarian system is now being pulled and pushed in different directions and fundamental values are being questioned; in short it is undergoing an identity crisis and is unsure of how best to move forward. This Briefing Paper highlights the principal events and developments which have heavily influenced current policy debates. Experiences in Africa and Bosnia have been critical. Though the NATO bombing of Serb targets in September 1995 was effective in terms of producing the Dayton Agreement, it is highly unlikely that such an intense military force will ever be used in support of humanitarian objectives in the majority of conflicts, which are of lesser political and strategic significance. This Briefing Paper therefore focuses on events and developments in, and of particular significance to, Africa.

John Borton