The Gulf War involved, in effect, two humanitarian upheavals rolled into one. The first was the flight of some 850,000 third country nationals and 300,000 Palestinians, from Kuwait and Iraq mostly into Jordan in the weeks following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The second was the flight of some 1.5 million Iraqis to the Turkish border and into Iran during the civil war within Iraq, which began in late March 1991. In between, and linking the two upheavals, was the Gulf War between the armed forces of Iraq and the Allied Coalition. This set of events and their humanitarian repercussions constitute the "Gulf Crisis" as used in this report.
The United Nations played a pivotal role in coordinating the response of the international community. This report reviews humanitarian coordination efforts during the period between August 2,1990 and mid-June 1992, focusing in sequence on UN coordination of the UN family, of governments, and of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). For each of these three sets of actors, first humanitarian and then political aspects are examined.
Taking into account interviews with more than two hundred persons involved in the Gulf crisis, this independent evaluation concludes that while many UN officials worked tirelessly to assure that needs generated by the Gulf crisis were met, the United Nations as a system failed to coordinate the world's humanitarian response effectively. Having reviewed some of the reasons for this failure, the report recommends changes to the United Nations, particularly its Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA), and to governments and non-governmental organisations.