8 maggio 1995
di Emma Bonino
SOMMARIO. Emma Bonino traccia un quadro della politica degli Aiuti Umanitari dell'Ue, dopo la caduta del muro di Berlino, quando sono esplose nel mondo crisi, che hanno prodotto drammi politici e umani, con oltre 50 milioni di persone costrette a vivere in condizioni disumane. Dopo aver tracciato una breve storia dello sviluppo di ECHO, il programma Ue per gli aiuti, Bonino sottolinea le difficoltà del progetto, che ha raggiunto il suo livello massimo di impegno. Le ONG nascono dall'entusiasmo, ma occorre adesso anche un certo rigore di programmazione per far fronte alle necessità. Uno dei quesiti è se chiedere o meno l'aiuto dei settori militari e della loro organizzazione logistica, efficiente e articolata. Le ONG, però, sono contrarie. Altro problema è il rischio che l'aiuto umanitario diventi la "foglia di fico" dell'impotenta europea. La questione si pone anche in vista della conferenza "Maastricht2".
Distinguished Rector, ladies, gentlemen,
Five years have elapsed since the Cold War vanished taking with it the shadow of fear that it had cast over an entire generation. During that same five years the worldwide humanitarian conflict has snowballed. And during that same time the European Union has been thrust to the forefront of the world's humanitarian aid effort.
The missiles may be rusting in their silos and the battle tanks overflowing the scrapyards. But the warlords have lost their shackles and are free to assuage their appetites at the cost of uncounted millions of lives, mostly of the old, of women and of children.
In theatres of conflict in over 40 "States" we have some 50Million human beings fleeing from threat to life and livelihood as refugees or displaced persons. Development grinds to a halt. Insecurity physical, political, and economic - casts ever deepening roots. To quote the ironic remark of Gabriel Robin in his recent book "Un monde sans maître" "Ah, que les choses étaient simples au bon vieux temps de la guerre froide!"
Worrying is the poverty of our capacity to respond to face this crisis. The United Nations enters its fiftieth anniversary year dangerously overstretched and with a crisis of confidence on its hands. The new crisis has caught the European Union in one of its periodic bouts of self doubt as caution has slowed down its maturing process. As if the world around it were not a dangerous place in a hurry.
The pressure of this humanitarian challenge on finite resources looms ever larger.
Firstly, financial resources. World official expenditure in1993 for humanitarian aid totalled well over $US 4 billion.The European Union Commission and Member States combined - provided not much less than three quarters of that effort, orUS$ 3 billion. Somewhat over half of that ($US 1.7) was provided by the Commission. And $US 800 million (or 600million ECUs) was managed by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) for the provision of frontline humanitarian relief.
ECHO is my responsibility.
In 1994 ECHO's spending had jumped to a massive 765 millionECUs.
The history of the Commission's humanitarian effort is worth a quick glance. Its origins go back to the mid 1970s when the Lome Convention needed a first aid kit to provide fast relief to victims of natural disasters in fragile economies and societies. That first aid kit started off with about 5 MECU.
Now the spending is almost entirely on provision of relief for victims of man made and increasingly protracted disasters.The cradle of this dramatic development was the Gulf War of 1991 unleashing a flood of Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq. There were then some who believed that this was the great summit of humanitarian challenge implying that thereafter things would return to some sort of normality.
But Yugoslavia was already getting ready to erupt. Somalia was about to be the new conflict in which humanitarian actors were to learn many a bitter lesson. The legacy of Somalia is to be seen in United States foreign policy behaviour today. Italian peacekeepers too burned fingers in the Somali conflict. In Angola things got implacably worse. In Sudan the bitter struggle smouldered on. In Afghanistan the taste for violence was to re erupt. New conflicts were threatening in west Africa. As the Soviet empire crumbled, centrifugal forces were soon at work. Moscow's brutal and senseless onslaught in Chechenya is the tip of an iceberg of violence. And most terrifyingly last summer in Rwanda mass murder took its huge toll of victims through the hillsides.
The demand on resources went through the roof. It is still strong. But I fail to see at the moment where the financial resources will come from to sustain such humanitarian spending levels from European Union funds in the months ahead.
We cannot forget that there are some 50 million EU citizens living at or below the "poverty line", that levels of public indebtedness are particularly severe in western Europe, that siren calls multiply about the burden of pensions on public finances and tomorrow's wage earners.
In the meantime it is my duty to plead for the maintenance of an acceptable level of humanitarian spending, of making sure that it is efficient and of making sure that it plays its rightful role in the external affairs of the Union.
ECHO, the main humanitarian instrument of the Union, is the Commission's smallest autonomous service, the youngest baby in our complex external affairs set up. The chaotic conditions in which humanitarian aid was deployed at the outset of the crisis in northern Iraq were the spur to the creation of ECHO. ECHO was told to pull together under single management the main resources of the Commission available for humanitarian work; to streamline and standardize procedures and make them transparent; to put relations with partners onto a more effective footing; to promote better dialogue with Member States; to do some useful things to improve preparedness against essentially - natural disasters.
The last thing I intend to do is to boast about this outstanding financial and managerial prowess displayed by ECHO.On the contrary, the figures I have quoted set off alarm bells in my head. I do not think I am alone in that.
What we must now concentrate more on is better use of human and institutional resources. After all the international community, unable to impose peace, calls upon the professionals and particularly the volunteers operating through humanitarian organisations with strong support also from citizen charity as well as from public coffers.
I can do nothing less than pay wholehearted tribute to humanitarian workers with whom the Commission is proud to be associated. For we have deliberately rejected any temptation to create a large humanitarian bureaucracy in Brussels. ECHO's staff numbers barely 90 people and 50 in field theatres as contractual liaison correspondents. We work heavily through partners, promoting their professionalism.
This policy is not without headaches.
Non governmental organisations spring from enthusiasm and commitment. They quickly espouse the politics of their cause and of the victims of humanitarian aggression. This is fundamentally right.
But in difficult and hazardous humanitarian situations capacity, experience and professionalism is needed. It is often hard for some NGOs to accept that certain situations are beyond their capacity or likely to throw them and others into unacceptable risk. Resisting pressures, sometimes political, is thus part of my job and I will not shirk from my responsibility of saying "No!" when that is the right answer.
Similarly, humanitarian operators are proud of their independence and argue with frequent justification that their independence is the bed rock of the trust that they can wring from partners in conflict the pre condition for being able to perform their work of relief.
But we saw it in Iraq in 1991, and again in Rwanda in 1994 acceptance of disciplines of good coordination is also a pre condition for effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. Very recently one of the world's most prominent humanitarian spokesmen reportedly said, in preface to expressions of regret about inadequate coordination among UN agencies, "but nobody gives instructions to X" his organisation.
We have battered our brains in seeking formulae for better coordination with only moderate success. We simply have to continue trying.
A related dilemma faces us with respect to use of armed forces.Indeed the soldiers themselves are in a dilemma; do they have a humanitarian role at all, and, if so, which? Armed forces clearly have major logistic capacities. But some big humanitarian actors deliberately foster their own logistic strengths in order not to have depend on the military.
I believe that there is a role in humanitarian work for the military and that Europe has an opportunity to do something useful here.
You see, I increasingly have the sense that the Union has already reached the limit of what is tolerable. I fear that now we are about to see "humanitarian aid fatigue" strike and we be prepared to handle that phenomenon in time.
The humanitarian crisis in my view throws into harsher light the political challenge that the European Union must face during the Inter Governmental Conference or "Maastricht Mark II". In certain quarters we see clear signs of foot dragging from those who are wary of the further development of the Union. In particular, as regards the twin pillars of the building up of a credible European defence capacity and the strengthening of machinery to make Europe's political weight felt. Right now those responsible for the rampages which are at the heart of humanitarian crises know that Europe lacks the political credibility and power to act which might make them listen. Former Yugoslavia on our own doorstep is the nearest and most blatant example. The tragedy of Rwanda Burundi is proof of the low credibility in African eyes of the Euro African relationship which is supposed to be part of Europe's political balance sheet.
Yet Mozambique, Central America, Cambodia were, thank heavens, proof that things could get better and that peace creating diplomacy is not in vain. Who knows, maybe the promoters of the new arm's race in Angola can still be brought to see sense.
There are some, particularly among the NGO community, who urge ECHO to develop a role in promoting preventive diplomacy. It is a price of ECHO's success elsewhere. I am not sure that all humanitarian workers have thought through the logical consequences of the preventive action that they call for.
I have made it clear that preventive diplomacy is properly the task of those who have the responsibility for the conduct of the external affairs of the Union in the broadest and most political sense. The humanitarian actors can help in two ways: they can contribute their knowhow and field observation into the process; they will be the constant reminder of the ultimate price to be paid by not doing anything.
Humanitarian actors cannot be expected to continue being the fig leaf for political impotence.
This is why I want the issue of humanitarian intervention not just provision of humanitarian aid to be on the table of the IGC as an agenda item.
We looked a moment ago at the role of the military in humanitarian action and the misgivings that this ignites among humanitarian actors. And for the military. Experience in Somalia has left a deep scar; commanders serving in Yugoslavia have sounded off before the media, including acrimony against both the UN and NATO.
And yet the success of the Operation Turquoise was undeniable; and I cannot accept that the presence of UNPROFOR in Yugoslavia has made things worse than otherwise they would have been.
The whole issue of the proper use of military assets in humanitarian crises and of organised cooperation between the military and the humanitarian arms deserves active pursuit. I believe that Europe must stop waiting for a lead from big brother in the Pentagon where the reticences among the military are particularly acute and accept that this is an area where Europe should take the lead.
I am certainly not closing my eyes to the very real problems involved in developing further humanitarian and peacekeeping roles for the military. These are well documented and need not take up our limited time here today. But I do believe that there is a role here for the Western European Union around which considerable consensus could be crafted among the memberstates of the Union in the setting of the Inter Governmental Conference.