A shrinking humanitarian space and increasing humanitarian needs

Crawford School of Public Policy | Development Policy Centre

Event details

Public Lecture

Date & time

Tuesday 28 May 2024


Acton Theatre, Crawford School of Public Policy & Online via Zoom


Dr Christos Christou, International President, Médecins Sans Frontières | Arunn Jegan, Head of Mission and Humanitarian Affairs Lead, Médecins Sans Frontières Australia


Development Policy

As conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine capture the public’s attention, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) argues it’s time to raise the alert on the erosion of international humanitarian law and increasing risks faced by aid workers.

What price will we as a humanitarian sector pay for the way the Gaza war is being waged? Beyond the already horrific and climbing death toll in Gaza, is Israel’s unabated interpretation of its right to self-defence worth the cost of compromising international humanitarian law?

In Ukraine, the World Health Organization has verified more that 1000 attacks on health care facilities, including those supported by MSF, since the invasion by Russia in 2022, the highest number ever recorded in any humanitarian emergency.

What will the diminution in humanitarian space mean for the capacity of humanitarian organisations to respond to future global crises and conflicts?

In the aftermath of a global pandemic that the UN estimates pushed 97 million more people into extreme poverty, with record numbers of people displaced and refugees seeking safety, and with the increase in conflicts worldwide in recent years (Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ukraine, Sudan, Yemen), humanitarian needs are growing exponentially. Governments including Australia will need to play their part at the international level to further enshrine and strengthen international humanitarian law and step up their overall support to respond to global crises.

Dr Christos Christou and Arunn Jegan will explore these issues and share their recent experiences from MSF’s projects in Gaza and Ukraine, on rescue boats in the Mediterranean, and in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh Last month, Dr Christou visited Sudan and Chad where one of the worst crises the world has seen for decades is unfolding. The humanitarian response is deeply inadequate with assistance systematically blocked by the authorities.

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