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Passion and Compassion Jan Eliasson I WOULD LIKE to pay tribute to Sergio Vieira de Mello by first offering a brief historical note to the rules of law that should have protected him on his final mission. Then I shall pose a number of challenges that continue to face humanitarians in conflict zones. During the summer and fall of 1991, the international debate on humanitarian action was intense. Paradoxically, the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s led to more civil wars and internal strife both in the Balkans and in Africa. Conflict resolution became even more complicated and civilian casualties even more extensive. Dealing with conflicts inside nations triggered fundamental questions of sovereignty. I chaired the United Nations General Assembly Working Group on Emergency Relief, formulating a humanitarian mandate for the UN in December 1991. UN Resolution 46/182 established the position of Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, a UN position I was honored to initiate , and which Sergio eventually held. Bernard Kouchner of France carried the torch of “ingerence humanitiere ,” humanitarian intervention, which was met with strong suspicion and criticism from many developing nations. Was this not in fact a humanitarian Trojan Horse hiding political schemes of overturning distasteful governments in the developing world? This type of reaction clearly influenced the negotiated text of UN Resolution 46/182, which stressed the responsibilities of sovereign states, underlined the requirement of consent, and limited UN action to humanitarian crises and natural disasters. No one during these negotiations in 1991 used the term humanitarian intervention or dared speak about intervening against grave human rights violations. cahill.qxp 10/1/2004 1:36 PM Page 142 How much has changed since the adoption of Resolution 46/182 and the establishment of Department of Humanitarian Affairs? Many challenges and critical tasks remain; they are both short-term and long-term, both concrete and conceptual. First of all, there is an immediate and urgent task to deal with security, physical security. We must find ways to assure respect for international law, humanitarian law, which is the responsibility of all governments, as well as all parties in a conflict. There exists a document that outlines UN policy on keeping its workers safe known as the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel of 1994 (see appendix). Although we have instruments in place designed to prevent events such as the tragic bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, to be realistic, we must recognize that there are some groups who function outside a formal government’s control. I think it’s very important to put a strong pariah stamp on any action against humanitarian workers, and let it be known that those who are part of supporting or helping movements that attack humanitarian workers will be clearly labeled with that same pariah stamp. We have to be able to reach out to those who cannot sign the conventions. Another part of the security problem is one that goes to the deeper issues of the political arena. The United Nations, and all humanitarian workers, must be careful to define the mandates under which they serve. One can see the difference between the clear mandates for Afghanistan, UN Resolutions 1300 and 1373, and the situation in Iraq, where we have already paid the price for an unclear mandate. Where the mandates are unclear, it is very difficult for humanitarians to maintain neutrality. No doubt there has been progress in awareness of humanitarian issues. To place the human being in the center has been a positive result of the end of the Cold War. Nations are no longer seen as pawns in geopolitical chess games—they are societies, composed of individuals with rights and needs. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has played a crucial role in moving forward humanitarian concerns as well as the global community’s responses to gross violations of human rights. Standing up for the individual ’s dignity so sharply and courageously, as an African, as the most prominent international civil servant, Annan has contributed more than PASSION AND COMPASSION 143 cahill.qxp 10/1/2004 1:36 PM Page 143 anyone else to dispelling the notion that humanitarian action, or even intervention, is a North/South issue. Also the awareness of an urgent need for prevention and preventive diplomacy has tangibly grown in the last decade. During my years at the UN, particularly dealing with the crisis in Somalia from 1992 to 1993, I increasingly felt frustration, anger, and despair...


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