|Disaster Management Ethics (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1997, 70 p.)|
|TOPIC 2 Providing humanitarian assistance to displaced populations and refugees|
While each humanitarian emergency is unique and unpredictable, there has been a shift in recent years in the general pattern of emergencies, and the challenges they pose for the provision of relief. These reflect both new kinds of conflicts with the end of the Cold War and changes in the way in which the international community conceives of its rights and obligations to protect affected people (and hence what defines an emergency). These changes transform and increase the ethical dilemmas faced by frontline relief officials.
Decisions about how to provide assistance are complex because of unresolved foreign policy debates amongst the major donors, and massive but shifting public demand for action. Major emergencies become media events, although their complexities are rarely conveyed. The international community has intervened in humanitarian matters with varying degrees of legitimacy and political will. The boundaries of political and military affairs remain blurred and disputed. The numbers and levels of involvement of UN bodies have increased alongside other agencies, and new coordination initiatives have yet to clarify management. Relief programs increasingly run alongside peace keeping or other types of military intervention whose mandates and methods of working may be different or unclear.
Designing long-term strategies for assistance has become more difficult. Formerly, it was assumed that following a resolution of conflict, displaced people would return home and the old socio-political and territorial order would be re-established. In todays emergencies there is often no clear outcome. Finally, administrative capacities to implement humanitarian policies are over-stretched, when they are finally agreed upon, leading to even greater uncertainties on the ground.