"Civilian populations have always suffered the collateral effects of armed conflict, but increasingly throughout the course of the 20th century they have become both a target and the principal victim of warfare. During the post-Cold War era, the vast majority of wars have been internal to the sovereign state, which has frequently bred humanitarian catastrophes. This has included 'ethnic cleansing' (Bosnia, Kosovo), genocide (Rwanda), starvation (Somalia), ruthless governmental suppression of minorities (Iraq, Sudan), wanton brutality by rebel forces (Liberia, Sierra Leone), protracted civil war (Angola, Mozambique, Afghanistan), and extreme deprivation of human rights (Haiti). These situations have resulted in massive population displacements, both internally and internationally, and have generated international action aimed at resolving the conflict and assisting the victims. They have been marked by a climate of extreme insecurity for the affected populations and those trying to help them. The crisis in Kosovo has brought this issue to the forefront of international concern yet again, riveting public attention on the plight of another victimized population. NATO and UN actions vis-à-vis Kosovo have been unprecedented in terms of international military and civilian response for humanitarian protection, but have also highlighted the difficulties and delays in mounting a response. While it may be too soon to determine what precedents have been set, humanitarian protection has clearly become a major international security issue at the intersection of the conflict between national sovereignty and universal principles of human rights."
Strategic Forum No.168