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High profile crises are an irresistible call to action for the disaster relief industry. “Its an emergency” becomes our mantra as we readily focus our efforts on the transitory emergency needs of populations in distress. We are compelled by the impression that “people are dying” and the notion that “we have no time.”
The urgent priorities for life-saving assistance divert and distract us—understandably but regrettably—away from the medium- to long-term restoration of livelihoods, self-reliance, capacity-building, economic development, and psychosocial well-being. Although only an infinitesimal fraction of refugee crises are short-term, the “emergency alibi” dismisses us from more thoughtful approaches to the morass of intransigent problems that we face.
Our goal in this chapter is to present and examine the idea of this term, challenge the alibi, and invite greater sophistication and science into our guild.