Anatomy of a Complex Humanitarian Emergency
Exactly when they came to be known as complex humanitarian emergencies and who gave them that name is not clear, but by 1990 many senior disaster managers had begun using the term. It is quite probable that the name was invented by someone working for a humanitarian relief agency, given the explicit bias in the term for the humanitarian consequences of the event. Political scientists generally use the term failed state, indicating their preference for the language of their trade. According to one study done by the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), these emergencies began accelerating by the late 1980s. Between 1978 and 1985 there was an average of 5 ongoing complex emergencies each year; by 1989 there were 14; by 1992, 17; and in 1996, 24. 1
Two U.S. presidents have committed military forces to perform logistical and security functions in five of these emergencies: Kurdistan, Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Haiti. Perhaps two dozen soldiers have lost their fives in these five interventions. The Somalian intervention, which has generated dozens of articles, books, and studies, has caused an accelerating revolution in U.S. military doctrine as strategists have attempted to come to terms with these crises.
The striking escalation in the number of complex humanitarian emergencies has been accompanied by a noticeable increase in spending on emergency assistance. In 1989 U.S. bilateral aid in response to foreign disasters and crises totaled $300 million. 2 By 1994 this figure had risen to more than $1.3 billion. 3 This trend