the lost american 'Q&A REGARDING THE ICC'

EDITOR'S NOTE: For years Fred Cuny was frustrated by the lack of
intelligent, quick response to crises.  One of his last projects was to create
an organization that would meet these shortcomings. In the summer of '94, Cuny
wrote this memo explaining the need for such a group - here referred to as the

I. Reason for an ICC

A. Why is the ICC needed?

There is widespread recognition that the international humanitarian system is not working. Too many lives are being lost, too many resources are being wasted, too many people are not being properly helped. There is insufficient coordination of complex emergencies and too many delays getting into operations with sufficient resources to turn situations around.

When operations do get underway, they are often poorly planned and do not incorporate strategic thinking about how to bring a situation under control. Once on course, there are no corrective mechanisms to encourage agencies to abandon ineffective programs or to try new approaches.

Finally, there is no accountability within the international humanitarian system. Hundreds of thousands of people die each year and the planners and agencies that provide ineffective aid are not held accountable.

The ICC will address each of these shortcomings. The ICC will: strive to provide early warning of emergencies; promote early response (with funds if necessary); will collect, analyze and disseminate critical information needed for program planning and operational decision-making; will develop and promote strategic and comprehensive operational plans and will work to expand the funding base of all the agencies in the field. The ICC will introduce long-term monitoring and accountability and if an operation is not going well, the ICC will lobby for alternative actions and corrective measures. At the end of an emergency, the ICC will prepare a comprehensive evaluation of the operation, the key decisions that were made, and make qualitative assessments of the agencies involved.

B. How would the ICC actually function?

The ICC would bring experienced field workers and influential persons of world stature together in one organization to stimulate more effective and more rapid responses to these crises. It will do this by:

providing on-site information, analysis, advice, and technical assistance in planning and operations management.

by working in the major capitals to lobby for effective intervention, adequate funding support, and commitment of resources.

by monitoring and reporting on the situation and the effectiveness of the operation and the various strategies and projects being carried out.

At ICC headquarters, there will be a small interdisciplinary team of specialists who will maintain a watch over specific regions and utilize the existing early warning systems to identify situations that are potentially explosive. As a crisis moves from the watch phase to an imminent phase, a field team will be sent out to establish an on-site presence and to begin to 1) develop information to guide the advocacy work in the major capitals and 2) develop strategies for various contingencies.

As a crisis breaks, the staff will promote early intervention, and if necessary fund necessary actions by lead agencies to promote early response and to try to channel operations in an effective direction. Information gathering will intensify and expand and specific approaches and interventions will be promoted. The team will focus its attention on the designated lead agency(ies) for the operation and work to promote comprehensive planning that is goals oriented. To promote these ideas, private and public meetings would be held to present the concepts to the lead agency and key non-governmental agencies. Specific support for the lead agency could include:

providing timely and insightful information needed for program planning;

advocacy on behalf of the lead agency (and other key groups working on the scene);

technical assistance from ICC's experienced field staff;

catalytic grants to the lead agency or other key groups to promote early response (in some cases, the catalytic grants can be provided before the crisis breaks to stimulate preparedness planning and promote early response).

The ICC would promote "corrective action" if things do not get better after the initial response. This will be done by:

monitoring operations;

performing analyses of critical operations to determine their effectiveness;

providing reports and operational critiques for the participating agencies suggesting changes of direction when necessary.

If no changes were forthcoming, ICC would ask their headquarters to bring the matter to the attention of the implementor's headquarters. If there was still no action, the ICC might choose to publicly report on the situation. It could do this several ways depending on the severity of the situation. First, it could issue its recommendations as a part of general situation reports on the emergency. Second, it could issue a specific notice of concern to interested donors. Finally, and only in dire situations, it could issue public notices of its concern to the media.

C. Is the primary problem inefficiency or insufficiency of what is presently being done?

There are so many problems it is hard to know were to begin. Lets list a few:

Operations management:

1) Lack of expertise

2) Lack of experience

3) Lack of qualified operations managers

4) Lack of sufficient staff

5) Confusion over mandates

6) Competition over leadership roles or lack of willingness to take the lead

7) Lack of early funding

8) Ponderous funding methods (especially appeals)

9) Lack of vision

10) Lack of understanding about what is happening

11) Lack of technical knowledge

12) Major gaps in the service coverage (most agencies are medical agencies)

13) Poor understanding of how to coordinate

14) Slow arrival on the scene

15) An institutional inability to plan ahead or take advantage of early warning.

Implementing agencies

1) High staff turnover

2) Staff is young and inexperienced (average age of an NGO field director in Bosnia in 1993 was 28 years old, only one in eight had ever been in an emergency before)

3) No institutional memory (lessons are always being re-learned)

4) Poorly trained (only 2 or 3 NGOs have any in-house training programs in emergency management, within the UN only UNHCR, UNDP and UNICEF have programs but they are only for the "P" staff, not the "L" staff -- i.e., the career officers, not the people who are usually retained for operations on limited contracts. Only one in 70 relief workers has even had an orientation prior to arriving in for work in a war zone.)

5) Little technical expertise or support (usually operate on the basis of conventional wisdom rather than knowledge)

6) Initially, under-funded

7) NGOs are "independent minded," do not like to take direction from UN, often distrust UN and donors.

8) There are few internationally recognized standards or norms for provision of relief, therefore the is little to coordinate around. Many of the norms that do exist are out of date and have proven unworkable. E.g., the UN's caloric standard of 1900 Kcal of food per person per day has proven woefully inadequate because it doesn't take into account the fact that the people will sell a portion of the food for other necessities (usually water), therefore, nutritional standards remain low in UN-run camps and death rates remain high long into an operation.

9) NGOs rarely have a strategic vision of an operation and tend to limit their actions to activities that will be funded by donors.

10) The food agencies (CARE, CRS, World Vision, etc.) are locked financially into a system (PL 480) that doesn't work and is counterproductive in most complex emergencies.

11) Relief agency doctrines and standard projects are designed for tropical areas such as Africa and are not effective in the places where we are likely to see the next major emergencies such as the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe where there are extended cold weather periods and little resources for operating relief programs.

D. Do agencies see the need for ICC?

There is widespread recognition that the international relief system is not working. There is dissatisfaction with:

- international coordinating mechanisms;

-- the quality of the support -- especially regarding technical assistance -- that the UN provides NGOs; and

-- the quality of the information available at the early stages of an emergency.

Both donors and NGOs recognize that there are serious gaps in the international relief system (we refer to it as problems within the humanitarian architecture), especially as they relate to the mandates of UN agencies, the ICRC, and other international agencies.

There is also frustration over the lack of immediate funding to enable early, rapid response; as well as the long delays associated with the UN's appeal processes (which may take up to 90 days or longer to secure funding).

No NGO wants to be "managed:" they fear loosing their flexibility and independence. However, there is universal support for better comprehensive planning, coordination, and technical support. The major concern the NGOs are likely to have about ICC will be that it could compete with them for funding. But all the agencies (UN and NGOs alike) will probably feel threatened. While they know that the system is broken, they fear being criticized for their inability to work out solutions on their own. There is also a feeling within some headquarters that the system is unfixable and therefore they feel that monitoring will only point fingers without coming up with solutions.

Donors continue to be frustrated with the poor performance of the UN's agencies and the overall level of coordination. Most do not understand the nature of the problem, however. Many believe that the problem can be fixed by getting a stronger personality at the helm of DHA or by creating a large standing emergency fund. Much of our work will be educating the donors about the real nature of the problems, showing how ICC can contribute to alleviating some of the major deficiencies, and can help prod the UN and other intervenors into taking self-improvement measures.

There is general recognition among donors that some sort of watchdog agency is needed to stimulate constructive criticism of the UN system and to provide a second opinion on operational matters. However, we do not want to present ICC as a "UN Watch" as that will be too threatening to many UN personnel and even some donors.

E. Would the ICC facilitate or make response more difficult?

By providing competent, early, on-site technical assistance, immediate funding for critical actions, and a notion of a comprehensive plan of action that cuts across mandates and builds on the capabilities of all the major players -- including the UN, ICRC, the host government (where practical), and international relief agencies -- would be a major improvement over the current situation.

One important thing to remember is that under the current system, DHA only coordinates and plans for the engagement of UN agencies within the limits of their mandates and that it can only offer plans and propose actions that are approved by the host government. ICC would have no such restrictions.

II. Competition or Redundancy with Other Groups

A. What will ICC do differently or do that others are not?

1. ICC will be the only body looking at all aspects of the emergency and developing comprehensive plans and recommending specific actions without reference to mandates, pressures from the host government, or limitations by donor governments.

2. ICC has a greater chance of early engagement in a developing emergency due to its non-governmental status. This will enable it to provide early analysis, develop and promote relief strategies that could affect the overall outcome of the humanitarian, and possibly political, situation, and fund critical actions that can save lives at an early stage.

3. By fielding a highly talented and experienced staff, it will be able to guide by providing insights to the situation that others may not have. (Remember, only one in ten relief agency field directors at the start of an emergency have had any prior emergency management experience. Furthermore, only one in seven of the men or women that the UN puts in charge of large scale emergencies -- the special envoys -- have had prior emergency management experience, and those only in executive capacity, i.e., they do not have any practical experience.)

4. With its links to senior, influential political figures in the donor capitals, the ICC will be able to lobby effectively for specific courses of action. While all international relief agencies appeal for assistance and work to direct attention to emergencies as they unfold (and to their own activities), ICC will be the only organization in the world with an advocacy function built into its structure -- and it will be working for all the agencies engaged but more importantly, on behalf of specific actions and strategies.

B. Does the ICC duplicate the work of DHA, ICRC, or other organizations?

Not specifically. The ICC role is unique. Ideally, DHA should be doing this type of work but in reality there are structural reasons why they (DHA) can't do it (eg., they can't get there early enough because they have to be invited by the host country, they do not have the funds to underwrite early actions) and why it could not do it effectively (they do not have sufficient staff, their staff is of poor quality and largely inexperienced, and are only as effective as their sister UN operational agencies).

Furthermore, ICC will not be operational; it will be only advisory. ICRC, UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR, and the non-governmental agencies are fully operational and implement programs.

C. Is the ICC a substitute of the proposed UN IG?

No, the IG will have only a monitoring role which will largely focus on financial and internal management aspects; it will not have any planning or operational role.

III. Funding

A. Where will the funding come from?

Governments and large private donors.

B. Will ICC compete with funds for others, especially NGOs?

Inevitably there will be some competition but it will be minor. The overall impact of ICC is likely to be a larger funding base for all emergency operations.

C. What is the size of the ICC's budget in comparison with NGOs?

ICC's initial budget will be about $12 million dollars. That is about 5% of the larger NGOs' annual budget and about half of the medium sized agencies' budgets. The average annual budget of a major US NGO that routinely responds to emergencies is $_____.

IV. The Need for Advice vs. Political Will

A. If the real problem is not a lack of knowledge but a lack of will, why is the ICC needed?

The problem is more complex than that. First, there are only a handful of professional humanitarian agencies and most of them are what we call service agencies, i.e., they only provide a range of services such as supplemental feeding, medical assistance, etc. They focus on various parts of the overall situation but usually, small, manageable problems. Even within the UN, the agencies have limited scope. For example, UNICEF focuses on children and their mothers, WHO only focuses on health problems, WFP on food and food logistics, UNHCR on refugees specifically defined as those who cross an international border. Over 3/4 or all relief agencies are medically-oriented agencies. Only a handful of agencies have any in-house engineering capacity, so water and sanitation -- which are vital in emergencies -- are often forgotten until death rates soar. What is missing is a comprehensive approach and the requisite knowledge to develop the necessary strategies and tactics and an entity that can review the overall operation and identify the gaps before the become acute.

On the question of lack of political will, this is one of the great strengths of the ICC for a key part of its mandate is to lobby for action, and unlike the current advocates, for specific courses of action. By working through its board members, extensive contacts in the donor capitals and by briefing the press, it should be able to stimulate widespread support for its recommendations.

B. Is the ICC designed to make suggestions to maximize delivery of resources or to catalyze political will?

Both; they go hand in hand. In most emergencies, there is sufficient will to commit at least some resources, the questions are: how and where, and what is most important? These will require technical and planning inputs and some funding.

The major problems will occur when commitment of military assets are required or when security issues prevail. Here, a combination of advocacy and political action will be needed.

C. How much of ICC's work will be technical vs. political?

This will depend on the situation. However, the majority of the funding will always be spent on technical inputs and supporting the technical staff in the field.

V. Past Crises

How might the ICC have made a difference in past crises?

(See separate papers by Fred Cuny)

VI. Use of Recommendations

A. How will ICC ensure implementation of its recommendations?

Through: 1) collegial contacts with implementors at all levels, 2) on-site technical advice to field staff, 3) provision of direct technical assistance to agencies that request it, 4) catalytic grants, and 5) advocacy among donors.

In cases where the implementors are not taking the advice or are proceeding along lines that the ICC staff feel will lead to increased deaths, human rights abuses, or disease or malnutrition rates the ICC will lobby for corrective action in the headquarters of the agencies involved. Failing there ICC would address their concerns to the donor community. Only in extraordinary cases would the ICC issue public statements criticizing the actions of individual agencies, but it will do so if necessary. It is important to note however, that any public criticism would be initiated only on the recommendation of the ICC field staff, all of whom will be experienced relief workers who recognize the difficulties that face field directors under trying circumstances.

B. Why should people listen to the ICC? Will their advice be welcome?

The success of ICC will depend on the technical competence of its field staff. The average field director in an emergency is young and inexperienced, the average special rep is doing this for the first time. Therefore, there is a hunger for information and good ideas. If ICC can offer something practical, it will be accepted -- even if it flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

C. If ICC is successful, what will change in the way the international community responds to crises? What can we expect?

We should expect to see:

1. Earlier responses by all intervenors;

2. More cost effective responses;

3. Better coordination and less duplication of actions;

4. More action directed at the problems where they occur (i.e., more attention to displaced persons and people who are still in the conflict zone);

5. More actions focused on groups of people who normally fall through the cracks in the international humanitarian system; and

6. More comprehensive approaches to crises.

Ideally, the ultimate outcome will be that the UN is challenged and begins to address its own deficiencies and structural problems and takes corrective measures.

VII. Access

A. Will field managers want to work with ICC on-site teams?

If ICC offers something useful, there will be a demand for its services. NGOs will likely be its biggest consumer at the outset, some UN leaders will probably be threatened but good staff can overcome that.

B. Will the ICC's board and senior staff get access to top decision-makers at the UN and in governments?

Again, if they have something to offer, they'll get the access. Strong, technically competent leadership goes a long way. The quality and cache of board members will be crucial, however.

VIII. Personnel

A. Will the ICC be able to recruit high quality staff without undermining the NGOs (and other implementing agencies)?

There will be some raiding of agencies but the impact on the agencies should be short-term. Most of the people that will be recruited will probably come from the ranks of independent consultants who do not have a chance for a "career" in NGOs (due to low salaries and a lack of a career structure within those agencies.) Others will come from the UN ranks, ICRC, IOM, and the military.

B. Will top-flight people be content with monitoring or will they want to take over?

There is a breed of humanitarian worker who enjoys the intellectual side of planning and monitoring as much as being operational. That's the group we will go for. The work of ICC will be a form of operations management and that will provide sufficient intellectual reward.

IX. Field Problems

1. Early Warning: Underdeveloped and disconnected from implementors.

In the eighties there was much talk of establishing systems within the UN to provide early warning of conflicts and flows of refugees.1 Despite the recognition that it was possible to monitor political instability and to forecast imminent political developments, it was not possible to develop a system that was reactive to the information.

Currently, the political early warning function within the UN resides in the Secretary General's office. There a few members of his staff are responsible for monitoring events around the world and bringing developing crises to the attention of the SG. There is no formal system however for disseminating the information to the UN's operational agencies (UNHCR, UNICEF, etc.) nor to the major NGOs. DHA has never developed a workable early warning system though of course they do share information informally with their counterparts. Several of the UN agencies have developed some in-house capabilities to watch developments in crisis prone areas; UNHCR and WFP in particular but there is no formal E-W system in any agency -- it is left up to the regional desks.

Even where a capability for early warning exists, there is little willingness to share the information outside of a tight circle of counterpart agencies. The UN is fearful of being accused of spying on member nations and interfering in internal matters. Furthermore, since the UN can only work at the invitation of a host country, there is a built-in disincentive to taking early action. This leads to the main problem, early response.

Despite the lack of formal warning systems, in most cases, there is adequate information about pending crises to give intervenors sufficient time to make advanced preparations. Unfortunately, there are few mechanisms to permit or encourage them to do so. The biggest obstacles are: (1) a lack of willingness by the UN and donors to take action prior to the outbreak of hostilities (for fear of intruding in a country's internal affairs or, in the case of the UNHCR, for fear of giving potential countries of asylum a chance to take actions to prevent refugees from entering their nations) and (2) a lack of early funding (few agencies have standing emergency funds, those that do exist are only token amounts). Most private agencies still have to wait until the media begins broadcasting pictures of starving or injured children or families in flight.

Some recent crises where we had adequate early warning and took no preliminary action: Yemen, Rwanda (though UNHCR did preposition some supplies and staff from Burundi), Georgia. Situations pending crises where no action is being taken include: Indonesia, Ukraine, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Zaire, Southern Philippines, _________________.

2. Problems of mandates:

To understand the problems with UN mandates, one has to begin with an understanding that the UN exists to help governments (member states, not people). The UN agencies operate only where they are invited to do so.

Second, the system that has evolved is one that is designed to help specific groups of people under specific sets of circumstances, therefore, it is an exclusive rather than an inclusive system. For example, only refugees meeting the UN's definition of asylum seekers fleeing across an international border for a well founded fear can be assisted by UNHCR. One only has to look at the number of people who cannot be helped formally by the UN to comprehend the magnitude of the problem. While it would be difficult to enumerate the numbers of people who fall through the cracks in the system each year, there is no doubt that it is many times the number we are assisting. For example, in civil conflicts the number of displaced persons far exceeds the number of refugees, yet we have no international agency that is mandated with helping displaced persons.

Displaced persons are the most obvious and most important group without an international advocate. If those fleeing civil war head to the government's side, theoretically they could be helped by the UN system. But in more cases than not, the government is part of the problem and often they regard the displaced with suspicion and hostility. Each year, relief agencies are actively prevented from helping the displaced by host governments (the best example is Sudan). If the displaced remain in rebel-held areas, extraordinary efforts must be mounted to provide assistance and the UN is often powerless to do anything other than put moral pressure on the two sides to permit relief efforts (recent examples: Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Yemen, Rwanda).

Stayees, those who are caught inside a conflict area and who cannot escape, are another major group that the UN can often not assist. The only reason that UNHCR is doing it in Bosnia is that the agency was already there when the war broke out working with refugees from Croatia. No UN agency has a legal framework to provide assistance, aid doctrines, staff experienced in or equipped for working inside conflict zones. ICRC does do some work in these situations but their relief work is limited and not very effective.

Persecuted minorities are another major group that cannot be assisted effectively through the UN system. Many tribes in Africa, the rain forests of Brazil, or the tropical forests of Indonesia face extinction because of persecution by their governments while the United Nations agencies are powerless to intervene in their behalf. Once a conflict has broken out, the UN and ICRC are hostage to their own internal procedures and are ineffective in helping minorities caught behind the lines. For example, no one in the UN has a mandate to provide protection for the Muslims still residing in Serb-held zones in Bosnia. As the problem of ultranationalism resurfaces in Europe, we will face even greater challenges similar to Bosnia. For example, what would we do in Kazakhstan which has over 50 minority groups that have been settled in that country in the last century?

Persons repatriating to their country during time of conflict or those returning from internal exile can only rarely assisted by the UN system. If a Southern Sudanese forced out of Khartoum by his government tries to return to areas held by the SPLA in southern Sudan, little can be done to effectively help him or his family rebuild their lives. Recent studies have indicated that many refugees and displaced civilians could return home in relative safety and resume productive lives if assistance were made available. In some cases it is even possible to use assistance to returnees to effectively stabilize areas where conflict is minimal and eventually reduce the scale of the conflict but this requires helping people resume farming and economic enterprises, not traditional relief. With a mandate to work with the host government, not the people, the UN system is effectively prevented from participating in these programs.

Persons living in communities impacted by an influx of refugees or displaced persons are almost totally neglected by the UN system. A few letters of understanding have been written between the UN specialized agencies promising to resolve the matter, but by and large, relief and economic assistance is still highly selective and targeted on the primary victim. No matter that 10,000 displaced persons swarm into a small village and destroy the local economy and job market; the only ones who can receive food rations are the displaced. The unemployed and undernourished children who are increasingly marginalized by the influx must stand aside and watch while the displaced receive all the benefits of international beneficence.

Recently we have witnessed two new types of migration crises: population exchanges and forced repatriation of third country nationals. Population exchanges occur when two countries expel large numbers of each other's resident emigrant population, as happened in Senegal and Mauritania in 1989. Both countries accepted the expellees as citizens, not refugees, yet there are few programs or institutions in the international system that are configured to deal with the unique problems of rapid population absorption.

In the case of mass expulsions of third country nationals, the country of origin is often struck by a two-edged sword. When Nigeria expelled its Ghanaian work force, Ghana was suddenly faced with absorbing a population equal to approximately 20% of its existing population, while at the same time, losing 50% of its foreign income earnings. Treating the population transfer as a relief problem has left that country a financial wreck.

3. Plans vs. realities on the ground.

A major problem that ICC will help overcome is that planning is often not realistic. There are several aspects to planning that should recognized:

First, much of the planning is limited to the mandates of the agencies that are engaged, i.e., it is not comprehensive.

Second, plans are often formulated by inexperienced staff. This is the case at both field and headquarters levels.

Third, plans are often nothing more than grab-bag appeals. For example, the DHA sends a team to the crisis, meets with as many agencies as their brief schedule allows, asks them what they need, and then formulates a combined appeal for all the projects that are proposed. This is what passes for comprehensive planning.

The appeals process raises unrealistic expectations. The UN staff formulating the appeal cannot be very selective especially regarding the host country's desires. Since every agency and the host government puts their pet projects in the appeal, they expect them to be funded. But donors go over the lists of projects and choose the projects that are the most appealing (sorry for the pun). When bad projects are passed over, there is resentment; when good projects are passed over, there is a loss of momentum (usually, the most innovative projects are passed over because they are unconventional).

Some recent examples of appeals-oriented planning are:

The "100 Days Plan" in Somalia 1992: It took almost a hundred days to plan, was little more than a grab-bag of projects already underway, was entrusted to a staff that had no experience in Somalia to execute, and was not backed by a sufficient budget to implement.

The Combined Appeal for the Former Yugoslavia (1993): This is the closest thing there is to a plan for aid in the region. It is disjointed, lists many actions that are already underway, and appeals for money for projects that have already been completed. Little funding is sought for human rights work or protection of minorities and the Serbs are treated as if they were equally victimized by the war.

Finally, what comprehensive planning does exist is often donor driven. Plans for the Somalia intervention were developed in Washington, largely by the military, and did not recognize the nature of the problem in the country. When the troops landed in Mogadishu, they inadvertently caused additional problems and actually increased the instability in the country and increased the humanitarian problems.

4. The UN's network of semi-autonomous agencies creates obstacles to the effective delivery of humanitarian and peacekeeping services.

The UN's agencies have developed singly in accordance with their mandates. They are very jealous and territorial. DHA has not been able to overcome these rivalries. Some examples:

Initially, UNHCR had different standards for supplemental feeding in the refugee camps for Somalis in Kenya than UNICEF had for feeding centers in Somalia. There were two lines of supply, two rations, and two sets of guidelines for relief agencies. It took six months to resolve the matter.

Splitting the responsibility for emergency operations in Sudan between UNDP in northern Sudan and UNICEF in southern Sudan has hampered effective coordination in the transition zone, the region where the areas controlled by the government and those controlled by the southern rebels meet.

In Bosnia, UNHCR is technically in charge of humanitarian aid, but in fact UNPROFOR, the UN peacekeeping force, has all the resources and calls the shots. UNRPROFOR's civil affairs unit has more clout than any of the regular UN agencies though it is not supposed to be operational. The Special Representative of the Secretary General, Yashushi Akashi, is supposed to plan and coordinate humanitarian actions, but in practice he focuses on diplomatic matters.

5. Most major field operations have been hampered by:

a. Slow deployment: Current examples are Yemen, Rwanda. The most blatant recent example was Bosnia (especially Sarajevo where it took UNHCR 8 months to mobilize NGOs).

b. inadequate logistics support: virtually all operations. Until Soros provided funding for NGOs and forced the issue with the UN, NGO cargoes were not protected in Bosnia. It took almost 11 months to get the UN to aid the NGOs and over 18 months to get permission for local NGOs to use the airlift.

c. poor unit cohesion (among peacekeeping troops): examples are Bosnia (NATO member forces are fine but eastern European forces are a disaster), Somalia (where Italian forces boycotted the commanders instructions before withdrawing), Lebanon (where each of the battalions in the Litani River force had different rules of engagement and instructions on what to do if the Israelis attacked), and Namibia where the troops that were deployed arrived months ahead of their equipment). In places where units of different multinational forces are deployed (the allies and the UN police in northern Iraq, UNPROFOR and NATO in Bosnia) the problem is even greater.

d. fractious relations between the UN and NGOs: too many operations to list. The one with the best relations was Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq which was led by the US military; when they turned it over to the UN, severe problems between the UNHCR, and later UNICEF, and the NGOs developed.

e. rules of engagement that are misapplied, cumbersome or inappropriate to local circumstances: The best example is Bosnia where the UN is restricted to protecting UN personnel and equipment rather than civilians. When the rules were modified for the protected areas and exclusion zones around Sarajevo and Gorazde, it took so long to get permission to fire that engagements ended before authority could be granted. The ROEs for the no-fly zone require that a plane must be intercepted in the act of carrying out an attack. This means that if the offending plane has already dropped it ordinance, it cannot be attacked, only escorted out of the area. In southern Iraq along the cease-fire line between Iraq and Kuwait, Iraqi police can enter the zone, kill or kidnap civilians and withdraw and the UN forces there (UNIKOM) can not even report it unless it somehow threatens Kuwaiti security. In Macedonia (our mush heralded Balkan "line in the sand") the Serbs who routinely cross the border and harass the Macedonian and Albanian populations have warned the US forces in the UN's FYROM command that unless the US relocates their observation posts farther south they will mine the roads putting the US in the embarrassing position of having to ask the Macedonians to protect them by sweeping the roads (the ROEs prevent the US from doing anything but observing). No UN force currently has a mandate to protect civilians unless they are a part of a UN operation.

6. Quality of personnel:

The quality of personnel remains uneven. This is due to the UN's hiring policies (which dictate international balance) and practices (cronyism, favoritism, and nepotism). Furthermore, the UN often applies such rigid requirements that it cannot recruit the necessary experienced staff. Recently, the UNHCR advertized for a senior logistics officer. Requirements included a doctorate in logistics plus 3 languages. I doubt seriously if there is a doctorate in logistics and even if there is, what you really want is someone with years of practical experience like a quartermaster officer or master sergeant. The typical profile of a UNHCR staffer is someone with a degree in international law or political science, few come from a background of operations management.

7. Decision-making has proceeded without consideration of the potential for aid to become a sense of tension in its own right:

Examples include:

a. Somalia. Several problems occurred. First, the aid agencies choose to follow a strategy of feeding the people through the use of feeding kitchens which offered a daily cooked meal. This meant that the people had to leave their farms and hamlets, go to the larger towns, and find places to live near the kitchens (often makeshift displaced persons camps) so they could be present when the meals were served. This meant that the people were taken out of the rural areas where they might have been productive or at least living in their own dwellings and made them dependent on the handouts of the agencies, made them vulnerable to bandits in the towns, and put them under the control of the warlords in each town.

Second, the foods (rice, wheat, sugar) that the agencies choose to use in the feeding centers were considered very high value and were quickly targets of the bandits. At first local bandits stole the food from the warehouses, then the warlords stole it from the relief convoys (sometimes even stealing the trucks) for sale and distribution to their followers. Eventually, thefts were so widespread that the warlords were exporting the stolen food to nearby countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia. Had foods such as sorghum, which is grown locally or bulgur wheat, which was not liked by adults, or blended foods such as CSM, WSB, etc. been used, the likelihood that they would have been stolen would have been far less.

In Bosnia, relief agencies have imported sleeping bags, down parkas, boots, tennis shoes and other items with brand names like Coleman, Nike, L.A. Gear, etc. for distribution to the war's victims. They quickly became a target for mafias because of their value. This set off wars between mafias in central Bosnia and increased the risk for relief agencies. It should be noted that Bosnia had an active winter wear industry -- it made materials for the 1984 winter Olympics -- which were cheaper to buy than the imported goods and which were of low value to the mafias.

Also in Bosnia, the peace strategy pursued by the UN and EU is believed to have led to the fighting between Muslims and Croats. Support for cantonization meant that each person looked at the ethnic makeup of the canton his or her family was living in and if they were going to be in a minority either planned to move to another or decided to support efforts to push the other minorities out. Then when the government tried to resettle refugees from ethnically cleansed areas, they found that both Muslims and Croats resented the placement of families from opposite ethnic groups in their cantons and accused the government of trying to alter the ethnic balance of future cantons. This led to the fighting is places such as Mostar, Gornji Vakuf, and Vitez.

9. It is difficult for outsiders to develop informed judgements about international operations solely from media accounts:

Unfortunately, the media pressure still drives many operations. Outside the US government, decision-makers must often rely on the media for their first and early accounts of a situation. These of course are only as accurate as the quality of the journalist and only recount events from the areas where journalists are present. Journalists tend to focus on the most acute situations and offer snapshots in time rather than analysis of how a situation is unfolding and information about trends which are all important for operations planning. For example, relief agencies working in Somalia concentrated in Bidoa because the NYT ran a series of stories on the situation there in August 1992, Despite the fact that the famine there was virtually over, the agencies' headquarters told them to go there because that was where the story was. It would have been far better for them to go up country and work to distribute aid in the countryside and prevent migration. Instead, the presence of the relief agencies drew a new wave of people into the town.

In northern Iraq, the media publicized the UN's claims that the Kurds were being forced to return to the safe haven (they weren't) and later forecast predictions that the Kurds would run back into the hills when the US troops left (they didn't). The first caused consternation in the headquarters of several relief agencies which subsequently ordered their field staff to quit working with the US forces in Iraq; the second forced the US to spend half a million dollars winterizing a refugee camp that everyone in the country knew would never be used. An analysis of similar situations in the past would have helped the reporters understand the dynamics of the situation and would have made their reporting more balanced and accurate and made it easier and quicker for the field staff to do their jobs and proceed according to plans.

The media can be a strong ally of in humanitarian operations of all types (relief, peacekeeping, human rights) but what is needed is someone with credibility other than the self-serving UN or government public information officers to provide reporters with briefings and background information about what is happening and what to expect. This is one of the roles that the Soros-funded INTERTECT information and analysis cell has done in Sarajevo and accounts for some of the superb reporting that has come out of that war.

How Things Might Have Been Different


Early warning: Virtually every knowledgeable observer predicted that at the end of the Gulf War that the Kurds would revolt or the Iraqis would scapegoat them and attack. Yet allied decision-makers seemed surprised when it happened. ICC would have taken measures to ensure that preparations were made to handle the situation and would have worked up contingency plans to present once the situation began to evolve.

Early response: ICC would have sent a team to the border with Turkey with recommendations for winterization measures to help the Kurds (the first response was to send lightweight summer tents and blankets when the people needed sleeping bags and heavy winterized tents). It would have adjusted the daily caloric intake from 1900 Kcal per day to 2700, which is needed by people in cold winter conditions. That measure alone might have saved half the lives that were lost. ICC would also have lobbied for immediate distribution of ORS (oral rehydration salts) to combat diarrhea and immediate immunization against measles. These actions occurred but not until 3 weeks into the operation.

Reporting and advocacy: ICC would have recognized the difficulty of engaging the UNHCR and would have focused instead on getting the UN to send UNICEF since that agency's more flexible mandate would permit it to cross the border and work with the refugees there and later in the allied security zone. It would have made it clear to allied, principally US leaders why UNHCR was not the appropriate agency to work in northern Iraq and would have attempted to smooth the way for a hybrid UN agency to take over.

Operations planning: ICC would have carried out an early survey of the refugees in the mountain camps to identify their place of origin. When it was clear that the refugees came from a fairly limited area, ICC would have lobbied to include all that area in the security zone (doing so would of removed the need for building the massive refugee camp at Zakho and made it possible for the US to get the people home much quicker -- and to withdraw earlier).

Advocacy for action in other areas: ICC would have lobbied our allies for support to refugees returning from Iran. While the US was not interested in this movement, repatriating the refugees might have helped stabilize the situation along the Iran-Iraq border and would have helped the Kurds hold their areas much more strongly. The ICC might also have lobbied for a more realistic approach to 1) supporting reconstruction of the Kurdish areas, 2) granting the Kurdish areas exemption from the embargo placed on other parts of Iraq. It might also have found ways to deal with humanitarian issues related to the Iraqi Kurd-PKK situation.

Post-departure planning: ICC would have helped the US and the NGOs develop workable plans for continuing humanitarian operations after the allied force withdrew from the security zone. While the agencies stayed, there was no comprehensive plan for their activities and it was only after winter arrived that the agencies began to plan for cold weather protection for the people who had returned to the zone. ICC would also have looked at the UN support for the agencies and the Kurds and lobbied for a more effective coordination and support system.

Post-departure support for NGOs: ICC would have stayed in the area to offer a range of planning support and technical assistance. Emphasis would have been on planning for winter, methods for rapid reconstruction of housing (using shelter to housing strategies -- i.e., building shelters that become the core of a replacement house) and grain and food protection.



Early warning: Famine in Somalia follows very predictable patterns and there was adequate warning that civil war was about to occur as early as January 1991. Yet the UN had no plan, evacuated its staff, and appointed a low-level UNDP economist as special representative at a critical point in the operation. ICC would have pointed to the impending crisis, and recommended alternative strategies for providing humanitarian assistance. During the period that the UN was out of the country, ICC would have developed a cross-border strategy to get food into the areas using small traders and developed proposals for special relief operations possibly funding small demonstrations to get the activities going.

During period when UN was absent: ICC would have developed information about the situation in Somalia and the issues surrounding the food relief programs that were being conducted by the stay-behind agencies (ICRC, some NGOs). The problems with those programs would have been pointed out (they inevitably led to stripping the people off the land) and alternative courses would have been proposed.

Program monitoring and critiques: As the international community reengaged in 1992, ICC would have developed recommendations for a comprehensive strategy for dealing with Somalia and food security. It would have warned the US, the largest donor at the time, against blindly supporting the ICRC approach and would have recommended alternative food delivery strategies.

Program alternatives: ICC would have advocated alternative or additional programs for attaining food security. For example, over 85% of all rural people earned over half their income from sales of livestock yet not one relief agency had a program to deal with livestock, restocking herds, or providing price supports for animals.

Advocacy for a balanced relief strategy: While food shortages lead to a high percentage of the deaths that occurred in Somalia, statistically more people died from disease than from lack of food. Many of the diseases were preventable, measles and malaria for example, or were quickly stabilized, such as diarrhea with cost effective and often cheap approaches. ICC would have worked to ensure that relief agencies knew what to expect and would have lobbied for a balanced relief strategy that put as much emphasis on water, sanitation, and public health as it did on food security.

Support for monetization strategy: The monetization strategy pursued by AID late in 1992 was never properly understood nor supported. It could have made a major difference and ICC would have worked hard to develop support for the program in Washington as well as in Somalia.

Air operations strategy: The US sent Air Force transports to Somalia in August 1992. The arrival of the planes reinforced the "logistics" approach to the problem and the airlift and keeping the planes full quickly became a driving force in the operation to the detriment of much more important operations. ICC would have analyzed the situation, developed strategies for using the planes more effectively and in a less complicating manner.


Advocacy for a strategy: ICC would have worked to help develop a comprehensive security-relief strategy for the allied intervention. It would have worked hard to control the military's tendency to push for more feeding programs and tried to get them to understand the impact of their presence in the country (especially the effect of drawing people out of the countryside and into the capital). It would have specifically warned of the dangers of sending in too large a force (which accelerated urban migration and put the people under the control of the warlords and subjected them to banditry).

Briefings to military about dangers of going into Mogadishu: When the military presented its plan for going into Mogadishu, many observers familiar with peacekeeping operations in general and the situation in Somalia in particular were concerned that there would be immediate problems. Some raised the question of the pull factor -- the presence of the troops drawing more people into the already overburdened capital -- while others pointed out that if the situation went bad, the troops would be caught up in urban warfare and subjected to sniping. (One of the first rules of peacekeeping is stay out of cities.) Yet there was no credible group to warn the military of the dangers and to lobby against such a move. ICC's senior peacekeeping specialists, drawn from the military, might have been able to work with the force commanders to develop alternative plans that would have reduced the risks and have made the military side of the intervention much more successful.

Constructive criticism of plan: There were many problems with the allied intervention that were obvious to persons familiar with Somalia and to the humanitarian situation there. Yet there was no mechanism for interacting with the US planners, either military or civilian, to give them inputs to the operational planning. ICC could have provided a forum for NGOs and senior civilian and peacekeeping officials to voice their ideas and offer constructive criticism of the plan.

Post intervention:

Constructive criticism of methodology: The way the combined military and civilian task force deployed (outward from Mogadishu) took too long and gave the impression that the allies were trying to reinforce the hegemony of Mogadishu over the other areas and clans. The ICC would have worked to alter the methodology at an early stage to 1) speed the arrival of security forces in the heart of the famine zone and 2) to reduce the negative political consequences of the procedure.

Advocacy for new counterfamine strategy: Once the allied troops were in Somalia, it was business as usual for the relief agencies. Neither OFDA or the UN offered strategic advice on how to come to grips with the famine. In fact in the aftermath of the intervention, the number of feeding kitchens increased and even more people were taken off the land. Take-home food distribution programs didn't get underway until almost 6 weeks after the troops arrived. ICC would have lobbied hard for a more workable counter-famine approach emphasizing market interventions, food price stabilization, cross-border operations, repatriation, restocking of herds, etc.

Advocacy for repatriation from Kenya: One of the major problems with the allied intervention was that the refugees in Kenya were almost totally ignored. This created instability in Kenya and affected the food situation all along the western edge of the famine zone. ICC would have lobbied for an effective repatriation program coupled with animal restocking.

Advocacy for resettlement strategy: ICC would have lobbied for a comprehensive plan to get people out of the cities and back onto the land. The approach used during the intervention was rural reconstruction, i.e., to provide seeds and tools back in the rural areas and some work to draw the people out. However, once in the capital and the regional centers, the people became dependent on the warlords and money lenders and couldn't break the cycle of borrowing and bondage that held them there. ICC would have studied the situation to find ways to break the cycle and proposed programs to resettle the people out of the city.

Studies and information development to help planners: Other than the studies of disease rates carried out by epidemiologists from Centers for Disease Control and a few individual studies carried out by NGOs, there was no systematic investigation of the impact of the intervention, the increased feeding programs, or the seed distribution programs to guide the overall decision-makers. Throughout the initial phases of the intervention, ICC would have carried out investigations of the humanitarian situation and developed information to help guide decision-makers. ICC would also have been able to investigate the impact of the various interventions and propose alternative programs where necessary.



Warnings about dangers of withdrawal plan for Bosnia: The ICC would have flagged the dangers of withdrawing the JNA into Bosnia.

Warnings to preposition human rights monitors

Warnings to preposition relief agencies and supplies

Immediately after war started:

Advocacy for a plan to protect Muslims in Serb controlled areas

Advocacy for deployment of NGOs

Disbursement of catalytic grants to encourage deployments

Monitoring and reporting on deployment of UN forces

Reporting on human rights abuses carried out:

1) in areas where UN forces were deployed

2) by UN forces

Advocacy for specific approaches for winterization, cities under siege.

Technical assistance for operational agencies

Briefings for military on humanitarian needs, linkages to peacekeeping activities.


Advocacy for new approaches

Advocacy for improved military/civilian cooperation.

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Solitary NationApril 22nd