Humanitarian action in protracted Crises: the new relief 'agenda' and its limits

This paper offers a synthesis of ideas debated at a one day seminar examining international responses to humanitarian tragedies. With many regions of the world today caught up in a state of protracted crisis, questions are increasingly being asked about the international community´s commitment to respond to acute human suffering wherever it occurs and to address its underlying causes. This assault on humanitarian values can be understood in terms of a growing disengagement by rich countries from crisis regions and the belief that saving lives can no longer be the sole justification for international interventions. On the ground, this has manifested itself in declining levels of relief assistance and the manipulation of aid by donor governments in support of strategic and geo-political objectives.