HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL, DRAWS ATTENTION TO DISPARITIES IN HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

26 July 1999
SC/6703

HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL, DRAWS ATTENTION TO DISPARITIES IN HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

26 July 1999

Press ReleaseSC/6703

HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL, DRAWS ATTENTION TO DISPARITIES IN HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

19990726

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, drew the attention of the Security Council to disparities in humanitarian assistance, as she briefed its members this morning in an open meeting on refugee situations throughout Africa, as well as the recent crisis in Kosovo. She said that emergencies attracted more attention than other programmes and that Kosovo had been a very serious and large refugee emergency. It was true, however, that the province had been the focus of unprecedented political attention and material support by the international community and, in particular, by Western countries. Undeniably, proximity, strategic interests and extraordinary media focus had played a key role in determining the quality and the level of response. However, that had not been true -- and continued not to be true - - in other situations, including some of those in Africa.

Mrs. Ogata pointed out that there were approximately 6 million people "of concern" to her office in Africa. She described in detail the efforts to deal with refugees from recent crises -- such as Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- as well as from older, unresolved conflicts in the Sudan, Western Sahara and Angola.

She also drew the Council's attention to the violent and almost forgotten civil war in the Republic of Congo. In the last few days, she said, 30,000 new refugees had arrived in Gabon. That was a new and worrying development, that indicated how destabilizing the war might become for the entire region.

On the situation in Kosovo, she added that the return of ethnic Albanians to Kosovo had coincided with the expulsion, harassment and killing of people of non-Albanian ethnicity, particularly Serbs and Romas. The massacre of 14 Serbs last week was the latest, and most worrying, such episode. The international community, which had rightly provided support to the cause of the persecuted and expelled Albanians, could not and must not tolerate that the end of one refugee crisis overlapped with the beginning of another. Retaliation and revenge must not be allowed to prevail, she said.

Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6703 4025th Meeting (AM) 26 July 1999

Reiterating the need for impartiality, which was cited by many speakers this morning, the representative of Canada said it was essential that the Council accord equal attention to security concerns, irrespective of where they occurred. Some believed that Africa's conflicts were neglected in favour of those in Europe. That perception must never be allowed to take root or the very premise of the United Nations would be called into question. The Council's willingness to redress a perceived bias would be tested in its response to calls for a more robust United Nations role in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea and Angola.

The representative of China said Africa had one third of all the world's refugees and displaced persons. Yet, where each refugee in Kosovo received $1.60 per day, each African refugee only received $0.11 per day. That disparity fully demonstrated that certain donor countries selectively and conditionally provided foreign aid. That was extremely unfair to African refugees. Fairness and impartiality in humanitarian affairs should be observed by the international community.

Namibia's representative said the number of refugees and internally displaced persons from Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo far exceeded the total number outside Africa. Yet, the level of financial and material assistance rendered to refugees and internally displaced persons in other regions was far higher than what was available for Africa. For example, out of $1.6 million requested through the appeal for Angola, only 14 per cent had been made available, and of $27.9 million requested for Sierra Leone, only 26 per cent had reached the agencies.

Also this morning, the Council President, Hasmy Agam, (Malaysia), on behalf of Council members, expressed grief and sorrow at the death of King Hassan II of Morocco. The late Kings's entire life was dedicated to devoted service to his country and the cause of world peace, stability and prosperity, he said. On behalf of the Council, he conveyed to his Majesty King Sidi Mohamed VI, the bereaved family and the people of Morocco profound condolences. Council members then observed a minute of silence in tribute to the late King.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Gabon, France, Bahrain, Brazil, Slovenia, Gambia, United States, Russian Federation, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Argentina and Malaysia.

The meeting, which began at 10:15 a.m., was adjourned at 1:10 p.m

Security Council - 2 - Press Release SC/6703 4025th Meeting (AM) 26 July 1999

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, who is also expected to respond to questions from Council members.

Tribute to Late King Hassan II of Morocco

On behalf of the Council, its President, HASMY AGAM (Malaysia), expressed grief and sorrow at the death of His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco. The late Kings's entire life was dedicated to devoted service to his country and the cause of world peace, stability and prosperity. His loss would be greatly felt, he said, and, on behalf of the Council, he conveyed to his Majesty King Sidi Mohamed VI, the bereaved family and the people of Morocco profound condolences. Council members then observed a minute of silence in tribute to the late King.

Statement by High Commissioner

SADAKO OGATA, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, began her statement by paying tribute to the late King of Morocco. Continuing, she said the main refugee groups caused by recent crises continued to be the over half a million Sierra Leoneans in West Africa; the 260,000 Burundians in the United Republic of Tanzania; and the 150,000 people who had fled to various countries from the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon. There were also older, unresolved conflict situations that had produced refugees many years ago. She cited more than 370,000 Sudanese who continued to be refugees in Uganda and Ethiopia; 120,000 Saharan refugees who were still in camps in Algeria and other countries; and 150,000 Angolan refugees, who were mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In both the Sudan and Angola, as well as the war-torn areas of the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea, there were also tens of thousands of internally displaced persons. In Liberia, where 280,000 refugees had returned home and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) hoped to finish the repatriations of the remaining 250,000 by mid-2000, recent episodes of insecurity revealed internal tensions and the fragility of peace.

She said the end of the civil war in Sierra Leone might bring about positive solutions to the worst current refugee problem in Africa. Her first plea today was, therefore, one for the necessary resources to be provided to Sierra Leone and the governments of the subregion, so that the Lomé agreements could be implemented very rapidly. Peace was at hand, but, seen from the vantage point of hundred of villages still exposed to violence, it was very fragile. From a humanitarian perspective, resources would soon be needed to support the return and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons to their communities of origin. As seen in other situations, the longer people stayed away from their communities, the more difficult and complex reconciliation became.

Addressing the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she stressed that it was imperative that the Lusaka agreement received clear and strong international support, so that all parties to the conflict could adhere to it and its rapid implementation could become a reality. The country desperately needed peace. The informal economy, once the backbone of the country, had all but collapsed. Poverty was also rampant and almost 150,000 people had fled, while there were countless internally displaced persons. Humanitarian assistance was needed, not only to bring relief to hundreds of thousands of people, but to contribute to the peace process. Such assistance would be the first move towards the much-needed stabilization of the country and the subregion.

She said the situation in the Central African Republic had shifted from one of massive refugee movements to one of multiple, interrelated conflicts and smaller human displacement crises. However, the potential for larger and more dramatic displacement existed. At the present juncture, it was very difficult to pursue a comprehensive effort to ensure refugee protection principles with due consideration for the security concerns of States. The most pressing problem was to tackle the problem of Rwandans who had not yet returned after fleeing the country in the aftermath of genocide.

She was pleased to report that after her recent trip to the subregion, she had taken two key decisions: first, from the offices in Bukavu and Goma, the UNHCR would resume support to the repatriation of the Rwandans still in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; second, Rwandans in the Republic of the Congo would be offered either repatriation or the opportunity to settle in areas north of their host country.

She said prospects for a solution to the plight of Burundian refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania appeared less promising. While peace talks in Arusha between the Government of Burundi and its opponents continued, refugee repatriation movements were now limited to a few individuals per day. In Western Sahara, while the UNHCR continued to make preparations for repatriation in March next year, the likelihood of the return of refugees depended entirely on the progress of political negotiations. The same was true of the Angolan conflict, which was forcing thousands to flee their homes, and the war in southern Sudan, one of the oldest and most violent conflicts in the world, whose effects were felt both in terms of refugee movements and in general regional insecurity.

She also drew the Council's attention to the violent and almost forgotten civil war in the Republic of the Congo. In the last few days, 30,000 new refugees had arrived in Gabon. That was a new and worrying development, which indicated how destabilizing the war might become for the entire region. While she fully realized the burden that those refugees placed on the country's resources, she appealed to the Government of Gabon to provide asylum to those fleeing the war. The international community must take a much stronger stance with respect to the Congolese conflict, and do all in its power to put an end to the senseless violence that claimed thousands of civilians as victims.

She said the UNHCR constantly insisted on the importance of consolidating peace after peace agreements had been signed, and of avoiding the gap between the provision of humanitarian assistance and of long- term development cooperation. Kosovo continued to be major challenge to her Office and the international community. Since the end of the hostilities and the deployment of international forces to the province, about 730,000 people had returned home in one of the most spectacular reverse population movements in contemporary history. There were, however, elements of serious concern.

The return of ethnic Albanians, she continued, had coincided with the expulsion, harassment and, in some cases, killing of people of non-Albanian ethnicity, particularly Serbs and Romas. The massacre of 14 Serbs last week was the latest, and most worrying, such episode. The international community, which had rightly provided support to the cause of the persecuted and expelled Albanians, could not and must not tolerate that the end of one refugee crisis overlapped with the beginning of another. Retaliation and revenge must not be allowed to prevail, she stressed.

She concluded her briefing by drawing the attention of the Council to disparities in humanitarian assistance. Emergencies attracted more attention than other programmes. Kosovo had been a very serious and large refugee emergency. It was true, however, that the province had been the focus of unprecedented political attention and material support by the international community, and by Western countries, in particular. Undeniably, proximity, strategic interests and extraordinary media focus had played a key role in determining the quality and the level of response. Undeniably, that had not been true and continued not to be true, in other situations, including some of those she had addressed today.

Statements

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that 1.7 million Angolans were internally displaced, while hundreds were refugees in neighbouring countries. Some 450,000 Sierra Leoneans were refugees and more than 200,000 were internally displaced. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had over 700,000 internally displaced persons and 300,000 refugees. The number of refugees and internally displaced persons in those three countries alone far exceeded the total number of refugees and internally displaced persons outside Africa. Yet, the level of financial and material assistance rendered to refugees and internally displaced persons in other regions was far higher than what was available for Africa.

He said refugees and internally displaced people were a direct result of conflicts that could destabilize whole regions. It was important to address the root causes of conflict on the African continent and to minimize their negative impact on civilians. The flow of arms to conflict areas, particularly the proliferation of small arms, was a major contributing factor to conflict in Africa. Some of those arms flows continued despite arms embargoes imposed by the Security Council. Arms producers should abide by Council resolutions and exercise restraint when shipping armaments to the troubled continent.

Through regional efforts, like those of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), such conflicts could be contained, he said. But regional organizations had limitations and required financial and logistical support. The UNHCR and its partner agencies could not alone address the needs of African refugees. Recent events had shown that, with the necessary political will, the international community could help bring about an end to most conflicts. It was, however, unfortunate that selectivity was applied in exercising that will and in providing financial support. The images of African refugees were not shown on television screens, but their plight was very real. For example, out of $1.6 million requested through the appeal for Angola, only 14 per cent had been made available, and of $27.9 million requested for Sierra Leone, only 26 per cent had reached the agencies.

It was imperative, he said, that the international community support post-conflict peace-building activities by assisting countries in their reconciliation and economic reconstruction, which would ensure long-term security. It was one thing to end a conflict and another to ensure that it did not recur. It was an enormous task. Yet, if peace was to prevail, the efforts of all were required. The relevant United Nations agencies could only coordinate the assistance rendered. For its part, the international community must just make the requested assistance available.

DENIS DANGUE RÉWAKA (Gabon) said that last year, when the Council considered the Secretary-General's report on the causes of conflict in Africa, it had adopted resolution 1208 of 19 November 1998. That resolution's operative part contained provisions and measures to be taken by the UNHCR and the Secretariat to help alleviate the plight of refugees in Africa, including the training of personnel to cope with their large numbers. Mrs. Ogata had described refugees from the Central African Republic and other neighbours of Gabon, whose people had always been willing to cooperate with her and with the UNHCR staff to ensure the best possible conditions until the refugees returned home. It had not been easy to organize refugees, some of whom were armed. There had also been the problem of settling them in with the local population. Gabon would appreciate proper training, particularly for security forces.

He said funds were often not available for the UNHCR. What funds had actually been received to help African refugees? he asked. Gabon had signed the Organization of African Unity (OAU) convention dealing with the problems of refugees and realized that the staff of humanitarian organizations other than the UNHCR needed to have access to refugees so that they could get the assistance they needed. In Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, significant progress had been made and the Security Council must not delay in taking the necessary initiatives, so that the absence of a group to monitor ceasefires was not used as a pretext to violate the ceasefire agreements.

There had recently been border clashes in eastern Africa, involving the handling of refugees as they arrived, he said. That had happened between Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania. It was important that countries taking in refugees be given resources so that situations like that in Rwanda/Burundi in 1994 did not recur. The UNHCR had responsibilities in those cases and must be given resources to deal with the mass movement of refugees. Gabon hoped there would be follow-up and implementation of Security Council resolution 1208 (1998).

QIN HUASAN (China) paid tribute to the late King of Morocco and extended sympathy to the family of the King and the Government and people of the country.

He said Africa had over 3 million refugees and over 2 million displaced persons -- one third of all the world's refugees and displaced persons. It was gratifying that in the past few decades the international community had been engaged in untiring efforts to provide assistance to African refugees. The key to resolving the refugee problem, however, was to remove the root causes. In recent years, the relatively backward economies of underdeveloped countries, coupled with threats presented by globalization, threatened many of those countries with marginalization.

Such factors, he continued, contributed to the growth in conflict, poverty and instability and prevented the removal of root causes. The international community should increase assistance to African countries and assist in addressing the refugee problem. Where each refugee in Kosovo received $1.60 per day, each African refugee only received $0.11 per day. That disparity fully demonstrated that certain donor countries selectively and conditionally provided foreign aid. That was extremely unfair to African refugees. Fairness and impartiality in humanitarian affairs should be observed by the international community.

He said that last year the present chamber had discussed the Secretary- General's report on the causes of conflict in Africa, and that had included the issues of refugees. Last year, Council resolution 1208 on Africa had been adopted, which showed the Council's concern. However, while the Council's focus was on international conflict, it had to consider other related areas, such as the problems of refugees. That issue had to be resolved. As a developing country, China had provided assistance to many African countries through bilateral agreements and enjoyed a good relationship with the UNHCR.

ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) paid tribute to the late King of Morocco who embodied a vision and a policy of peace and tolerance. The recent visits to Africa by the High Commissioner and her presence today were an echo of a great appeal that Africa not be neglected in the area of humanitarian assistance. It was also an opportunity to confirm and strengthen the commitment of the international community. Everything possible must be done to ensure that Africa was not the victim of unequal policies. As stated earlier today, one third of the world's refugees were in Africa. Given the magnitude of addressing that task, all energies must be mobilized and all solutions explored.

He said assistance to host countries that were frequently being destabilized by mass inflows of refugees -- as was the case in Gabon and Guinea, which received a large number -- had to be seriously considered. That was a definite cost to such countries. He could only welcome the economy measures already taken by the UNHCR and the budgetary measures applied. He also welcomed the reform by the UNHCR to build a new single structure for the entire African continent. The financial status of the UNHCR for its Africa programme was, however, worrying. That status should prompt Members of the United Nations to assume their responsibilities. Much also depended on the will of Africans themselves to overcome their problems.

Addressing the issue of Guinea, he asked Mrs. Ogata about the challenges to such a small poor country that was facing large inflows of refugees. On Sierra Leone, what prospects had been opened up for the return of refugees by the new Lomé ceasefire agreements? he asked. He also asked about a plan for Angola.

JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said States in conflict situations should guarantee the opening of safe corridors, without which assistance could not be delivered to needy refugees. Also, a technical assistance must be provided to the staff of humanitarian organizations, to enable them to assist refugees. Humanitarian organizations must cooperate with national and international laws and recognize the sovereignty of those States.

He said that donor States should assist countries hosting refugees, to help them achieve social and economic stability. What was UNHCR's view of refugees who were forced to participate in the conflict? he asked. What about refugees who willingly participated in the conflict as a way of making a living? There were two types of refugees living in unenviable circumstances. They may not always be under the jurisdiction of the UNHCR, but they were, nevertheless, refugees, first and foremost. It was high time to consider the situation of those refugees forced into conflict. GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said that as a developing country with a population and culture with deep roots in Africa, Brazil was sympathetic to the calls for the international community, to show the same level of interest and political involvement for the African refugee crisis, as demonstrated in other parts of the globe. Brazil was very concerned about the impact of refugee flows on Africa's stability, including through the infiltration of armed elements into the refugee settlements.

He said UNHCR's work was of paramount importance in both contexts. Difficult as they may be, the main goals remained the same: the return and reintegration of refugees; the promotion of tolerance between different ethnic and religious groups; and support for confidence-building measures. Building a culture of peace might require sharing complex responsibilities with different institutions.

The Council had the fundamental goal of creating conditions for peace, he said. There could be no peace without strong foundations. What could Mrs. Ogata say about the "supply" of humanitarian services in Africa, especially the donor response to new challenges? he asked. How could the Security Council help her? What was the High Commissioner's assessment of the coordination between the UNHCR and the OAU in humanitarian and refugee matters?

DANILO TÜRK (Slovenia) expressed the sympathy of his delegation to the Government and the people of Morocco on the death of King Hassan II.

He said the Council was increasingly aware of the extent of the refugee problem in Africa and, in that light, he appreciated Mrs. Ogata's emphasis on armed conflict and poverty in Africa as causes. It would be wise for the United Nations to address those two issues together. He noted that the United Republic of Tanzania was the host country for many refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Both the slow repatriation of refugees and progress in the Arusha peace talks left a lot to be desired. He wanted to know if the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the new influx of refugees into the United Republic of Tanzania had contributed to the difficulties described by Mrs. Ogata in today's briefings. He also wanted to know how the implementation of the Kampala agreements was progressing.

He said the High Commissioner has also stressed the importance of implementing recently signed peace agreements. That point was important, and there was definitely a need for implementation support. There was also a need to strengthen efforts to end military conflicts, which was the basic function of the Council. Ending such conflicts would assist efforts to address the refugee problem. The need to curb the arms flow was a matter that had been addressed in past Council resolutions. It still remained an issue to be looked at in the future. While quick fixes were not expected, there was a need for steady efforts to address that issue by the international community, including the Council. Fostering both reconciliation and justice after conflicts was important. Without the requisite degree of justice, however, reconciliation would be difficult. Justice had to be ensured.

JAGNE BABOUCARR-BLAISE (Gambia) said, as he offered his heartfelt sympathies to the Government and people of Morocco, that the late King Hassan II had been an illustrious leader.

He said that, despite the Lomé and Lusaka peace agreements, the peace was fragile. It was, therefore, necessary to heed the appeals for the resources necessary to enforce those agreements. There should be no doubt that African leaders were doing everything in their power to bring about peace in the region. In the Central African Republic, peace was within reach and efforts were needed to bring about the implementation of all the agreements. The Lomé agreement inspired hope for peace for war-torn Sierra Leone. In providing assistance to refugees, the contributions of host countries with meagre means must not be forgotten, such as his own country. Assistance was need for such countries.

He said sustainable development was seldom discussed when the Secretary- General's report on Africa was brought up. Evil must be attacked at its root, he stressed. Poverty was one of the roots, if the not the main root, of the conflicts in Africa. While the continent was grateful for assistance provided to it, it must be acknowledged that the assistance was inadequate. People should be treated equally. That was especially true at the current time, when African leaders were demonstrating a new commitment to solving African problems through negotiation, rather than with the gun.

ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said that refugee situations had a serious regional dimension that could spread disputes over national boundaries, drawing more countries into those conflicts. Just last week, the arrival in the Central African Republic of more than 5,000 refugees -- some of them armed -- from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, joining the 11,000 already there, threatened to destabilize the fragile situation in Bangui and throughout the Central African Republic. Yet, some claimed that such a source of instability had not been foreseen in the mandate of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) and, thus, ought to be of no concern to that Mission.

His Government did not share that view, he continued. As Mrs. Ogata had pointed out, the departure for Gabon of 30,000 refugees from Congo-Brazzaville had been foreseen, but the implications for the spreading of the conflict into Gabon were no less serious. It must be asked if the international community would still be grappling with the interlocking conflicts in Central Africa if the Security Council and Member States had responded more effectively to the crisis in eastern Zaire almost three years ago.

He said the 30-year-old struggle in the Sudan had driven refugees and displaced peoples from their homes and had led to the establishment of a large presence of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations in southern Sudan, neighbouring Kenya and in Uganda. Warring parties within the Sudan and Uganda regularly raided across the borders and engaged in such horrible tactics as capturing school-age children and incorporating them into armies as child soldiers, sex slaves and, often, cannon fodder. Such circumstances, along with those experienced in Guinea, demonstrated the need to enhance the security of refugee camps and settlements.

Recalling that the Council had unequivocally called on all concerned to respect the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and condemned the use of such camps by combatants for the furtherance of military aims, he asked how the development of UNHCR's ladder of options regarding refugee camp security was progressing. What reactions had Mrs. Ogata received from other governments, and how was the UNHCR applying its lessons in the field? he asked.

He said the "ministerial workshop" organized by the UNHCR and the OAU in Kampala last May provided an important opportunity to engage African leaders on questions of refugee protection and security. Had efforts been made to follow up on that meeting? he asked. Canada would welcome Mrs. Ogata's comments on recent experiences in gaining and maintaining access to populations of concern in Africa. Had she identified lessons learned?

Canada had long believed it essential that the Council accord equal attention to security concerns, irrespective of where they occurred, he said. Some believed that Africa's conflicts were neglected in favour of those in Europe. That perception must never be allowed to take root or the very premise of the United Nations would be called into question. The Council's willingness to engage innovatively and effectively in new African challenges, and to redress a perceived bias towards other regions, would be tested in its response to calls for a more robust United Nations role in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea and Angola. Canada continued to support both the new Council roles that those situations had invited, as well as sustained effort where significant investments in peace had already been made, such as in the Central African Republic and Angola.

A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said there were many obstacles to meeting the substantial humanitarian needs in Africa -- from programming levels to logistical access. The United States agreed with Mrs. Ogata that the obstacles in Africa would not be overcome by criticizing aid to victims in Kosovo. Member States must, instead, look at the international community's response to the Kosovo crisis, take inspiration from what had been proved possible, and then work together to ensure that the same positive results were achieved in Africa.

He said Mrs. Ogata had spoken of the opportunity springing from the peace processes in Sierra Leone and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United States Government had been actively involved in facilitating the peace processes in those and other conflicts in Africa. In May, a united effort involving presidential envoy Jesse Jackson, ECOWAS Chairman, President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, and Special Representative of the Secretary- General, Francis Okelo, had resulted in a ceasefire agreement for Sierra Leone. High-level United States representatives had been involved in promoting the peace process for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and special envoy Howard Wolpe had been working actively with others to help resolve the situation in Burundi. In addition, former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake had been in the Horn of Africa just last week to help support the OAU effort to encourage Ethiopia and Eritrea to negotiate a settlement to their conflict.

It was painfully clear that challenges in the refugee area were immense and that both political instability and unforgiving environmental factors only raised the hurdles that must be overcome, he said. Yet, Member States must not lose heart, nor be overcome by pessimism. The experience in Kosovo had shown that the international community, working together with a clear vision and common goal, could indeed make significant strides towards repatriation and humanitarian assistance for refugees. During Mrs. Ogata's visit to Washington, D.C., last week, the State Department had announced an additional mid-year contribution of $11.7 million for UNHCR's General Programme. Of that amount, over half -- $6.6 million -- was for Africa.

GENNADIY GATILOV (Russian Federation) said the Security Council was being asked to provide greater support to humanitarian organizations that needed strengthening. Humanitarian assistance, however, must never be used to bring political pressure to bear on either party to a conflict. The Russian Federation supported the broadening of cooperation and consultation between the Council and humanitarian organizations, at the stage of peace-planning and peace-building.

The Russian Federation shared Mrs. Ogata's view that the continuing difficult humanitarian situation in Kosovo was a matter of concern, he said. Non-Albanian residents of Kosovo, particularly ethnic Serbs, had been forced to flee from violence by ethnic Albanians, primarily fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who had been flagrantly violating the provisions of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). The swift and complete demilitarization of the KLA was one of the tasks given to KFOR by the Council.

He said that double standards in the humanitarian arena were intolerable. Kosovo would receive assistance for reconstruction, while the rest of Serbia would not. It was the Russian delegation's hope that Mrs. Ogata's recommendations would, in fact, be implemented as soon as possible and that the refugee situation would be successfully resolved.

ALPHONS HAMER (Netherlands) said his delegation was concerned that Kosovo should not distract attention from the refugee crisis in Africa. The Netherlands would make available extra contributions to the World Food Programme (WFP) for Angola.

He said universal standards must be applied. It was the view of his Government that the blanket amnesty provided to Sierra Leone rebels by the Lomé agreement should be reconsidered. Did Mrs. Ogata think that the amnesty would help the return of refugees? he asked. Could institutions muster the resources necessary for the rehabilitation of child soldiers?

Referring to Angola, he said it was essential that the Government and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) cooperate with humanitarian agencies in delivering assistance to refugees and internally displaced people. The UNHCR initiatives to address the situation of Burundian refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania were welcome.

DAVID RICHMOND (United Kingdom) said the recent crisis in Kosovo did not alter in any way the British Government's commitment to helping resolve the refugee crisis in Africa. The ceasefire agreements signed in Lomé and Lusaka were real opportunities to end the respective conflicts in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He asked whether the UNHCR had plans in place to help refugees in Guinea and elsewhere return home to Sierra Leone. What were the main conditions? he asked. Had the UNHCR anticipated problems in screening former Rwandan armed forces and Interahamwe combatants in the return of Rwandan refugees?

FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) expressed the condolences of his delegation to the people of Morocco on the death of King Hassan II. The late King's efforts had helped to create a positive climate in the midst of the Middle East conflicts.

He said Mrs. Ogata's words today bolstered the view that the Council should devote as much time as possible to the problem of humanitarian issues. Solving the conflicts which resulted in so many refugees, internally displaced persons and massive violations of human rights required systematic action. The African problems were no different from those in other regions. Those conflicts were seen as the vestiges of the East-West problem and were fuelled by precarious economic situations and weak governments. It was necessary to establish an appropriate political framework for the optimum utilization of humanitarian provisions, he stressed.

He trusted that, in the area of humanitarian provision, resources commensurate with the need would be made available, so as to dispel the idea that there was less available for Africa. While the Lomé and Lusaka agreements opened up major opportunities, it was necessary to ask what would be done by the Council to enhance humanitarian operations. Preventing humanitarian crises could be included in the broader context of peace-building and peacekeeping. If one looked at the whole picture, it was clear that expert personnel must be employed. It was, therefore, important to provide security for such personnel.

He said the parties to a conflict should be made to recognize that acceding and pledging respect to conventions and the relevant legal orders was a first step in demonstrating to the international community, donors and other interested parties that they had decided to embark on a path of reconstruction.

The Council President, HASMY AGAM (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of his country, joined the members of the Council in expressing condolences on the death of King Hassan II of Morocco.

He appreciated the remarks by Mrs. Ogata on the disparity between situations in Africa and Europe. She had also highlighted both the positive and negative aspects of the problems relating to Africa. The more negative aspects had to be addressed by the Council. Mrs. Ogata rightly said that the existing problems in Africa could be solved, if there was political will by African leaders to address those issues. The fear of the financial costs of international interventions should not inhibit the implementation of the necessary peace agreements.

He reiterated the point that the situation in the face of current peace agreements was still fragile. While the UNHCR was directly involved in the refugee problems, the members of the Council tended to address such issues in an abstract fashion. International intervention in Africa, however, had not always been negative. There had been some success, although it was always the faults that, nonetheless, attracted attention. Interventions were necessary to prevent humanitarian crises.

High Commissioner's Response

Responding to questions about refugee camp security, Mrs. Ogata said there were soft options that the UNHCR could take, such as setting up camps and trying to maintain their civilian character, which was the most difficult challenge. The agency had tried its best in Albania and in Guinea. Median options included the training of local police in Kenya and in the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as giving them equipment and incentives to keep the camps free of armed elements. The UNHCR had also placed liaison officers to supervise the training of law and order maintenance forces. More support was needed from donors.

She said that the hard options included the speedy deployment of international peacekeeping forces and international police. The UNHCR had sought positive ideas and action in that regard and had entered into consultations with the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) and other regional peacekeeping forces. The UNHCR had close working relations with the OAU.

Regarding the question of safe corridors for the delivery of assistance to refugees, she said that depended on assurances by conflicting parties that access would be respected.

Continuing, she said she was pleased that there was concern over the question of funding. The total for Africa in 1999 was $302 million. Specific budgets for Sierra Leone and other refugees barely amounted to $25 million and operations were on the brink of being paralysed. Funding was crucial to the consolidation of peace. Conflict resolution and other linkages had important funding implications.

In Sierra Leone, the UNHCR was setting up field offices in rebel-held border areas, she said. So long as the ceasefire held, refugees would return home, though not as rapidly as those from Kosovo. She said that she was not in a position to express her views on the amnesty granted by the ceasefire agreement reached in Lomé. Peace was very important, and the refugees she had met had said they wanted it.

Referring to the repatriation of Rwanda refugees, she said the agreement was that there would be a collection point in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where refugees would gather, as long as they were unarmed. The Government of Rwanda would take them, and there would be no need for screening.

Regarding Congo-Brazzaville, the arrangement was considerably different and details were still being negotiated, she said. People would be required to disengage from the conflict and go to collection points. They would leave the conflict areas and engage in peaceful activities, such as farming. De facto practical separation was the point that had been reached.

Responding to comments about the situation in Gabon, she said the UNHCR was looking into it and would see what could be set up. On the question of child soldiers, she said that the issue created a dilemma because the agency did not deal with soldiers. However, if those soldiers were children, it had no choice. It was a new and complex kind of situation, and the UNHCR was consulting with its partners.

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For information media. Not an official record.