POLITICS: UN Helpless as Humanitarian Emergencies Increase FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 28 Mar 1999 01:45:49 -0800 (PST)

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Subject: POLITICS: UN Helpless as Humanitarian Emergencies Increase
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Date: 1999/03/26
Newsgroups: alt.activism.d
/** ips.english: 584.0 **/
** Topic: POLITICS: UN Helpless as Humanitarian Emergencies Increase **
** Written  3:10 PM  Mar 25, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

                      *** 22-Mar-99 ***

Title: POLITICS: UN Helpless as Humanitarian Emergencies Increase

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 22 (IPS) - The international community
increasingly is becoming helpless and frustrated in the face of
massive human  and financial costs being incurred by humanitarian
emergencies worldwide, according to a new UN study.

''This uneasiness cuts across the various groups of actors, in
the various parts of the United Nations - political, peacekeeping,
humanitarian and development - as well as among non-governmental
organisations and donors,'' said the study, released Monday.
Between 1989 and 1995, for example, humanitarian assistance
increased from 845 million dollars to a hefty 7.1  billion

The study noted that growth in humanitarian assistance partly
reflected short-term emergency needs taking precedence over
longer-term development programmes.

The Study, conducted by the UN University's World Institute
for Development Economics Research in Finland and the
International Development Centre at Oxford University, was part of
a two-year long multi-disciplinary research project on  ''The Wave
of Emergencies of the Last Decade: Causes, Extent, Predictability
and Response.''

The project comprised 40 papers, including country studies
which addressed the root causes, triggers and manifestations  of
complex humanitarian emergencies in Asia, Africa, Europe, the
former Soviet Republics, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, the number of
humanitarian crises escalated: from an average of about 20-25 to
about 65-70 per year, while the number of people affected rose
more than proportionately.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimated
that the number of persons involved in humanitarian  emergencies
is increasing by about 10 million annually.

''Despite attempts at controlling this new scourge by national
and international authorities, there are no signs that this trend
is likely to be reversed any time soon,'' warned Giovanni Andrea
Cornia of the UN University.

''As a result, scores of people have been left dead, starving,
displaced, homeless and hopeless, while many others could be
affected in the not too distant future unless preventative
corrective measures are urgently introduced.''

Cornia described humanitarian emergencies as ''a phenomenon
which has become perhaps the most serious threat to human security
in the present world.''

At one time there were at least 22 countries plagued by
military conflicts and ''complex humanitarian emergencies.'' These
countries include Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia, Colombia,
El Salvador, Ethiopia, Liberia, Peru, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Sri
Lanka, Tajikistan and Uganda.

Estimates of the total number of people dying in the peak years
of 1992-1994 in the 22 ''most murderous countries in the world''
ranged from half-a-million in Rwanda (1994) and 100,000 each in
Angola (1994), Burundi (1993) and Mozambique (1992).

Conflicts were most frequent in Asia and Africa, totalling,
respectively, nine and 13 in 1995, and 14 in each in 1996.

The study declared that the root causes of the conflicts and
resulting humanitarian emergencies were the inequalities among
groups in society. This differed from the usual indicators of
inequality  that measured differences among individuals.

Horizontal inequality had three broad main dimensions -
economic, social and political - which are often mutually
reinforcing. ''An invariable consequence of unequal access to
political power, was unequal benefits from state resources,'' the
study said.

In some countries, the president and a small coterie took a
massive share of their own private accumulation - for example, the
Duvaliers in Haiti and President Mobutu in the Congo. In others, a
broader elite benefited - the Hutu in Rwanda and the Tutsi in
Burundi - ''government employment, elite jobs and the ability to
earn rents were heavily biased in favour of the group in power.''

Where minerals were important, access to the revenues tended to
be dominated by whoever was in political control, denying others
access as in the case of Sierra Leone and the Congo.

''The desire to preserve these privileges was a clear motive
for the frequent occurrence of state-sponsored violence directed
at suppressing opposition,'' the study said. It recommended
several measures aimed at alleviating  poverty, eliminating
inequalities in society and promoting longer term development

Since many of the countries were highly indebted, the study
called for cancellation of official debts. ''Efforts to wipe  the
slate clean for selected highly indebted countries at risk of
conflict could free leaders of their inherited debts, and
facilitate a longer term outlook on political and economic
reform,'' it said.

The study also urged Western donors to provide a large share of
grants and concessional loans to alleviate the repercussions of
external shocks in low-income countries that are vulnerable to

Additionally, it called for a holistic approach toward the
grant  of official development assistance - ''the lesson from
Afghanistan  to Rwanda is that piecemeal or disjointed
international efforts  will not work.'' (END/IPS/td/mk/99)


** End of text from cdp:ips.english **

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