Issues for the 21st century
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The world today faces an unprecedented number of natural and human-made disasters. At the same time, communities are becoming increasingly vulnerable, due to the impacts of HIV and AIDS, urban growth, trade practices, climate change, migration and other defining issues of our time. Thus, the number and complexity of emergency responses continues to grow.
Humanitarian aid has tripled in the past decade with NGOs now managing 60% of this aid; and some NGOs providing more aid than donor governments. Despite this, funding remains inconsistent: often too little too late; sometimes too much too soon. Critical long-term mitigation and preparedness work lacks support. Aid continues to be politicised, or determined by media interest (US$7,100 was donated for every person affected by the 2004 tsunami; for the Bangladesh floods the same year it was just $3 per person), yet every person on Earth has the right to life-saving assistance and protection of their basic human rights.
Constant change and innovation are pushing the humanitarian community to new levels of reform and ideology. A decade ago, agencies sought to deliver the five basics of water, shelter, food, health and nutrition. Now, rightly so, we are asked to undertake work around protection, the environment, livelihoods and gender, with sensitivity to social, economic and political contexts so as to ensure high-quality responses that are accountable and �do no harm�. Agencies now consider the root causes of crises, rather than just responding to the symptoms, and seek to help communities overcome their vulnerabilities and build their inherent capacities.
Meanwhile, humanitarian agencies continue to uphold the foundational principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. Yet the right to assist is challenged by political, economic and commercial interests, and as the �humanitarian space� becomes more crowded with new participants and contributors � such as the military, corporations and the private sector � humanitarian principles are in some cases being eroded.
This edition of Global Future includes contributions from across the humanitarian sector, examining what agencies should aim to achieve and to what extent it is possible to uphold humanitarian principles in today�s complex and challenging world.