The Humanitarian Times

November 2, 2000


- CASA ALIANZA WINS $1M HUMANITARIAN PRIZE IN CONRAD N. HILTON FDTN vceremony in Geneva. A Costa Rican non-profit, Casa Alianza shelters, vprotects, educates & reintegrates 10,000 street children in C. America. vSince 1981 Casa Alianza has advocated against commercial sex vexploitation of children & helped reunite families.

- INDONESIAN TRIAL SET FOR MURDERERS OF 3 UNHCR WORKERS IN TIMOR CAMPS. Also, last week 22,000 UN staff signed a petition demanding more attention to UN staff security, injuries & stress management.

- INDIA BACKTRACKS ON MALNUTRITION: ALLOWING SALT THAT IS NOT FORTIFIED by iodine to be sold, thus allowing mental impairment from goiter (iodine deficiency) to increase. 70 million Indians currently suffer goiter. This Fall, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee reversed a long-fought-for rule requiring iodization (NY Times).

- RUSSIAN TROOPS FORCIBLY RETURNED AFGHANS SEEKING REFUGE IN TAJIKISTAN fleeing fighting in Afghanistan this week. Russia & Tajikistan gave humanitarian aid cross border into N Afghanistan. Refugees have reached Pakistan. WFP predicts that hundreds of thousands may die of starvation in Afghanistan in the coming months.

- COLOMBIA: THOUSANDS FLEE FROM FIGHTING IN SOUTH INTO ECUADOR, fearing crossfire in recent battles between left-wing FARC (seeking autonomy). Over 15,000 fled Colombia in Sept.

- PARTY OF PEACE (RUGOVA'S DEMOCRATIC LEAGUE) WINS KOSOVO ELECTIONS at municipal level, but new Serbia President Kostunica says he can not accept Kosovo's elections (or its independence).

- RUUD LUBBERS APPROVED AS NEXT HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES (UNHCR), to replace decade-long High Commissioner, Madame Ogata. In addition to serving as Pres. of the NGO, World Wildlife Fund, Lubbers was also Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1982-1994. For months, the NGO consortium, ICVA, has urged that the "process for the next UNHCR (be) opened up to other stakeholders, including NGOs. A transparent selection process would help to ensure the increased accountability of governments and the UN." The final decision was not transparent. Many expected that long-time UNHCR official Sergio Vieira de Mello (OCHA & E Timor head) would be chosen. But his long-term association with Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan weakened his candidacy, since the Sec Gen. needed to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

- UN PANEL FINDS THAT ANGOLA REBELS (UNITA) SELL DIAMONDS, DEFY BAN, on intl. markets. Last week, 36 countries agreed to a system of certification of diamonds in London.

- CONFERENCE ON FINDINGS ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH OF REFUGEES & DISPLACED December 5-6 in Wash DC, will cover sexual violence, safe motherhood, emergency contraception, female genital mutilation & data collection. Register now at, or fax: 212 551 3180.




The platforms of Republican candidate Gov. George Bush & Democrat candidate Al Gore agree on continuation of sanctions against Iraq & Cuba, on forgiveness of some (unspecified) debt relief to poor countries, & both candidates say they would not have acted to prevent the murder of 800,000 civilians in Rwanda (1994 genocide), while both supported US military engagement in wars in Iraq & Kosovo. Both support withholding aid (IMF finance) to pressure Russia to back off from clobbering Chechnya. Neither candidate has articulated positions specifically about humanitarian aid, US foreign aid, intl. hunger, or the work of NGOs Cold War sentiment anchors Bush's intl. platform -- references to Russian & Chinese threats to global peace. Bush opposes the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty, which Gore favors. While Bush favors an expansion of the US military, he also opposes overseas engagements by the military, stating that the US ought not to have intervened in many countries on humanitarian grounds, including Haiti. Bush opposes 'nation building' (conflict resolution, governance) & voters see this to mean he opposes development assistance to poor countries. On foreign aid, Bush says the US should not give foreign aid "simply for the sake of giving foreign aid," without further explication. Gore argues that nation building can succeed, citing the Marshall Plan in Europe. On humanitarian issues, Bush offers few specifics, but implies opposition to humanitarian action when he repeats his foreign policy, "we can't be all things to all people." Bush proposes to make debt forgiveness contingent on protection of tropical forests. Gore gives greater emphasis to emerging global threats such as HIV/AIDS, malaria & antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis; Bush ridicules Gore for his attention to global crises. Gore initiated a new US humanitarian tracking program, GDIN: the Global Disaster Information Network, to test how emerging technologies & satellite imagery can better track & resolve disasters. Gore has pushed for protection of Kurdish refugees & of Croatian refugees in Bosnia. Gore has spoken often of aid to Africa, while Bush has expressed the view that Africa represents no strategic interest to the US & that aid to Africa has little value. Gore has pushed hard to prevent global warming, e.g. through multilateral treaties (e.g., Kyoto protocols), which Bush opposes.




- Republican VP candidate Richard Cheney opposes the use of economic sanctions for humanitarian goals, in theory & in action. While in Congress he voted against the sanctions that helped end apartheid in S. Africa. Cheney's company, Halliburton, is one of the few multinationals still working in Burma, helping the military, even though govts & citizen's groups adhere to intl. boycott.

- Likely high-level appointments suggest more about Gov. Bush positions than his own stated platform. Bush's primary foreign affairs analyst, Stanford Scholar Condeleeza Rice, who would head the National Security Council where she worked before, focuses primarily on arms control & the containment of Russia. Gen. Colin Powell, likely to be Sec. of State, believes in fewer interventions but the "overwhelming use of force." Against the advice of humanitarian aid analysts, Powell designed the heavy-handed occupation of Mogadishu, in Somalia. Former US disaster aid Director Andrew Natsios, formerly VP of World Vision, might be asked to head USAID. Natsios advanced USAID's attention to the complexities of modern humanitarian crises 1988-92.

- VP Gore would make his long-term foreign affairs adviser Leon Fuerth head of the National Security Council; formerly a arms control analyst, Fuerth spent the 1990s engaged in a broad spectrum of intl. humanitarian issue deliberations in the White House. Gore may choose current UN Ambassador R. Hollbrooke as Sec. of State. Hollbrooke has used his tenure at the UN to push hard for attention to major humanitarian problems otherwise ignored, including Internally Displaced Persons & HIV/AIDS in Africa.

- Ralph Nader's Green Party running mate, Winona LaDuke, an economist, authored several books, has actively promoted Native American rights (plus autonomy) & opposes foreign aid to corrupt govts. In her acceptance speech she said, "American foreign policy is reflective of American economic policy, & at best, both presently and historically, it makes refugees."




Over the years, candidates Gore & Nader have written extensively, revealing many specific views. Two books worth looking at:

- "EARTH IN THE BALANCE: ECOLOGY & THE HUMAN SPIRIT" BY VP AL GORE (1993 NY: Penguin Books) gives a readable, everyman's introduction to what scientific findings say about how global environmental threats lead to humanitarian problems, from the Amazon forests to the Horn of Africa where, due to politics, climate change, & soil loss, "the millions who starved to death are, in a real sense, victims of our dysfunctional civilization's expansionist tendencies." Roughly equal space to global warming, air pollution, forest loss & interruptions of water cycles. For example, "After tropical rain forests are gone, the thin soils . . . are astonishingly vulnerable to rain & wind...Deforestation wreaks havoc on the hydrological cycle, eventually causing a sharp decline in the amount of rainfall in the areas where the forest once grew & in adjacent areas downwind," sometimes forcing human migration: "It was the deforestation of Haiti, perhaps as much as the repression of the Duvalier regime, that led to the sudden arrival of 1M Haitians in the southeastern U.S." Gore observes how rising ocean levels will pose threats to cities such as Bangkok, New Orleans, Dacca, & Calcutta, while quoting scientists predictions that warmer oceans will cause more powerful hurricanes. Gore recounts how misguided advances in mechanized agriculture failed to anticipate wind erosion, leading to mass forced migration from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas & other states in the 1930s. The final chapters offer approaches Gore believes should be tested that can promote conservation through utility rate reform, promote efficiency standards, establish higher mileage requirements for cars & trucks sold in the US (not outlaw engines, as alleged), & promote low-input agriculture. Gore wraps his ideas within a global aid plan that would stabilize (reduce growth of) human population. In recent years, Gore has written several books on re-engineering the US federal government, drawing from his role in finding ways to make US agencies more responsive to citizens (consumers), more efficient, more open to change. Among the lead agencies in this process has been the US Agency for Intl. Development.

- "THE RALPH NADER READER" (2000 NY: SEVEN STORIES PRESS) is a new anthology, that culls from over sixty publications by Nader on the media, law, consumer rights, global trade & politics. Nader's career has been to protect individuals, the poor in particular against the control of politics by monied interests. His Concord Principles (1992) warn that the "grave imbalance between the converging power of big business, big govt & citizens has damaged democracy" Nader promotes shareholder democracy & protection employees speaking out. Nader observes, "trade unions enfranchised workers & helped build the middle class... Producer & consumer cooperatives helped save the family farm, electrified rural areas & offered another model of economic activity... (but) Giant multinationals are pitting countries against one another & escaping national jurisdictions... workers are entitled to stronger labor organizing laws."


November 2, 2000 The Humanitarian Times
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