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Book Reviews Protecting the Dispossessed: A Challenge for the International Community Francis M. Deng Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1993. 175 pp. + xii. In March 1992, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights requested the secretary-general to appoint the author of this book as his special representative to study and produce a report on the problem of displaced persons (i.e., those displaced within their own countries). This book owes its origin to that report. In the introduction, the author reviews the principles involved in protecting the displaced, which serves as a background to the two major parts of the book, one dealing with specific countries (Yugoslavia, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, El Salvador , and Cambodia), and another that looks at displacement in a global perspective. The book is topical because it covers one of the most pressing problems of our time. As of 1993, we are told that there were 25 million displaced people in the world, far more than the 18 million refugees with whose predicament the world is more familiar. Given the frequency with which so-called "complex emergencies" break out, the phenomenon of displacement is likely to increase rather than decrease in the immediate future. This is especially true for the so-called Horn of Africa, which continues to be one of most unstable regions of the world. As the author points out, the displaced—despite their numbers—receive far less attention than refugees, as is symbolized by the fact that©Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 2, No. 3 (New Series) 1995, pp. 85-104 S5 86 Book Reviews while there is an international organization that deals specifically with the latter (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), there is no such body to address the problems of the former. This is in spite of the fact that their condition is no less desperate than that of refugees; in fact, it may even be worse, especially when their displacement is due to the actions of their own governments, which may want to disown them and prevent them from receiving international assistance. This is why the concept of sovereignty as traditionally conceived has come under serious attack. Should the principle of sovereignty be used by a repressive government to inflict abuses on its own people? What is the responsibility of the international community in such circumstances : to do nothing by invoking sovereignty, or to override too narrow a definition of this principle and come to the assistance of the affected populations, thereby clearly embarking on a confrontation course with the government in question? As the book makes clear, an international consensus is emerging that rejects the traditional notion of sovereignty in favor of a broader one that is focused not on an abstract state but on real human beings and their suffering. The book provides a good overview of the challenge involved, of the legal protection mechanisms currently in existence, and of how sovereignty may be reconciled with responsibility. It forcefully makes the point that there are no adequate mechanisms for addressing the problems of the displaced and highlights the need for concerted international action in this sphere. In general, this is a very thoughtfully written book. It is also very lucid. In short, it provides an excellent overview of the problem. The country chapters provide brief introductions to the nature of the challenge faced by each selected country. As brief introductions, they are excellent and provide a good sense of the problem to the general reader. However, they offer nothing new to the specialist or to the person interested in a more detailed analysis of the complexities of the challenge in each country. On the average, there are slightly more than 10 pages per country. Given the intricacy of the problem in all the countries reviewed, it is obviously impossible to provide an extended commentary on each one of them within such a short compass. And, given the overall objective of the book, it maybe unfair to expect such a treatment . The point is rather that the reader with specialist interests will have to look elsewhere, whereas the general reader will find sufficient Book Reviews 87 food for thought. One might remark in passing that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-6574
Print ISSN
0740-9133
Pages
pp. 85-88
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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