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date: 14 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides a historical perspective on the role of the United Nations in the areas of humanitarian action and coordination. It examines the UN’s emerging engagement in this domain in the aftermath of the Second World War, as well as the growth of the organization’s humanitarian role during the period of decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s. The chapter argues that the end of the Cold War created a humanitarian landscape that was more complex and dangerous than had previously been the case, giving rise to a range of acute policy dilemmas in relation to the protection and provision of assistance to refugees, displaced people, and other civilians. The chapter suggests that effective interagency coordination has been a chronic challenge for the UN in the humanitarian realm and provides a critical review of the different organizational arrangements that have been established to address this concern.

Keywords: humanitarian action, humanitarian coordination, refugees, displaced people, IDPs, protection of civilians, emergency assistance

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