2014 a troubling year and a sign of things to come

2014 has been dominated by the humanitarian crises in Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, that have destroyed and disrupted the lives of millions of people. Protracted conflicts like those in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan, violent natural disasters, as well as the Ebola crisis, are seriously testing the limits and response capacities of individuals, organizations, governments and the United Nations.

But 2014 is not just a troubled and turbulent year.  Regrettably, it is also a sign of things to come and a loud warning signal for us all to seriously heed.

All the evidence shows that humanitarian needs are now rising faster than our capacity to meet them. Over the past ten years, the amount requested through humanitarian appeals has risen nearly 600 per cent—from $3 billion at the start of 2004 to $17.9 billion today.

It is increasingly difficult to raise these funds. Earlier this week, the World Food Programme was forced to suspend its support to 1.7 million Syrian refugees, because of acute funding shortages. With winter fast approaching the situation is getting even more critical, and we must also not forget Iraq.

Fifty million people – the highest number since the Second World War — are displaced in their own countries or across borders.  The food price crisis of 2007-2008 led to protests in 50 countries.  This demonstrates how food price shocks can rapidly increase humanitarian needs and cause social unrest.

Humanitarian aid cannot be used to fill the development funding gap or be a substitute for political solutions that are so desperately needed, not least in Syria.

[Excerpts from opening remarks by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, at the Third Annual Global Humanitarian Policy Forum]

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