Forgotten Crises – to go

Westland, E.
Publication language
Date published
01 Apr 2023
Research, reports and studies
Comms, media & information

The largest humanitarian donors and humanitarian organisations adhere to the four core principles of humanitarian action: humanity (suffering is addressed where it is found), neutrality (humanitarian actors stay neutral in controversies such as conflicts), independence (humanitarian organisations operate independently from other actors and only address humanitarian needs), and, specifically important for this paper, impartiality, meaning that humanitarian assistance is based on needs alone. 

Fully adhering to the principle of impartiality is in practice, however, rather complex, and some humanitarian crises are more attended to by donors than others. Currently, many crises occur largely unnoticed, often leading to a deterioration of the situation. These crises have received increased interest in the past two decades and are often referred to in various ways such as ‘forgotten crises’ (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations 2022), ‘forgotten emergencies’ (Médecins Sans Frontières 2022), ‘neglected displacement crises’ (Norwegian Refugee Council 2022), or ‘under the radar crises’  (START Network 2023).

Forgotten crises (or equivalent) are seen as a direct result of reduced interest from the media, society and politicians, which is argued to lead to fewer financial resources (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations 2022). These crisis contexts are usually not the result of sudden ‘shock’ events but are rather protracted, develop gradually and are a combination of complex and various factors, meaning that they often take place in conflict-affected regions that are simultaneously affected by natural hazards. This to go paper provides a brief summary of the topic, highlighting the interest in forgotten crises over the past two decades, and elaborating on the definitions of and criteria for forgotten crises and related funding procedures of different organisations.  The paper is concluded with a small reflection on the discussion around the term.