In 2010, vast humanitarian crises from Haiti to Pakistan almost overwhelmed the international system’s ability to respond. Despite years of reform, UN agencies, donors, and international NGOs (INGOs) struggled to cope. In 2011, Somalia yet again saw a response too little and too late, driven by media attention, not a timely, impartial assessment of human needs. At the same time, humanitarian action is needed now more than ever. The growing number of vulnerable people, the rise in disasters, and the failure to put most fragile states on the path to development, will significantly increase needs.
Western-based donors, INGOs and the UN provide only part of the answer. Already, new donors and NGOs from around the world provide a significant share of humanitarian aid. Future humanitarian action will rely on them, and on the governments and civil society of crisis-affected countries even more. The UN and INGOs will be vital, but their contribution will increasingly be measured by how well they complement and support the efforts of others, and encourage every humanitarian actor to uphold humanitarian principles.