The Humanitarian Times

December 12, 1999


- HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, DEC 10, OBSERVED BY NEW HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT which claims people are "less tolerant of human rights crises than ever before" (see HRW World Report 2000: Also, this past week an intl. conf in Turkey called for the end of the sex trafficking which involves roughly 1m women each year.

- UGANDA & SUDAN AGREE TO PEACE INITIATIVE; AMNESTY OFFERED REBELS. Brokered by former Pres. Jimmy Carter & the Carter Center in Atlanta, heads of state of Uganda & Sudan agreed this week to establish peaceful diplomatic relations &, in particular, to disarm rebel groups working across their respective borders: notably the Lord's Resistance Army famous for terror campaigns brutalizing north Ugandan civilians & abducting children), which, in separate event, was offered a 6-month amnesty this week by Uganda's Parliament, in a major shift to try to bring peace.


- HONDURAS & NICARAGUA THREATEN CONFLICT OVER MARITIME TERRITORY: Nicaragua disputes Honduras' claim that the boundary follows latitude 14' 59' 08".


- UK DEVOLVES AUTHORITY TO NEW BELFAST GOVT WHICH INCLUDES SINN FEIN members in power-sharing alliance. The Irish Republican Army is meeting with disarmament commission & it remains the unpredictable variable in whether peace will hold. The protestant paramilitary Ulster Freedom Fighters publicly announced their intent to collaborate on disarmament. The whole region stands to benefit from swelling tourism-led hard currency inflows if peace holds. The peace breakthrough was facilitated by George Mitchell, Chair of the Intl. Crisis Group.

- ANGOLA FOOD SECURITY CRISIS IMPROVES; ROADS INTO MALANJE REOPENED as a UNITA rebel siege of the city has subsided, with govt victories. Meanwhile, thousands of Angolan refugees are fleeing fighting in eastern Moxico province into W Zambia. Over 50 people died from landmine injuries this year in Moxico.

- UNHCR OPENS 3 OFFICES FOR INTERNALLY DISPLACED IN COLOMBIA; meanwhile UN Sec Gen appointed Jan Egeland as special envoy for intl aid to Colombia.

- IRAQ GOVT FORCIBLY EVICTING SOUTHERN IRAQIS FROM BAGHDAD in new relocation starting this week with 4,000.

- NEW REGIONAL "SECURITY COUNCIL" ESTABLISHED IN WEST AFRICA by 16 member govts of the Economic Community of West African States, even as the first regiments of 6,000 planned intl peacekeeping troops began to arrive in Sierra Leone this month. In Central Africa, Nelson Mandela (former S African Pres) was appointed the new UN mediator for Burundi, replacing former Tanzanian Pres. Julius Nyerere who recently passed away.

- RUSSIA ENCOURAGES CHECHENS TO "ESCAPE" GROSNY BEFORE IT IS DESTROYED, this past week, plus Russia says refugees will be returned from Ingushetia to Chechnya, further following NATO's recent model (bomb & repatriate) in Kosovo. The Washington Post yesterday called for an intl war crimes inquiry into violations by Russia's generals.

- DROUGHT IN PARAGUAY & URUGUAY RESULTING IN FOREST FIRES, CROP LOSSES; emergency aid is being provided by Japan, USAID, & the Red Cross.

- OVER 250 MILLION LANDMINES REMAIN STOCKPILED, REQUIRE DESTRUCTION under the Ottawa treaty in which states agree "never ... stockpile, retain .. anti-personnel landmines." The vast majority of stockpiled mines are in China, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, Albania, according to this week's Fact Sheet prepared by the Intl. Campaign to Ban Landmines.

- UNHCR SEEKS SUPPORT FOR GYPSY (ROMA) REFUGEES WHO FLED KOSOVO to other parts of Yugoslavia. Approximately 50,000 are without shelter as winter sets in.

- UN CLOSES LAST CAMP OPERATIONS FOR KOSOVARS IN MACEDONIA although roughly 1,200 gypsy refugees will remain living in one camp.


- NEW WEBSITE ON INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS, BY NORWEGIAN Refugee Council, offers database on 14 worst IDP countries -including Peru, Burma, Afghanistan, Sudan:




The Overseas Development Institute (ODI, see is one of the most long-established think tanks on intl. humanitarian & dev. problems, focusing often on aid itself. It produces "Disasters" journal (Blackwell Pub), among others, & has published many working papers on such topics as NGO coordination in relief assistance. Just recently, for example, it recently produced findings on "Social Exclusion & Finance" & worked with DFID to produce "Sustainable Livelihoods - Lessons from Early Experience" (by C Ashley & D Carney 1999 DFID)"

Among ODI's long-standing programs is the "RELIEF & REHABILITATION NETWORK" (RRN) which has published a series of "Good Practice Reviews" as well as a series of over 30 provocative "papers", such as Dylan Hendrickson's "Humanitarian Action in Protracted Crises: The New Relief Agenda & its Limits," or J Macrae's "Dilemma's of Post-Conflict Transition, Lessons from the Health Sector," & "Protection in Practice" by Diane Paul which was reviewed in the August 12 HT.

Today the RRN works closely now with ODI's "Humanitarian Policy Group" (HPG) of fellows & ODI's ALNAP program on learning & accountability in the intl. humanitarian system. For more information on HPG contact:

- "THE IMPACT OF ECONOMIC SANCTIONS ON HEALTH & WELLBEING" by Richard Garfield (Nov 1999) is the most recent RRN report; it gives a thorough analytic treatment of the balance between the goals of intl sanctions & the undesirable humanitarian consequences, principally declines in employment, safety nets, health care, nutrition & public health. Garfield finds that "the chronically ill & elderly suffer disproportionately from declining healthcare under trade sanctions." Although a wide range of humanitarian, religious & health groups have criticized sanctions, Garfield concludes that "the major humanitarian effects can be anticipated and prevented or attenuated." Looking at the history of sanctions in different settings, going back to 1965 in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he finds that "sanctions, when scrutinized under the principles of differentiation & proportionality, may violate more rights than war itself." In Cuba he has demonstrated that US sanctions increased civilian mortality significantly, mostly among older persons, with growing prevalence of tuberculosis & pneumonia. Garfield does justice to the methodological controversies over how to measure outcome indicators of sanctions; each sanction on economic trade, he writes, is a type of natural experiment, "where the intervention is national, & control groups with which to make comparisons do no exist." Health problems caused by sanctions "may be obscured by concurrent events that contribute independently, such as war, mass migration, or economic crisis." Garfield recommends better & earlier monitoring: "Prior to initiating sanctions, baseline data should be gathered on the likely impact of sanctions." & the intl. community should provide aid to vulnerable groups in a proactive manner.

- ETHIOPIA - "THE CHANGING ROLE OF NGOs IN THE PROVISION OF RELIEF & Rehabilitation Assistance: N Ethiopia & Eritrea" by John Borton (1994) has significance again now given the debate over provision of food aid to combatant groups in Southern Sudan. Borton looks in detail at the myriad ways aid was provided & coordinated in the Ethiopian famine, providing an important case study (alongside, Biafra & Cambodia) of the extensive role Intl NGOs play in supporting rebel fronts (& the domestic relief organs they established: ERA & REST). Each aid group fell at some time under ethical dilemmas if not intl. criticism for some operational issue: either not speaking out against the govt, or pacifying legitimate grievances, or siding with combatants.

Borton rightly casts a skeptical eye on the efforts by intl NGOs to claim that their aid was politically neutral: "the use of such terms in relation to assistance that was effectively being provided on either side of a conflict is somewhat bizarre for it was readily apparent that the resources provided through the relief efforts presented a form of support to either side of the conflict."

- "NORTH KOREA: THE POLITICS OF AID" (MARCH 1998) BY JON BENNETT offers the most comprehensive review of the crisis in N Korea yet published, drawing on a wide range of intl sources, & inquiring about agricultural trends, the prospects of North/South reunification, & gaps in foreign aid. He finds "the accumulated anecdotal evidence of UN, donor & NGO missions points to uneven access to public food ration resulting in long-term nutritional deficits pockets of malnutrition." & that the aid effort of UNICEF, MSF, IFRC & other NGOs "combined with the extensive food aid program, was deemed to have averted major famine by mid-1998." Bennett writes "In contrast to famine in Africa, where state disintegration & weakening of civil society are the norm, N Korea is characterized by stability, centrality & civil order. That the N. Korean govt "has deliberately exaggerated data to attract food aid remains a possibility, though notoriously difficult to verify." Bennett expects that "the N Korean govt will continue to exploit differences between agencies to their advantage & are fully appraised of differences of opinion emanating from NY, Brussels, Rome or elsewhere."

- "THE WAR ECONOMY IN LIBERIA, POLITICAL ANALYSIS" (1997) by Philippa Atkinson traces the diff. phases of forced labor, looting, logging & other trade in Liberia, in relation to the efforts of civilians to find livelihood.

- "BETWEEN RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT: TARGETING FOOD AID FOR DISASTER PREV. in Ethiopia" by Kay Sharp (1998) gives a useful analysis of targeting (inclusion, exclusion, errors, coverage) issues, concluding that job- provision programs are not as self-targeting to the poor as we once believed. Instead, family members of somewhat wealthier groups use them.

- "RRN NEWSLETTER" is the best news periodical on humanitarian issues, mixing news, analysis coming events, and book reviews. The analyses are sometimes solid case studies of field operations, sometimes analysis by sector: shelter, security, recruitment of personnel.


The Humanitarian Times