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Humanitarianism in Crisis

Courtesy Reuters

A WORLD APART?

The humanitarian world emerged from the 1990s both saddened and chastened. Again and again nonprofit and UN personnel had been overwhelmed by the magnitude of particular crises -- as when 2 million people crossed from Rwanda into Zaire in 1994, or when 800,000 Kosovar Albanians were forcibly deported from the province by Serb forces in the spring of 1999. Even more unnerving was the sense that, often despite the relief groups' own best efforts, the moral dilemmas attendant on their actions had only grown more acute over the course of the decade. Even so, humanitarians did not give up. Non-governmental organizations (NGOS) and UN agencies multiplied their efforts to refine their operations in light of the lessons of Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Still, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, experienced relief workers had come to accept the new conventional wisdom that there are no humanitarian solutions to humanitarian problems.

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