In the period from 1990 to 2005, bilateral humanitarian assistance worldwide was increased by a factor of five – from USD 1.4 billion to USD 7.1 billion – according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Norway’s humanitarian assistance has also increased significantly in the same period, and is now over NOK 4 billion. But despite the size of the humanitarian budgets, the resources available are insufficient to meet the ever growing needs. The primary responsibility for protecting people from the impacts of conflicts and disasters rests with the national authorities. They have an obligation to safeguard the livelihoods of vulnerable groups and ensure that fundamental human rights are respected.
However, international humanitarian assistance is necessary to save lives, provide protection and assist vulnerable groups that the national authorities are unable or unwilling to help. But emergency relief is a last resort, when everything else has failed. And by the time a humanitarian crisis is a fact, a great deal has failed. Essentially, humanitarian crises reflect the fundamental problems many developing countries are facing: poverty, war and conflict, weak institutions, poor governance and over-exploitation of natural resources.