The notion of humanitarian action has progressively stretched and its focus now includes preparedness, risk reduction, resilience and sustainable action. This is accompanied by a push for greater investments in local capacity building and the alignment of the humanitarian agenda with the wider efforts to tackle the root causes of poverty, conflict and natural disasters, push that was formalised at the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS). Whilst this approach may be pertinent and reasonably pursued in some settings, it is concerning that it is increasingly coming at the expense of responding to the immediate and critical needs of people caught in crises today.
The recent significant failures to deliver humanitarian assistance in some of the most devastating conflicts of our time in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Libya indicate that far from having become obsolete, robust emergency response is more necessary than ever. People living in conflicts today are all too often receiving little or no assistance. The absence of humanitarian response is mostly attributed to difficult access, insecure operating environment and unavailability of rapid and flexible funding to support operations. The resulting gap is what we call the ‘Emergency gap’ and refers to the lack of adequate emergency response targeting the most pressing humanitarian needs in acute conflict.
The Emergency Gap project is undertaken by the MSF Operational Centre Barcelona Athens (OCBA) to respond to operational concerns over the declining emergency response capacity of the humanitarian sector at large. The Emergency Gap work aims to diagnose the drivers of such loss of emergency focus in current humanitarian action, and to analyse the enablers and disablers for the provision of effective humanitarian response in the context of acute armed conflict. Ultimately, the project pretends to stimulate debate with a view to identifying better strategic and operational ways forward for delivering critical assistance to people trapped in situations of conflict.
The Emergency Gap project features a series of products, including conceptual reflection papers, case studies and events that further deepen and elaborate upon the initial diagnosis of the problem from MSF’s perspective.