Throughout 2013, international humanitarian actors have faced major challenges responding to conflicts and natural disasters across the globe. Tens of thousands of people died in Syria and millions were displaced while international actors struggled to get access to desperate people. While escalating violence in such diverse countries as South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen and the Central African Republic may have received less media attention than Syria, these situations also posed particular challenges to the international community. At the end of 2013, the international community was mobilizing a major relief effort to respond to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, a storm that affected more than 14 million people and displaced over 5 million. Beyond the headlines, there were dozens of long-standing conflicts and smaller disasters that impacted the lives of millions of people and overwhelmed the capacity of local responders to meet the security, food and health needs of victims. The slow and sometimes inadequate response to these emergencies raise challenging questions about the capacity of the humanitarian aid system to meet the needs of people most affected by these and other disasters.
On January 9, the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hosted a discussion looking back at 2013 and assessed how well the international community responded to crises last year with a particular focus on Syria – a high-profile crisis – and the Central African Republic – a low-profile crisis - as well as the thematic issue of access to health care during crises. Panelists included Sophie Delaunay, executive director of MSF in the United States; Antoine Gérard from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; Iain Levine from Human Rights Watch and Francois Stamm from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Senior Fellow Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.
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