Global Humanitarian Emergencies: Trends and Projections, 2001-2002

This paper is based on the coordinated views of analysts and experts from agencies across the federal government. It was produced by the National Intelligence Council under the auspices of David F. Gordon, National Intelligence Officer for Economics and Global Issues.Queries should be addressed to Dr. Gordon at the National Intelligence Council.

Information available as of 15 August 2001 was used in preparing this report.

The photographs on the cover of this report are courtesy of the US Committee for Refugees. The photographs used in this report are not to be reproduced out of the context of this publication.

Scope Notes

This assessment focuses on humanitarian emergencies arising from manmade causes and major natural disasters.  We do not address situations in which the need for development assistance or food aid is due primarily to chronic poverty or environmental degradation.

The timeframe for this assessment is through December 2002.


Scope Note


Global Overview 

Looking Ahead 

   Emergencies Caused Primarily by Conflict and Government Repression

   Situations Transitioning from Emergencies

   Potential Emergencies

   Humanitarian Emergencies Caused by Natural Disasters

   Other Causes of Humanitarian Emergencies
Humanitarian Response

   The Willingness of Outsiders to Respond

   Military Capabilities

   Financing Humanitarian Assistance

   Availability of Food Aid

   The Capacity of International Humanitarian Agencies



Global Humanitarian Emergencies:  Trends and Projections, 2001-2002 

The capacity and willingness of the international community to respond to humanitarian emergencies will continue to be stretched through December 2002.  The overall number of people in need of emergency humanitarian assistance—now approximately 42 million—is likely to increase:

The total number of humanitarian emergencies—20—is down from 25 in January 2000.  Of the current emergencies:

Current Emergencies of Greatest Concern

Four countries are of greatest concern because of the scale and persistence of their humanitarian emergencies; their significant impact upon continuing strategic interests of major outside powers, including the United States; and their importance for stability in their regions.

Other Current Emergencies

Other current humanitarian emergencies are of concern because of the scale and projected outlook for the crisis, as well as the likelihood that the emergency will spread and destabilize neighboring countries and regions.


Sub-Saharan Africa:  Region at Risk

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region at greatest risk of a major new or significantly worse humanitarian emergency through December 2002.  Most of Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from abject poverty, intense ethnic rivalries, and grossly inadequate communications and transportation infrastructure—conditions that make the region especially vulnerable to humanitarian emergencies and hinder response efforts.  Genocidal conflicts aimed at annihilating all or part of a racial, religious, or ethnic group, and conflicts caused by other crimes against humanity—such as forced, large-scale expulsions of populations—are particularly likely to generate massive and intractable humanitarian needs.

Potential Emergencies

Through 2002, seven potential emergencies are of greatest concern.  We list them in order of their probability of developing.

Humanitarian Response

We judge that major donor countries will continue to respond quickly and provide substantial amounts of humanitarian aid in short-term emergencies resulting from natural disasters and in severe new emergencies caused by conflict or government repression.  Funding for humanitarian aid in long-lasting crises, including many in Africa, will, however, continue to fall well short of targeted needs unless signs of achieving a settlement emerge.

Consensual humanitarian responses will continue to be substantially more numerous than forceful humanitarian interventions against the will of a local government or local combatants.  Government and international humanitarian agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often will attempt to deliver relief to civilian groups at risk, but many governments will continue to be highly wary of forceful humanitarian interventions:

Despite some improvement in the responsiveness and capacity of humanitarian agencies in recent years, limits imposed by budgetary constraints and bureaucratic competition among the major UN agencies and international NGOs—as well as the problems associated with operating in conflict situations—will continue to hamper the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. 

Figure 1_ Current and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies, 2001-02

Figure 1_ (continued) Current and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies, 2001-02

Figure 1_ (continued) Current and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies, 2001-02

Figure 1_ (continued) Current and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies, 2001-02

Figure 1_ (continued) Current and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies, 2001-02

Figure 1_ (continued) Current and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies, 2001-02

Figure 1_ (continued) Current and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies, 2001-02



Global Humanitarian Emergencies:  Trends and Projections, 2001-2002 

Global Overview

The number of countries with current humanitarian emergencies in which at least 300,000 civilians require international humanitarian assistance to avoid serious malnutrition or death has dropped from 25 in January 2000 to 20 in mid-2001. 

Of the current emergencies:

According to previous US Intelligence Community and other Government assessments, the number of ongoing humanitarian emergencies reached a high of 24 in 1994, declined somewhat in 1996-1997, and peaked again in 1999, before falling in 2000 to the current level of 20 (see figure 2).

The number of people in need of emergency humanitarian assistance worldwide—including internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, and others in refugee-like situations—has increased from approximately 36 million as of December 31, 1998 to some 42 million as of December 31, 2000, according to the 2001 report of the US Committee for Refugees (USCR; see
figure 3).  The apparent contradiction between the roughly stable number of humanitarian emergencies in April 1998 and August 2001, on the one hand, and the increase by six million in the number of people in need, on the other hand, can be explained as follows: 


Figure 2 Humanitarian Emergencies, January 1995-August 2001

The total number of IDPs continues to exceed the number of refugees, due to the persistence and violence of internal conflicts and severe government repression and to the growing unwillingness of many states to host long-standing refugee populations.

Looking Ahead: 

Emergencies Caused Primarily by Conflict and Government Repression

The overall number of people in need is likely to increase by December 2002, especially if humanitarian conditions further deteriorate in populous countries such as DROC or Indonesia.  The total number of humanitarian emergencies could also increase if one or more potential emergencies occur (see
figure 4).

Figure 3 Estimated Number of the World's People Need of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance, 1984-2000a


Defining and Estimating Populations “In Need”

Definitions of populations “in need” of emergency humanitarian assistance used by the international relief community are inconsistent.  The figures used in this assessment for the total number of displaced people in need of emergency humanitarian assistance worldwide (as in figure 3) were provided by the US Committee for Refugees.  The USCR includes refugees from the named country, people in refugee-like situations, and internally displaced persons in its definition of displaced people “in need.”

In addition to those included in USCR’s definition, the Intelligence Community’s definition of persons in need of emergency humanitarian assistance also includes others requiring humanitarian aid in their home locations due primarily to conflict and government repression, often exacerbated by natural disasters.  Because our assessment includes this additional population and focuses only on those emergencies in which 300,000 or more people are in need, the number of people in need listed for individual countries will not equal the worldwide total—and may not equal the individual totals—provided by USCR cited in this paper. 

The numbers cited in this assessment for people in need in individual countries represent the Intelligence Community’s best estimate based on a review of information available from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, diplomatic reporting, nongovernmental organizations, and the media.  They should be treated as approximations, not precise numbers.  A change in the reported population in need does not necessarily reflect a change in circumstances but may be due to a change in access to reliable information.


Current Emergencies Of Greatest Concern.

Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, and North Korea will be of greatest concern because of the scale and persistence of their humanitarian emergencies; their significance for continuing strategic interests of major outside powers, including the United States; and their importance for stability in their respective regions. 



The Changing Character of Internal Conflicts

Post-Cold War internal conflicts tend to be struggles over control of exploitable resources and access to wealth and political power more generally.  Ethnic and religious differences often exacerbate or underlie such conflicts, making them even more volatile.  Under such conditions, civilians are viewed either as threats, in case they support the “other” side—or as a potential source of new supporters.  Thus, civilians often are key targets for combatants on all sides.

  • Combatants have little compunction about employing vicious techniques of warfare, including torture, demonstration killings and maiming (as in Sierra Leone), or the wholesale expulsion of civilians (as in Kosovo).  The violence of internal conflicts is facilitated by the wide availability, at modest prices, of an array of light and medium weapons.

  • Armed groups are increasingly forcing child soldiers to fight.  The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that in 2000 about 10 percent of all combatants worldwide were under age 18—a trend that is likely to increase in coming years.

  • Refugee and IDP camps have been used as bases for operations by combatants in countries such as Burundi, DROC, Liberia, and Pakistan, increasing the risks for camp populations and relief workers alike.

  • Contending forces in a number of conflicts are using relief as a weapon of war.  In Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sudan, and Sierra Leone, warring factions have systematically regulated the flow of food into specific areas to weaken public support for their opponents or strengthen support for their own side.

Genocidal conflicts aimed at annihilating all or part of a racial, religious, or ethnic group, and conflicts caused by other crimes against humanity—such as forced, large-scale expulsions of populations—are particularly likely to generate massive and intractable humanitarian needs:

  • Humanitarian emergencies generated by such conflicts typically produce sudden and especially large movements of refugees and IDPs, with accompanying emergency needs for food and shelter, as in Kosovo and Rwanda.

  • Such conflicts evoke the most visceral emotional responses from victims and perpetrators alike; thus, the political, economic, and social conditions that provoke such conflicts are likely to be unusually persistent.

  • Most countries experiencing such conflicts in the last decade have yet to restore their pre-conflict growth, while reconciliation between antagonists has proven elusive.


IDP camp. Herat, Afghanistan, January 2001

Internally displaced Colombian. May 2000

Other Current Emergencies of Concern.
Humanitarian emergencies in other countries are of concern because of the scale and projected outlook for the humanitarian crisis, as well as the likelihood that the emergency will spill over and adversely affect neighboring countries.

Destruction in Groznyy. Chechnya, December 2000

Opposition soldier. Eastern Sudan, May 2000

Situations Transitioning from Humanitarian Emergencies

Transitioning situations are those that have moved beyond either prolonged conflict, repressive government policies, or major natural or other types of disasters that create large-scale humanitarian needs.  However, countries with such problems may still have at least 300,000 people in need of targeted humanitarian aid.  They also will require other types of political and economic assistance as they move into a more “normal” state, whether continuing chronic poverty or long-term development.  Two transitioning situations are of greatest concern because of their effects on strategic interests of major outside powers, including the United States; stability in their regions; and the scale of outside assistance provided, including in these cases the deployment of US military forces to meet their remaining humanitarian and other needs.

—  In Serbia, greater access by aid organizations in 2001 will bring more assistance to some 480,000 internally displaced persons in the country.  Despite this gain, however, progress in returning the displaced, as well as the roughly 190,000 refugees still outside Yugoslavia, to their homes is expected to be slow through 2002.  Thus, continued international assistance will be required.

Figure 4 Ongoing, Transitionong, and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies (Foldout)

—  In the Kosovo region, focused international aid and reconstruction efforts will continue to improve humanitarian conditions for the ethnic Albanian majority, but existing ethnic tensions—further enflamed by nearby ethnic Albanian insurgencies in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia—suggest security and humanitarian conditions for Kosovo’s ethnic Serb and Roma minorities will remain poor.  Most of Kosovo’s 225,000 displaced people probably will remain elsewhere in Yugoslavia well into 2002. 

Other transitioning situations are of concern because of their potential for adversely affecting neighboring countries and stability in their regions; the scale of their remaining humanitarian and other needs; and the existence of at least some opportunities for an effective transition.

Sub-Saharan Africa:  Region at Risk

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region of greatest risk of a major new or significantly worse humanitarian emergency through December 2002.  In no other region is such a confluence of factors likely to produce both manmade emergencies and the inability to deal effectively with natural disasters.  Although there are pockets of stability—South Africa is the most notable—most of Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from abject poverty, intense ethnic rivalries, grossly inadequate communications and transportation infrastructure, and extremely weak governmental institutions.  Moreover, the impact of these negative factors is exacerbated by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which affects the region more than any other area of the world.


Eritrean IDP camp; June 2000


Potential Emergencies

In addition to the current emergencies cited above, several other major countries and regions may experience conflict or government repression that will lead to new or renewed humanitarian emergencies.  We estimate the probability of these situations becoming major humanitarian emergencies in which at least 300,000 people are at risk through 2002.  We also estimate their potential impact on strategic interests of major outside powers, including the United States, on stability in their respective regions, and on humanitarian conditions in the affected country. 

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Probability:  Medium/High

Potential Impact:  Very High

An escalation of ethnic conflict in western Macedonia leading to full-scale civil war would be likely to destabilize southeastern Europe by displacing tens of thousands of Slavic Macedonians and sending hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic Albanian refugees into neighboring countries.


Probability:  Medium/High

Potential Impact:  High

In Zimbabwe, drought and mounting civil unrest—fueled by high inflation, unemployment, racial tensions, disrupted agricultural production and land reform issues—are likely to precipitate a humanitarian crisis by spring 2002.  Widespread food shortages are likely—particularly of corn, the primary food staple—and it is doubtful that Harare will be able to compensate for the deficit with imports.  A surge in political violence could spur significant refugee flows into South Africa and elsewhere in southern Africa.


Probability:  Medium

Potential Impact:  High

In Haiti, continuing economic stagnation, political stalemate, and internal unrest, if left unchecked, are likely to raise political tensions.  A severe economic downturn and a resurgence of serious human rights violations would lead to a renewed outflow of thousands of people.  The size of the outflow would depend to some extent on Haitian perceptions of the likelihood that they would be able to reach US shores.


Probability:  Low-Medium

Potential Impact:  High-Very High

Although subsequent rains have eased the situation somewhat, Kenya remains affected by one of the worst droughts of the past half-century, a deteriorating economy, and internal unrest.  President Moi’s second term expires in December 2002, and ethnic violence is likely to accompany the presidential election.  Despite constitutional prohibition to a third term, Moi has hinted that he may remain in power.  Any combination of these elements could lead to political instability, significant loss of life, and large-scale refugee flows. Much of the humanitarian aid to Sudan and the Great Lakes region in Central Africa passes through the Kenyan port of Mombasa; thus, deteriorating infrastructure and instability in Kenya would also affect the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the region. 

Côte d’Ivoire:

Probability:  Low/Medium

Potential Impact:  High

Tens of thousands of economic migrants and foreign workers are likely to flee Côte d'Ivoire in the coming months if the government resumes its attempts to marginalize the opposition, much of whose support comes from immigrants and Muslims.  Even with outside assistance, poor infrastructure and minimal economic development would prevent neighboring countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger from absorbing massive returns of their own nationals.

India-Pakistan (Kashmir)

Probability:  Low

Potential Impact:  Very High

Renewed conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir could expand into a full-scale war that extends along the border.  Such a conflict probably would spread to the Indian state of Rajasthan and the Indian and Pakistani states of Punjab, displacing well over one million people.  Although unlikely, it could also spark even more widespread communal violence in other parts of India, pitting Hindus against Muslims as it did at partition in 1947.  The potential scale of a humanitarian emergency would be even greater in the unlikely event of a nuclear exchange.


Probability:  Low

Potential Impact:  Very High

The return to democracy has done little to ameliorate Nigeria’s formidable challenges:  its poor economic performance, ethnic instability in the Niger Delta, the maldistribution of oil wealth, and the growing North-South divide over the implementation of Islamic law.  Although unlikely, a major incident related to any of these problems could spark a violent chain reaction, including large-scale ethnic violence and massive population displacement.

Humanitarian Emergencies Caused by Natural Disasters

Natural disasters often create humanitarian emergencies.  According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ World Disasters Report 2001, an average of 255 natural disasters occurred throughout the world each year from 1991 to 2000. 

According to the World Disasters Report, over the last ten years an average of 211 million people were affected by natural disasters each year—roughly five times more than those affected by conflict.[2] 

Many countries and regions that are vulnerable to natural disasters are poorly prepared to respond (see figure 6).

Many of the world’s largest cities—those with ten million or more people—are at risk of natural disasters.  Such cities include Calcutta, Istanbul, Mexico City, Tianjin, and Tokyo.  As large cities have grown, populations have spread along coastlines, flood-prone rivers, and fault lines.

Most of the populations living in these disaster-prone areas are poor and lack sufficient housing, infrastructure, and services that can mitigate the impact of a disaster.  Recent attempts to house growing populations have resulted in a surfeit of substandard housing in flood-prone and geologically unstable areas, increasing the likelihood of massive casualties in the event of a major natural disaster. 


Figure 5 Natural Disasters Trends, 1991-2000


Efforts by international aid agencies to build more resilient structures following a natural disaster will reduce somewhat the prospects for loss of life and structural damage, but millions of people throughout the developing world will remain vulnerable.

Other Causes of Humanitarian Emergencies

In addition to emergencies caused by conflict and government repression or by natural disasters, other factors can cause or exacerbate humanitarian emergencies. 

Sudden economic downturns can create a humanitarian emergency—as happened in Indonesia and Russia in 1998—especially in poor countries lacking the infrastructure and government capacity to cope with them.  These types of humanitarian emergencies are often exacerbated by other factors—such as deep ethnic, social, and political fissures—raising their costs and delaying their recovery. 

Figure 6 Total Number of Reported Natural Disasters By Continent and Type of Phenomenon, 1991-2000


Impact of El Nio/La Niña

El Niño/La Niña is a cyclic event within the ocean-atmosphere system having important consequences for weather around the globe.

During the El Niño phase, the trade winds become lighter in the central and western Pacific, leading to a rise in sea surface temperature.  Rainfall follows the warm water eastward, potentially causing destructive flooding and drought. 

  • For example, the 1998 El Niño event may have been responsible, according to some atmospheric scientists, for unusual droughts in Australia and flooding in California.

La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.  Global climate impacts of La Niña tend to be opposite those of El Niño.

  • The effects of the current La Niña event may have helped intensify the drought in Kenya in 2000 during the country’s most important rainy season and helped amplify the fall floods last year in Cambodia and Vietnam.

  • In both 2000 and 2001, the effects of La Niña also contributed to the February and March floods in Mozambique.

The current three-year La Niña cycle has been winding down since early 2001.  Long-range forecast models, developed by the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, indicate a near neutral phase will persist through the end of 2001 and into early 2002.


Damage from the February and March 2000 floods in Mozambique.


Additional sudden economic emergencies may occur in developing economies through December 2002.  The global economy is going through its greatest slowdown in decades, and investor pessimism is especially strong for the developing countries. 

Technological disasters can also generate humanitarian emergencies.  A massive, prolonged failure of a national power grid system or another Chernobyl’-like nuclear accident brought about by failure to adequately maintain aging infrastructures could not only have serious consequences inside a country but would also spill across national boundaries, especially in the developed world.  The tendency in the developing world to less carefully control the handling of chemicals and pesticides increases the risk that an air or water-borne spill—perhaps more serious than the one experienced at Bhopal, India—could lead to a large-scale humanitarian emergency. 

Sudden widespread outbreaks of certain infectious diseases—although unlikely by themselves to trigger humanitarian emergencies—are frequently a major factor exacerbating such emergencies:

According to the World Health Organization, about one-half of all disease outbreaks of international importance now occur as a result of humanitarian crises. 

Humanitarian Response

The provision of relief in international humanitarian emergencies is carried out through a loosely organized and loosely coordinated network of national governments and social institutions, inter-governmental agencies, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—both international and local.  To a significant extent, the success or failure of relief operations hinges on the capacity and willingness of local and national authorities to mobilize their own resources and to absorb other aid from abroad (see figure 7).  Through 2002, governments and relief organizations will be challenged to respond to the ongoing and potential humanitarian emergencies outlined above.

The Willingness of Outsiders to Respond

A response to a humanitarian emergency by outside governments and international agencies can range from consensual to forceful, depending on the degree of cooperation from local governments or opposing combatants. 

Figure 7 Capacity to Respond to Current and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies

Figure 7 (Continued) Capacity to Respond to Current and Potential Humanitarian Emergencies

On the spectrum in between are humanitarian operations where:

Consensual humanitarian responses have been and will continue to be by far more numerous than forceful humanitarian interventions against the will of a local government and/or local combatants.  Even in conflict situations, however, government and international humanitarian agencies and NGOs will often attempt to deliver relief to civilian groups at risk.

Although each country’s calculus is likely to be a little different, a number of factors are likely to figure prominently in an outside state’s decision to respond in a humanitarian emergency, including: 

Donor countries are not only wrestling with the issue of which countries and conflict situations merit the use of military force to intervene in humanitarian emergencies but how long and how broad a military or financial commitment they are willing to take on.  Protracted conflicts in such states as Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sierra Leone, and Sudan defy short-term solutions, and restoring security is just a part of a multifaceted humanitarian response. 

Public and Political Support for Humanitarian Response.  Western governments will continue to face pressures to respond to humanitarian emergencies, especially when such outside assistance is by mutual consent:

On the other hand, the assertion of the right to non-interference by many important G-77 governments and their citizens will continue to act as a brake on early action in a potential humanitarian emergency.

Military Capabilities

Many governments have marginally improved their military capabilities for intervention in the past decade.  These units—primarily equipped for combat and trained for peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions—may be made available to respond to global humanitarian emergencies.  The United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia will remain the only countries with the long-range military airlift capabilities required to deliver bulk humanitarian aid in large, sudden emergencies, or where humanitarian access is denied to large populations.

The capabilities of the United States, the European Union, and Australia to respond to humanitarian emergencies could improve moderately in the near future.  In addition to US response capabilities, the EU plans a rapid reaction force of 60,000 troops for missions ranging from the consensual delivery of emergency assistance to civilians to the separation of parties in combat by force.  The Australians are also developing rapid reaction forces.

The ability of other countries to participate in humanitarian operations varies widely.  Some countries, such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and South Korea, have all instituted programs to deploy forces for multilateral peace operations.  China also has indicated that it intends to become more active in peacekeeping endeavors.  Most developing countries, however, lack specialized logistic, transport, and engineering capabilities, as well as medical personnel, to sustain their infantry forces in such operations.

In the last few years, the United States, United Kingdom, and France, among other states, have launched training activities to enhance African capabilities to respond to humanitarian crises and peacekeeping challenges.  The US African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) seeks to train several rapidly deployable, interoperable battalions from stable, democratic countries in Africa to a common standard based on NATO peacekeeping doctrine and procedures.

The efforts of the United States in Africa parallel those of the United Kingdom, France and Portugal, as well as similar bilateral efforts elsewhere, such as Denmark’s training activities with the Baltic states.  Overall, there are now about 22 national peacekeeping training centers worldwide. 



Estimates of Global Funding for Humanitarian Emergencies, 1992-2000

Year                                   $ US Billion

1992                                               >4.2

1993                                               >5.2

1994                                               >5.7

1995                                               >4.6

1996                                               >4.4

1997                                               >3.9

1998                                               >4.5

1999                                               >5.2

2000                                               >5.0

Source:  OECD Development Assistance Committee



Financing Humanitarian Assistance
National governments provide the lion’s share of financing for emergency humanitarian relief, with OECD countries providing more than 80 percent of total global funding in recent years (see textbox).  The willingness of donor governments to provide financial support for humanitarian emergencies will likely remain stable through December 2002, given their continuing high level of involvement with the Balkans and other ongoing humanitarian priorities.  A major new crisis would likely attract new humanitarian aid at least for a time. 

The data on funding for humanitarian emergencies provided by various international agencies is fragmentary and sometimes contradictory, making the accurate assessment of global funding levels and trends difficult.  After rebounding in the late 1990s in response to high-profile emergencies in Kosovo and Central America, global funding for humanitarian emergencies declined slightly in 2000 but remained higher than during the mid-1990s.  Nonetheless, the available data suggests that international funding for humanitarian emergencies totaled more than $5 billion in 2000.

The funding of UN Consolidated Appeals—a mechanism of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee in Geneva to coordinate agency budget requests for a given emergency—has provided roughly 25 to 30 percent of overall humanitarian funding in recent years.  On average, since 1992 the Appeals have received only 69 percent of the funds requested (see figure 8).

Funding through the Appeals declined 20 percent in 2000 compared with 1999, mirroring donor concerns about the efficiency and transparency of UN agencies, a shift toward greater bilateral management of humanitarian resources, and reliance on NGOs.  Most donors now channel at least a quarter of their emergency assistance through NGOs.

Funding by donors of specific humanitarian emergencies tends to be heavily influenced by strategic concerns, media attention, and geographic proximity.

In 2001, the UN hopes to shift donor attention back toward longstanding crises in Africa and Asia that have intensified during the past year.

Who is Paying?

The European Union and its member states constitute the largest single provider of humanitarian assistance, while the United States ranks as the top individual donor country:

·In 1999, the EU provided emergency assistance totaling $677 million.

·Over the past ten years, the US government has provided substantial financial and in-kind food aid in response to nearly every major humanitarian crisis and ranks first among individual countries as a humanitarian aid donor.


Development Assistance Committee

Bilateral Emergency Assistance, 1999

       Country                   $US Million

           US                                2619

          Japan                              402

          Sweden                            271

         Netherlands                     268

         Germany*                        266


Emergency humanitarian aid from a few non-OECD governments has been increasing over the past decade but still accounts for only a small fraction of the total.  Argentina, China, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been the main donors in this category.

Emergency assistance from nongovernmental sources—including wealthy individuals, corporations, foundations, and the general public—has also increased and now accounts for some 10 to 15 percent of total global funding.

*Much of Germany’s bilateral assistance is spent on refugees within Germany.


Funding trends over the past decade show a growing reluctance on the part of donors to provide assistance for chronic emergencies with poor prospects for resolution, suggesting that the UN will continue to have difficulty attracting resources for longstanding crises such as Afghanistan, Angola, DROC, and Somalia, barring a breakthrough on the political or military front or a sharp escalation in the number of lives at risk.  Donors have also shown a marked preference for funding certain categories of humanitarian aid. 

Figure 8 UN Consolidated Interagency Humanitarian Assistance Appeals, 1992-2000


Availability of Food Aid

According to the most recent United States Department of Agriculture estimates, total world grain production (wheat, coarse grains, and milled rice) for 2000/2001 will be 1.838 billon tons, down from last year’s record harvest of 1.873 billion.  This quantity is still a bumper crop, with wheat at 581 million tons, coarse grains at 858 million, and a forecast rice crop of 400 million tons.  World oilseed production (soybeans, cottonseed, peanut oil, sunflower seed oil, etc.) is forecast at a record 307 million metric tons (MMt).

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that in calendar year 1999 food aid for both humanitarian emergencies and for chronic food deficits totaled 14.0 million metric tons (MMt)—up from 8.5 MMt in 1998 but well below the peak level of 17.3 MMt in 1993.  Deliveries consisted of 12.2 MMt of grains and 1.8 MMt of other commodities (see figure 9). 

US grain surpluses were responsible for virtually all of the increase in global food aid in the late 1990s.

Although the overall number of malnourished worldwide is falling, the demand for total food aid is rising because growing populations are subject to natural disasters and civil strife, and malnutrition is intensifying in Africa. 

People targeted for emergency food aid in countries where the host government either denies access to organizations or diverts some of the aid for its own needs remain most at risk.

The Capacities of International Humanitarian Agencies

The overall capacity of international relief organizations to respond to humanitarian emergencies has improved over time, but problems are likely to persist.

Many of the major international humanitarian NGOs currently have a consultative status with the UN, which gives them access to UN conferences and discussions.  They also frequently serve as implementing partners of the UN humanitarian agencies, administering their programs or delivering UN-funded relief.  The UN has tried for several years to establish a code of conduct for UN-affiliated NGOs but so far has not succeeded.  However, these NGOs must still meet certain criteria, including democratic internal processes, financial disclosure, and adherence to the “purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”

Despite these reforms, the limits imposed by budgetary constraints and bureaucratic competition among the major multilateral agencies and international NGOs will continue to limit the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) lacks executive responsibility for and budgetary control over the major humanitarian operating agencies in the UN system.  Thus it has had difficulty establishing a coordinating role, despite the 1997 secretariat reforms which attempted to clarify its role in humanitarian response.


Figure 9 Total Food Aid Deliveries,1988-99


Security of Humanitarian Workers.

During the last decade, humanitarian aid workers have increasingly been targeted by combatants when they operate in conflict areas where there is no clearly recognized governmental authority and where they must negotiate access with multiple parties, leaving them vulnerable to political manipulation.  Instances of killing, injury and kidnapping of aid workers, as well as looting and blackmail, are on the rise:

World Food Program warehouse. Angola, June 1999



Refugees from Kosovo receive medical assistance from the ICRC in Macedonia


Insurgent groups have kidnapped humanitarian workers from both international agencies and NGOs in Chechnya and Somalia, among other places, for their money or equipment, and local soldiers have hijacked relief convoys in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tajikistan, and Liberia.  Organized crime and pilfering—such as the stealing of vehicles and supplies in Albania, Somalia, Liberia and elsewhere—pose a similarly serious threat to humanitarian personnel and relief efforts.

In areas of high insurgent activity, aircraft conducting humanitarian relief operations become deliberate targets of attacks if insurgents suspect the flights are being used to support the ruling regime.  Two UN relief aircraft were shot down over Angola within eight days of each other in December 1998/January 1999 with 22 UN personnel aboard, and UN aircraft flying similar humanitarian missions have been fired at on other occasions in the last few years.  As humanitarian relief workers are put at increasing risk from local governments and political authorities and outside states provide uneven security, many aid workers have called for greater military force to ensure their physical security.  At the same time, increasingly wary governments and publics have become more insistent that their military personnel, civilian officials, and humanitarian relief workers be provided with substantial protection, although security has been present only sporadically.

Relief agencies received military protection in Somalia after the introduction of the Unified Task Force (UNITAF), and in Haiti, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Sierra Leone.  They currently receive some modest protection in East Timor.

  • Agencies received some non-lethal military assistance, but not protection, in eastern Zaire after July 1994 and received no protection in eastern Zaire/DROC in 1996-97.

  • Humanitarian agencies receive no protection in Angola now that the UN peacekeeping operation has virtually shut down.

Although UN Secretary General Annan has been committed to strengthening the Office of the UN Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD), relief agencies have come to doubt whether the UN, regional organizations, or ad hoc coalition forces will provide adequate security for ongoing humanitarian operations.  Therefore, most humanitarian organizations have begun to prepare themselves better to work in hostile environments. 


Shifting International Norms

In recent years, the balance between the legal principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states and various legal justifications for international intervention in response to threats to international peace and security, genocide, grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and crimes against humanity has been shifting slowly, if tentatively, toward the principle of international humanitarian intervention.  This shift is vigorously contested, however, by many non-Western governments and citizens in the developing world. 

Movement toward accepting a principle of international humanitarian intervention:  the Pros.

  • “Common Article Three”—which appears in all four of the ICRC’s Geneva Conventions of 1949—calls for the humane treatment and protection of civilians in both international and internal conflict.  With 189 States Parties, the Geneva Conventions are among the most widely adhered to of all international agreements.

  • Article 2 of the UN Charter enshrines the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states.  At the same time, Articles 55 and 56 call on members to take joint or individual action to promote observance of human rights, and these are being defined more broadly. 

  • In various resolutions, among them the 1991 UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182 and the 2000 Security Council Resolution 1296, the UN has endorsed the general obligation of states to allow the distribution of humanitarian assistance and the obligation of combatants to allow “unimpeded access” for humanitarian personnel to civilian populations.

  • Although the UN Security Council has traditionally taken action to authorize or endorse peacekeeping or peace-enforcement missions for the purpose of restoring international peace and security to a country or region, during the past decade the Council has increasingly cited the need to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid as an additional justification for such operations.  Since 1997 it has cited, inter alia, a humanitarian justification for peace operations in such countries as Albania, the Central African Republic, DROC, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, and Yugoslavia.

  • NATO, the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) have recognized egregious humanitarian and human rights abuses in their respective regions as legitimate targets for collective response.

  • In recent years, several world leaders, notably UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, have espoused the principle of international humanitarian intervention that would, where necessary, override the claims of national sovereignty and non-intervention in internal affairs.

  • The creation in the early 1990s of international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda has established that international law extends to individual criminal behavior formerly shielded by state sovereignty.  The nascent International Criminal Court further enshrines this principle despite the nonparticipation of some states.

Continuing Resistance to a Principle of International Humanitarian Intervention:  the Cons

A new principle of international humanitarian intervention has been resisted by many though not all developing countries, which are determined to assert their often hard-won sovereign right to non-intervention in their own internal affairs.  They also are often suspicious of the political or economic motivations of some Western states and humanitarian organizations. 

Moreover, governments that tolerate or even provoke a given humanitarian emergency are for various political or economic reasons often reluctant to admit the existence of IDPs, grant asylum to refugees from neighboring countries, or consent to the delivery of outside assistance, unless they can exploit the humanitarian relief operations for political or financial gain.

  • Organizations are buying thick-skinned vehicles, taking security awareness and defensive driving courses, hiring security directors from among retired Western military officers, and acquiring more security guards. 

  • Even the ICRC—which traditionally does not accept any armed escort—now sometimes hires local guards for its own facilities and equipment.

In the absence of adequate security, increasing numbers of UN agencies, NGOs and the ICRC sometimes temporarily withdraw from particularly dangerous situations.  Over the past ten years, relief workers have withdrawn for periods from Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Chechnya, eastern DROC, Liberia, northwest Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Somalia due to increased security risks.


Figure 10 UN Civilian Personnel Casualties 1992-98



The overall number of people in need is likely to increase through December 2002:

  • In five ongoing emergencies—in Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, North Korea and Sudan—almost 20 million people are currently in need, and all show signs of worsening through 2002.

  • In addition, humanitarian conditions may further deteriorate in populous countries such as DROC or Indonesia.

  • Few ongoing emergencies, by contrast, show signs of improvement during this period.

Although somewhat less likely, the number of people in need would grow sharply if one or more of the relatively large number of potential emergencies should materialize, particularly in a populous country or region such as Nigeria or India and Pakistan.

  • A continued global economic slowdown would exacerbate the situation by further destabilizing countries at risk.

Counteracting these negative factors somewhat, the current three year La Niña cycle has been winding down, and long-range US Government forecasts suggest it will be in a near neutral phase through the end of 2001 and into 2002.

On the likely international response, we judge that:

  • Should the economic slowdown persist, it will constrain at least somewhat the ability and willingness of Western donor countries to provide additional assistance in humanitarian emergencies.

  • Within these constraints, major donor countries will continue to respond quickly and continue to provide substantial amounts of humanitarian aid in short-term emergencies resulting from natural disasters and in severe new emergencies caused by conflict or government repression.  Funding of long-lasting crises, including many in Africa, will, however, continue to fall well short of targeted needs unless they show signs of achieving a settlement.

  • Major Western donor countries will increasingly invest in a range of conflict prevention efforts as well as political and economic initiatives in post-conflict settings rather than deploy military forces during the course of a conflict

  • Many governments—both in the West and among developing countries—will continue to be highly wary of forceful humanitarian interventions without the prior agreement of the government and other combatants on the ground. 

The National Intelligence Council

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) manages the Intelligence Community’s estimative process, incorporating the best available expertise inside and outside the government.  It reports to the Director of Central Intelligence in his capacity as head of the US Intelligence Community and speaks authoritatively on substantive issues for the Community as a whole.


John Helgerson


Vice Chairman
(concurrently Acting Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production)

Ellen Laipson

Director, Senior Review,

Production, and Analysis

Stuart A. Cohen

National Intelligence Officers


Robert Houdek


Stuart A. Cohen

Conventional Military Issues

John Landry

East Asia


Economics & Global Issues

David Gordon


Barry F. Lowenkron

Latin America

Fulton T. Armstrong

Near East and South Asia

Paul Pillar

Russia and Eurasia

George Kolt

Science & Technology

Lawrence Gershwin

Strategic & Nuclear Programs

Robert D Walpole


Robert Vickers

[1] In Liberia, although less than 300,000 people are in need, persistent fighting between dissidents and government forces in northern Liberia will continue to spur moderate population displacement and hinder relief agency access.

[2] People affected by a disaster include those who require such basic needs as food, water, shelter, and immediate medical assistance.