International Crises and Disasters: U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Response Mechanisms [May 24, 2013] [open pdf - 272KB]
"The majority of humanitarian emergencies worldwide stem from natural disasters or from conflicts. Congress has consistently supported humanitarian efforts as a means of responding to crises in the short term, taking the lead, and promoting a U.S. presence. Intervention results in varying amounts of relief and recovery assistance and can have an important impact not only on the relief operation itself but on broader foreign policy issues. In the 113th Congress, international humanitarian and refugee assistance is expected to continue to have a strong measure of bipartisan support, with key policy issues focused on budget priorities, levels and types of funding, the sources of other support available worldwide, and the ways in which operational assistance is delivered. Factors that may impact decision-making include the type of humanitarian assistance required, the impact of conflict and refugee flows on stability in the region in question, and the role of neighboring countries in contributing to the relief effort. Examples of issues likely to remain of congressional interest include competing aid and budget priorities, reimbursing U.S. government agencies for their expenditures (to replenish the emergency accounts or other accounts that have been used to provide assistance), and civilian and military coordination, including the evolving role of the Department of Defense in humanitarian assistance. Other priorities may include an examination of the disparity between numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees worldwide and the available funding for these groups; physical protection of refugees and other vulnerable populations in addition to the protection of human rights; programs to address gender based violence; and the creation of durable solutions for displaced populations."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33769