The Humanitarian Times
May 27, 1999
- UN POLICE TO WATCH EAST TIMOR IN TIME OF ACCELERATING VIOLENCE in the lead-up to the August referendum on Timors autonomy. Over 50,000 Timorese have been displaced by killings in recent weeks. Indonesia announced that Nobel Peace laureate independence-advocate Jose Ramos Horta will be allowed to re-enter East Timor.
- WEST AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS INDECISIVE ABOUT RECOGNIZING NIGER GOV, disturbed by the assasination last month of Niger Pres. Mainassara.At an ECOWAS meeting this week, African govts debated whether to ostracize the new Niger govt, but instead called on an independent investigation into the assassination. Niger's ruling council says national elections will be held in November.
- MILOSEVIC BECAME FIRST HEAD OF STATE INDICTED FOR WAR CRIMES today, when Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic plus 4 other senior Serb politicians had arrest warrants issued by the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Netherlands. Milosevic was probably placed under secret indictment weeks ago by the tribunal. US War Crimes ambassador David Scheffer explained that immunity from prosecution for war crimes will not be a part of any peace agreement.
- MASS FORCED MIGRATION FROM KOSOVO A KEY FINDING OF UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello who just completed his UN humanitarian mission to Kosovo, witnessing destroyed villages. There are now over 750,000 Kosovar refugees in 35+ camps in Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Montenegro's borders are now closed by the Serb army. UNICEF is providing oral hydration formula & immunizations. A new report from the UN Fund for Population Activities finds ongoing widespread sexual violence against women in Kosovo. The World Bank signed $82 million emergency loans to Macedonia to help it cope with the refugees; Albania is requesting $100 million. Meanwhile, NATO approved deployment of 48,000 soldiers into border areas, to prepare to enter Kosovo.
- YUGOSLAVIA TRIAL OF 3 CARE WORKERS TO EXCLUDE OUTSIDE OBSERVERS. CARE Australia humanitarian field workers stand trial this week in Belgrade. Among them is Steve Pratt who has a career of aidwork in humanitarian crises like Rwanda & Zaire. CARE currently manages 4 refugee camps in Albania & 2 of the largest camps in Macedonia where it distributes fresh foods & supports family tracing.
- CENTRAL AMERICAN RECONSTRUCTION FROM HURRICANE MITCH will receive $3.5 billion & refinancing of debts said the Inter- American Development Bank, at conference in Stockholm.
- BURMA MILITARY JUNTA STILL PRACTISING FORCED LABOR, concludes the UN International Labor Organization in a report released this week. Meanwhile Shan villagers have fled their homes to the jungle or Thailand as the Burma military is forcibly displacing 300,000.Today marks the 9th anniversary of the May 27, 1990 democratic elections which the military junta refused to respect.
- BRITAIN PROPOSES $50 BILLION DEBT-RELIEF FOR POOREST COUNTRIES
- U.S. RATIFIES AMENDED MINES PROTOCOL OF WEAPON CONVENTION which requires that all anti-personnel mines used outside marked & monitored minefields quickly & reliably self- destruct. It bans non- detectable anti-personnel mines to make mine clearance easier & makes those laying mines responsible, preventing indiscriminate use.
- CHINA'S 3 GORGES DAM WILL DISPLACE 1.3 MILLION many of whom will now be relocated to distant areas within China, explained Prime Minister Zhu Rongji last week, noting that resettlement in nearby but already-overcrowded areas is infeasible.
- CENTRAL ETHIOPIAN "BELG" RAINS FAIL, INCREASING FOOD INSECURITY
- THOUSANDS OF REFUGEES RETURN TO NAMIBIA from Botswana this week under a general amnesty & a tripartite agreement.
- DO NO HARM: THE COMPLEX IMPACT OF AID IN EMERGENCIES: in her latest text "Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace or War" (1999 London: Lynne Rienner Pub), Mary B Anderson describes tradeoffs & unintended consequences from dozens of case studies. Overall, "the fact that aid inevitably does have an impact on warfare means aid workers cannot avoid the responsibility of trying to shape that impact. That choices about how to shape that impact represent outsider interference means (that) aid workers can always be accused of inappropriate action.
There is no way out of this dilemma." Aid affects markets, Anderson explains, & there are important social and distributional consequences to how aid is given out that will influence the social tensions that have caused armed conflict. Irish non-profit Trocaire's program in Somalia, that did not use armed guards, is cited as an approach that reinforced traditional leaders as opposed to military warlords. In Burundi, the Red Cross's theater and public forum program is cited, which created a public space for discussion of conflict reduction: "A well-chosen group of local people genuinely interested in not exacerbating conflict can better express things than an outside group can." Anderson calls on aid workers to assess the dynamics of conflict to distinguish root & proximate causes, plus to identify local capacities for peace. Anderson summarizes ways that programs can limit the negative effects while preserving the positive: "To lower the probability that warlords will use aid in pursuit of greed, agencies have limited the supplies they import and have designed them to have value for use but not for sale. To lower the levels of threat and coercion that characterize conflict situations, some aid agencies have consciously not used aid resources to threaten, bribe or coerce compliance with their programs - a tone that demonstrates tolerance, trust & commitment.
To co-opt commanders into assuming responsibility for civilian welfare, aid agencies have established systems that presume commander concern for welfare & reinforce involvement in peoples lives."
- CHOICES: ETHICAL QUANDRIES WHICH ABOUND IN HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE are explored in "Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention", a late-1998 anthology edited by Jonathan Moore, Published by Rowman and Littlefield, & under the auspices of the Intl. Comm of the Red Cross. 18 contributors describe jarring moral differences in different settings: how words often don't measure up to deeds. Mohamed Sahnoun argues that while an intl military presence may become necessary in many crises, humanitarian organizations should be consulted in drawing up the military's directives. Ian Martin writes on the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide: "The international community failed to play adequately the part in the pursuit of impartial justice that it claimed for itself. The early history of the Intl Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was a shameful failure of commitment & competence.
The new Rwanda needed both more assistance, and more criticism than it received, and only a willingness to deliver the former would have made the latter morally and politically acceptable." Rony Brauman recounts the stormy debates among non-profits working in crisis zones, each with a distinct view about how best to weigh politics, neutrality, immediate humanitarian needs, and long-term conflict resolution needs. As 1 example he refers to MSF's decision to not work in Khmer Rouge camps as the "Khmer Rouge ideology did not leave any room for humanitarian activity & precluded the possibility of extending any aid worthy of the name to those who needed it." Yet MSF was also averse to working through Phnom Penh: "the aid sent to Cambodia was not reaching the population but passing directly into the hands of the Vietnamese authorities." Bauman also notes the dilemma of working in war-torn Bosnia where the surviving populations were often the victors "guilty of ethnic cleansing" or where access to vulnerable enclaves depended on paying off Serb authorities.
He concludes "humanitarian action can easily be turned against their objectives. Humanitarian organizations - failing to rebel against sentimental conformism and to resist the lures of marketing - tend simply to go through the motions, reducing their operations to logistic deployment accompanied by pious slogans."
- U.S. CASUALTIES: FATEFUL GUN BATTLE IN MOGADISHU, SOMALIA, OCT 1993, that helped decrease US level of tolerance for casualties in overseas interventions is recounted in "Black Hawk Down" a new best-seller by journalist Mark Bowden (1999 NY: Atlantic Monthly Press). Bowden tells the story of the US Rangers efforts to capture war criminal Gen. Aideed, but who were, themselves, trapped by heavy fire in a 3 city-block area, waiting a delayed rescue by UN troops. Little broader context is given of events in Somalia, except to frame the single battle: "They knew the best way to hurt Americans was to shoot down a helicopter; helicopters were a symbol of UN power and Somali helplessness. To Aidid's fighters, the Rangers' weakness was apparent. They were not willing to die."
The Humanitarian Times