Humanitarian Assistance

Humanitarian assistance is generally defined by the United Nations as aid that seeks to save lives and alleviate suffering of a crisis-affected people. It is therefore ironic that such a simple concept is fraught with so much controversy between the parties involved in its performance. From its earliest history, humanitarian assistance has been beset with conflicts over politics, legality, and guiding principles in the coordination and actual physical distribution of aid to recipients. Many issues have been resolved through treaties, improvements to international humanitarian law, and agreements between aid organizations, but new conflicts are developing that will require solutions in the future. This entry examines these conflicts, including such issues as the use of military forces in humanitarian missions. The entry begins with a history ...

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