These measures lay the foundation for urgent action needed now more than ever in the world’s proliferating humanitarian crises, mired in the triple threat of untended conflict, unmitigated climate change and the scourge of Covid-19.
Urgent and expansive humanitarian action from the new administration is therefore a necessity and not a luxury. America’s absence during the previous administration created a spiral of disengagement that has left the world leaderless at this crucial time. And while the US cannot resolve these challenges alone, US leadership can encourage others to share the burden.
Covid-19 takes priority because it has brought the world to its knees.
The second order of business is restoring stability to the world’s worst crisis zones before they get worse. Humanitarian appeals for IRC’s Watchlist countries have been organized for an average of 11 consecutive years. Sustained improvement in these destabilizing displacement crises will deliver humanitarian and strategic benefit — but it will take aid, diplomacy, sustained engagement and coordination with donors, UN agencies and international financial institutions.
When war crimes go unpunished and the laws of war become optional, we all lose. Yet today we are living through a growing Age of Impunity. Perpetrators of violence and their autocratic enablers have defined a new and dangerous road map for civil conflicts, with indiscriminate and often purposeful attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, food and medicine withheld as weapons of war, and access to populations in need blocked. These are factors that sustain conflict and drive displacement, with their attendant consequences for lives, livelihoods and regional stability.
With the US presidency of the UN Security Council in March, the Biden administration can lead the world in reinvigorating the laws of war and rally other democratic nations to hold violators accountable.