Though the aid sector has been criticised for being inefficient, colonial, uncoordinated and unregulated, it remains a critical salve for people suffering from conflict and catastrophe around the world.
Last month the Inter Agency Regional Analyst Network (IARAN), ---a consortium of NGOs, private and academic partners-- published a report about what kinds of crises we can expect until 2030, and how the sector needs to adapt to best respond to the needs of people most affected.
What does the world look like in 2030?
According to the IARAN there are 9 types of crises we can expect to see:
1. Large-scale involuntary migrations
Climate change and protracted conflicts will incite people to travel vast distances in search of safety and of better lives. The needs of the displaced will be urgent and long-term and the sheer number of refugees worldwide will no doubt destabilise host communities. Those being displaced will continue to face very limited protection and pervasive exploitation.
South to North migration to continue, until developed nations shut their doors. The European migrant crisis is an example of what's to come.
2. State fragility: system failure
Certain governments, due to chronic instability and conflict, will continue to be unable to provide basic services to their populations. The lack of civilian protection will result in various types of trauma and displacement.
Countries like Yemen that are currently unstable, are going to remain fragile for years to come, destabilizing neighbours and regions.
3. Persecution of minority groups
Segments of societies will be discriminated against, both culturally and legally. These groups will have little formal or no protection and will therefore be intimidated, exploited, displaced, tortured and arrested arbitrarily.
Many current examples of this are a glimpse of what's to come: the persecution if homosexuals in Chechnya or Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
4. Sudden onset disasters caused by natural hazards
Natural disasters, in part caused by climate change, will be more frequent, and the impacts of these will be more severe. A greater number of lives will be lost, natural and man-made environments will be destroyed and the provision of basic services - such as health and education - will be interrupted. As a result, a large number of people will be on the move.
Houston today shows how severe these crises can be - and how these types of crises are on the rise.
In an era of widespread interconnectedness, the threat of past, present and future diseases looms. In the last 30 years, no new anti-bacterials have been developed. Antimicrobial resistance is a real, pressing, and lethal threat to mankind.
Ebola, Swine and avian flu are examples of how in an increasingly globalised world, diseases travel fast.
6. Man-made destructive events
A man-made destructive event such as a nuclear, chemical or biological attack, as well as a technological accident, could lead to societal collapse and long-term societal complications (including physical and psychological trauma).
As countries grow their defence budgets and technological prowess the risk of accidents like Fukushima happening goes up, not down.
7. Ecosystemic crises:
In these types of crises, vulnerabilities intersect to create a widespread situation of instability. Demographic pressures and natural-resource mismanagement - combined with endemic poverty and political marginalisation - have the potential to result in global or regional destabilization.
The Lake Chad region today is at a confluence of vulnerabilities and is likely to remain so for years to come.
8. Protracted denial of services
In situations of prolonged infrastructural disruption affecting finance, industry, and most basic services, immobile groups (young children, the elderly, disabled) are most vulnerable.
Large scale hacks of service providers such as the ransomware attack in the UK this year, show how vulnerable large public institutions can be.
9. Economic crises in middle and high income countries
More developed countries will not be immune to crises. Significant inequality, radicalisation and terrorist attacks are already on the rise. These nations are likely to turn in on themselves, favouring nationalist parties, protectionist policies and decreased foreign aid. In these contexts, national, regional or global economic crises will cause rising unemployment, inflation, and poverty. Progress made in human development will be reversed.
Venezuela is a shocking example of how middle income countries are not impervious to collapse - and how easily progress towards human progress can be undone.
The future is bleak.
Emergency responders such as large Western aid organisations are not the only ones who will need to adapt and restructure based on what lies ahead. Everyone will need to prepare for the crises that are on the horizon. We are seeing an increasing number of new aid actors delivering aid, such as private companies, the military, faith-based organisations, the diaspora, citizens' movements. These actors will need to start responding, at scale, and fast. Civilians, average citizens, will be increasingly (directly and indirectly) affected by crises and will need to be prepared for a difficult future. We have seen this in Houston this week, in countless contexts previously, and we will see it time and time again.
In the future, everyone will be a humanitarian.