The Humanitarian Times

April 5, 2000

 

-EUROPE PROMISES AFRICA $550M+ IN DEBT RELIEF, & CONFLICT MITIGATION, landmine clearance, & 800,000 MT of food aid (for Ethiopia) discussed in 110 articles of the "Cairo Declaration" published yesterday at the end of the 1st ever Africa-EU Summit, hosted by Egypt which included 70 heads of state (including UN). Spain, France & Germany pledged to cancel debts of poor countries. A collective of Catholic non-profits, "CIDSE", called on the EU (in the European Voice) to save millions of lives in Africa by expanding technical assistance, canceling African- held debt, relaxing duties on African exports, restricting arms trade (enforcing EU's Code of Conduct on Arms Exports) & funding development of HIV/AIDS drugs; see: www.cidse.org.

-UN OCHA CALCULATES 1.3M CONGOLESE ARE DISPLACED BY CURRENT CONFLICT

-PFIZER COMP. WILL DONATE EXPENSIVE DRUG, DIFLUCAN, TO SOUTH AFRICANS infected with HIV/AIDS & diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis (a deadly brain infection), which Diflucan (Pfizer's patent) can remedy.

-CYCLONE HUDAH COMPOUNDS WIND & FLOOD DAMAGE IN MADAGASCAR THIS WEEK

-TRIAL OF NAZI DOCTOR WHO OVERSAW 772 CHILD EXECUTIONS WAS HALTED indefinitely in March by the presiding Austrian Judge, on grounds of mental incompetence of the defendant, Dr. Heinrich Gross, age 84, who had, from 1940-1944, administered the Spiegelgrund euthanasia clinic, set up (along with 40 others by the Third Reich) to kill, under medical pretense, children who were Jewish, handicapped & otherwise deemed undesirable. (Time Mag)

- RATE OF FLOW OF REFUGEES FLEEING S. SUDAN HAS DOUBLED THIS YEAR, adding to the 500,000 Sudanese refugees already in asylum in neighboring countries. The US Comm. for Refugees reports "the bombing of hospitals, schools, relief centers & oth civilian targets in S. Sudan by the Khartoum govt has dramatically expanded," in violation of the Geneva Conventions, including bombing attacks on NGO programs (Concern, Samaritan's Purse, ZOA).

-US EMERGENCY FOOD TO ERITREA WILL RESUME DESPITE DISPUTE OVER $4.5M of food aid (meant for Ethiopia) illegally appropriated by the Eritrean govt. in 1998, over which subsequent US aid was halted.

-NEIGHBOR STATES ISSUE NEW PEACE PLAN FOR SOMALIA, IN DJIBOUTI MEETING last week in Djibouti, & including Ethiopia, Kenya & others. It proposes a transitional assembly & natl. reconciliation conf in April.

-INDEP TASK FORCE URGES US CONGRESS TO PASS $1.6B AID TO COLOMBIA but proposes Congress add provisions to strengthen protection of civilians, to promote alternate (crop substitution) dev. & to train the Colombian military about human rights. See Joint Inter-American Dialogue & the Council on Foreign Relations report, "Steps Toward A Constructive US Policy In Colombia" (by B Graham & B Scowcroft): www.thedialogue.org/publications/CTF_Interim_Rpt.html.

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AMERICAN RED CROSS POLITICIZES HUMANITARIAN AID

The heads of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) & of the American Red Cross (ARC) are meeting in WashDC today for the 1st time, but are unlikely to resolve the issue of how the Israeli aid society (Magen David Adom) might be formally admitted into the intl. Red Cross movement, an issue over which ARC Pres. B. Healy has threatened to withdraw from the RC Federation & asked Congress (primarily Republicans) to use funding pressure. In communications with Congress, in newspaper editorials, & this morning on BBC news, Healy has made intl. humanitarian aid (provided through the historically neutral & impartial Red Cross) a bargaining chip for political ends.

- MDA & GENEVA CONVENTION: - The Israeli Magen David Adom (MDA) society, created in 1930, runs blood banks & a fleet of 500 ambulances, & in 1950 was designated by the Knesset as Israel's only National Red Cross Society. Currently it works effectively with the RC Federation & ICRC. Because the MDA uses the Star of David, & not any symbol defined in the Geneva Conventions, it is ineligible to join the RC Federation, though if it did, it would be restricted from its fundraising overseas, including New York where it now raises large contributions. To amend the Geneva Conventions to include the Star (Red Shield) of David would require a vote among signatory govts.

In 1949 such a vote failed. In a turn-about from past American Red Cross interpretation, Pres. Healy argues now that the inter-temporal doctrine in intl. law can be invoked to honor MDA's long-existing (pre-1948) right to its own emblem (ICRC experts disagree), & in an editorial published in yesterday's Intl. Herald Tribune (Paris), Healy says this "addresses the alleged fears of emblem proliferation." Editorialist C Krauthammer (Washington Post, NY Post) wrote in March that the fear of emblem proliferation was an invented, trivial problem. But intl. aid workers in combat zones rely on the unique protection & access provided by the RC symbol because it is so widely recognized to signify neutrality, impartiality, medical care & safety.

In an interview with HT, the former Under-Sec. General of IFRC, Margareta Wahlstrom explained that whatever symbol is used, it must not be abused: "In a time of increasingly complex emergencies, the issue isn't what the symbol represents, but that every party recognizes it as something they will respect.. lives have been lost or saved depending on this." She added that to change the intl. emblem should be a delicate process. When the Red Cross was formed (1863, in Geneva), the neutral, non-religious Red Cross symbol was adopted, based on a simple color-inversion of the Swiss national flag.

Switzerland itself has a long history of commitment to political neutrality -- even today it is neither a member of the UN nor the EU.

Over the years, many other emblems (e.g, cow, swastika, tree) have been proposed, unsuccessfully, by countries wanting to promote their own unique identity.

- Some RC experts think the issue may be resolved through a joint recognition by govts (& Gen Conv. protocol) of the MDA & of a new Palestinian Red Crescent Society, if & when, as expected, a new Palestinian state is established later this year.

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FOCUS: THE I.C.R.C. -- INT. COMM. OF THE RED CROSS

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) created by the Geneva Conventions (a treaty among nations), has a mandate to operate in areas of violent conflict (see: www.icrc.org). Its President, Jakob Kellenberger, spent yesterday discussing crises in Angola, Chechnya & Colombia with senior US humanitarian aid officials.

Unlike non-profit aid organizations which can pick & choose where they would like to deploy, the ICRC works in all violent conflicts, despite the danger (in the 1990s, ICRC 6 staff were murdered in Chechnya, 3 in Burundi, & others in Angola, Somalia, Sarajevo, Sierra Leone & oth places). It's complementary organization, the Intl. Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC, also based out of Geneva) works in post-conflict, pre-conflict in natural disasters &, in 1999, assisted 30M+ people in floods, mass migration, food security, earthquakes, urban disasters, & other disasters.

Working in crises like Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Angola & (as of this week) Chechnya, some 8,100 ICRC staff assist & protect more Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) than any other agency. During the Somali famine in 1992, ICRC saved more lives (roughly 100,000), via hundreds of feeding centers & livestock programs nation-wide, than most other agencies combined. ICRC monitors prison conditions (such as the 130,000 prisoners in Rwanda) & helps trace children & reunite families. In 1998 ICRC visited over 200,000 detainees in 1,500 institutions. ICRC, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1919, 1944, 1963 & shared in the prize for the Landmine campaign in 1998, also won the UN Human Rights award, the UNHCR Nansen prize, & the Brown University Feinstein Hunger award. ICRC has special campaigns to address global thematic problems including women in war, child soldiers, & the use of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering.

ICRC publishes scholarly texts on legal, medical & operational issues, plus the periodical, "Intl. Review of the Red Cross," histories of crises, & commentary & curriculum about Intl. Humanitarian Law ("IHL"), which it shepherds & promotes.

-ICRC TRAINING COURSE: HEALTH EMERGENCIES IN LARGE POPULATIONS - "HELP", will have (by this summer) trained over 1150 professionals in field management skills for crises in resource-poor emergency settings.

Begun in 1986, HELP's intensive 3-week instruction covers decision- making, ethics, medical care, nutrition, water/sanitation, & other sectors. The curriculum (based on ICRC experience) teaches caution of indirect consequences of aid. HELP courses are offered several times each year in various continents, including Hawaii (winnie.yamaguchiatcoe-dmha.org) & Baltimore this July; (for Johns Hopkins, contact: helpcouratjhsph.edu); Montreal in May-June (helpcrsatredcross.ca) & Mexico (Cuernevaca) Sept-October (cicratintranet.con.mx). HELP courses are also offered in South Africa (Pretoria, November), May in Sweden (sonja.christenssonatnvh.se); June in Geneva (ideslarzesaticrc.org); & March 2001 in Melbourne Australia (azogopouatnat.redcross.org.au).

-"WAR & PUBLIC HEALTH" BY DR. PIERRE PERRIN GIVES A COMPLETE CURRICULUM in technical skills for complex emergency response (1996 Geneva: ICRC; ISBN 2-88145-077-6), based on the HELP course, & promoting creative solutions for food, water, & communicable diseases problems, surgical needs, & protection of civilians in conflict zones. It explains how priorities differ by type of disaster. It stresses that external aid should replace local solutions only as a last resort, & warns that food aid often acts as a magnet that draws mass displacement. Perrin shows how to build a strategy on ethics, including: "in situations of armed conflict, respect for the rules of intl. humanitarian law will prevent entire populations from having to flee their homeland," & observes that refugees do not only flee persecution narrowly- defined, but because "of the dangers of conflict itself: indiscriminate bombing, arbitrary displacement, confiscation of essential goods." Perrin's chapter on Epidemiology is one of the most accessible & balanced explanations of how statistical tests (i.e. cluster sampling, calculation of relative risk, surveillance, sensitivity vs. specificity) are applied in conflict settings. Perrins' review of health activities includes steps for training of community health workers (CHWs), i.e. for diarrhea diagnosis & referral.

-"INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS: SYMPOSIUM, GENEVA, OCTOBER 1995" (Lavoyer 1996 ICRC; ISBN 2-88145-080-6) reviews IDP law, growing competence of UNHCR, & observes "the most serious problems with respect to the protection of persons who are displaced...result not from an absence of legal norms, but from the failure of the parties concerned (i.e govts, combatants) to respect & enforce these norms." One working group looked at safe havens & concluded, "security zones were not long-term solutions for people taking refuge," nor should their existence in any circumstance affect the right to asylum. -ICRC played a long-term & critical role as a member of the Intl. Campaign to Ban Landmines, providing field data on the problem, & through publication of reports such as "Anti-Personnel Mines in Central America" & "The Worldwide Epidemic of Landmine Injuries." ICRC also investigates small arms, as published in the 1999 "Arms Availability and the Situation of Civilians in Armed Conflict."

-"CONTENDING WITH THE IMPASSE IN INTL. HUMANITARIAN ACTION: ICRC POLICY Since the End of the Cold War" by Simone Delorenzi (1999 ICRC; ISBN 2-88145-III-X) who writes "Many conflicts erupted as a result of the resurgence of aspirations & antagonisms long suppressed by authoritarian & centralizing govts...in Yugoslavia & the Soviet Union, whose disintegration led to a major expansion in the ICRC's theaters of operation (in 1992, for example, it conducted missions to the republics of the former Soviet empire, to the Caucasus & to C. Asia for the 1st time since the Bolshevik revolution." Experience in "extremely diverse" cases, including Bosnia & Rwanda, elicited widely divergent responses from the ICRC, but included certain common activities: condemnation of observed breaches of IHL, reaffirmation of humanitarian law, & dissemination of humanitarian norms & principles.

As NGOs proliferate in the field, ICRC recognizes that the 'right to intervene' by the State (to enforce law) & by non-profits (to assist victims according to the principles of humanity) "must at all costs remain strictly separate."

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