(Forman and Parhad, 1997)? While global refugee numbers had declined in this periodby some 16 per cent, the reduction in the refugee ‘case-load’ was almost certainlycompensated for by increased numbers of internally displaced persons.
The erosion of humanitarian action is reflected in the year-on-year donor response to United Nationsconsolidated appeals (CAPs) for humanitarian programmes which fell short by 24 percent in 1994, 27 per cent in 1995, 31 per cent in 1996, 35 per cent in 1997 and so far,by a massive 79 per cent in 1998.
It is worth noting that this deteriorating donorperformance in response to the UN CAPs has taken place against a declining appealtarget, down from $2.7 billion in 1994 to $1.5 billion in 1997. It is also important torecognise that this decline has taken place within a more general slide in total officialinternational assistance, falling from its high point of $61 billion in 1992 to $55 billionin 1996.
Examined from this perspective, the falling level of humanitarian aid seemsto reflect a more general OECD disillusionment with aid transfers.There are no doubt numerous reasons for this decline in private and officialhumanitarian aid and development co-operation. Just some of these pertaining to thehumanitarian system in particular will be considered below.There are four major challenges to the humanitarian system that have caused greatdamage to its reputation. These can be summarised as:
The demonisation of the ‘undeserving’ disaster victim and asylum seeker.
The ‘new pragmatism’ that favours the resolution of ‘local problems’ by localactors.
The growing hegemony of the theory of welfare dependency.
The end of the ‘age of innocence’ in media relations with aid agencies.
Perhaps the most insidious challenge to humanitarian values has been the widelyreported claim that many disaster victims have no one but themselves to blame.Indeed, in the case of Rwanda it has become a commonplace that the ‘extremist Hutu’leadership was able to sustain its political control over the refugee population by theirastute manipulation of humanitarian aid. This story line was and is used by many,including African Rights, the US and Rwandan governments, to justify the forcedrepatriation of most of the refugees (or ‘fugitive Hutu extremists’ as they have beenlabelled), and the ‘disappearance’ of the remainder. This argument has also suitedmany official aid agencies who found in it an excellent reason to suspendhumanitarian aid and to be ‘pragmatic’, i.e. to do nothing, irrespective of any furtherdistress experienced by this group of pariah refugees. This argument is flawed in manyplaces.First, by no means all refugees were guilty of genocide. Indeed some 750,000 of those forcibly repatriated or ‘lost in Zaire’ were children under five. Over 1.5 millionwere under 16 years of age. Of those who disappeared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some 50,000 were children under five, the majority of whom had never setfoot in Rwanda.Second, withholding humanitarian assistance on the grounds that those in need
be criminals is like suggesting that the ambulance service should conduct triage on thebasis of
criminality rather than upon the clinical urgency of each case. This is