The Turbulent Decade: Confronting The Refugee Crises Of The 1990s (英語) ハードカバー – 2005/2/17
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In this, the definitive story of the twentieth century's greatest refugee crises, the woman who led the international response recounts her experiences and the lessons she has learned. A tireless advocate for the victims of war, Sadako Ogata tells the story at the scene of four crises in which she directed relief: Iraq, the Balkans, the African Great Lakes region and Afghanistan. She explores issues of refugee protection and humanitarian assistance; coordination between humanitarian organisations, NATO and other military forces; and the global political and strategic climate in which these crises occurred. She asks the world community to assess the limits of humanitarian action and to work towards real political solutions when conflicts arise. No one is in a better position to tell this essential post-Cold War story than Ogata, who travelled to crisis spots to lead the world in confronting the tragedy of the displaced.
SADAKO OGATA was the UN High Commissioner for refugees from 1990 to 2000 and is currently president of the Japan International Co-operation Agency.
Mrs Ogata's career is a testimony to the effectiveness of women empowerment through affirmative action. She set foot on the first step of the UN ladder thanks to a government policy negotiated with women's organizations at the time of Japan's entry into the United Nations in 1956. Japan's delegation to the UN General Assembly was to include a woman, and she was drawn to the position from her career in academia when there was an opening in 1968. Later on, and after several postings in the UN system, she became Japan's candidate to the seat of UN high commissioner for refugees, no doubt partly because the Japanese government thought that presenting a woman would increase its chance to win the job over fierce competition. The fact that Japan was a big financial contributor to the UN system also gave weight to her candidature. But Sadako Ogata made sure she never became a woman alibi or a pawn in Japan's campaign for international recognition. She proved by example that a woman could be as hard working, strong willing, and straight talking as a man in a world dominated by big egos and power brokers. In her effort to protect refugees everywhere, she made efforts to keep an equal stand between all actors and to constructively engage host countries, including nationalist Serbia and islamist Iran. And her personal recommendation to the Japanese government was not to limit itself to checkbook diplomacy but to provide boots on the ground, as when a contingent of Japanese self-defense forces was dispatched to eastern Zaire in 1994 to alleviate the Rwandan refugee crisis.
Mrs Ogata began her tenure at UNHCR in February 1991, in the midst of the first Gulf war. She terminated it in December 2000 with a sense of mission accomplished, although by its nature her business could only be left unfinished. On her fourth week in the job, she had to face three emergency situations. There was a sudden increase in the number of Kurdish refugees fleeing to Iran and Turkey; Ethiopians and Somalis were suddenly put on the move by an approaching famine and internal strife in Somalia; and large numbers of Albanians on boats crossed the Adriatic sea to Italy. This flurry of activity only set the stage for the following decade: the ten years that she spent with refugees marked a period of continuous humanitarian crisis. In her memoirs, published in 2005, Mrs Ogata focuses on four such crisis situations: the Kurdish exodus and repatriation in northern Iraq; the difficult task of protecting refugees in the Balkan wars; the intertwined tragedies of the Great Lakes region in Africa; and the long-standing issue of Afghan refugees, which remained her biggest unfinished work as high commissioner. In each case study, she addresses the strategic interests of the main players involved; the changing procedures of refugee protection; the expanding partnership with the military and with development agencies who were not used to work with humanitarian actors; and the challenge of repatriation, reintegration and reconstruction in the context of post-conflict state building.
The Kurdish refugee crisis that affected northern Iraq and its neighbors in the aftermath of the Gulf war set the stage for the post-cold war period of the 1990s and led to many new developments in refugee protection operations. Televised images of desperate Kurds fleeing persecution by entering the Iraqi-Kurdish mountain range rallied international public opinion and pressed coalition governments for quick action. Their solution was to bring back the Kurds from the border mountains in Turkey to the plateau of northern Iraq and to establish a safe haven of refugee camps inside their country, a policy backed by a UN Security Council resolution and acquiesced by the Iraqi government, who preferred a UN presence to the prolonged stationing of coalition forces. The operation represented a major deviation from the traditional practice of ensuring refugee protection in countries of asylum, blurring the distinction between refugees and internally displaced persons. It occasioned the start of military involvement in humanitarian emergencies, with varying implications that required careful scrutiny. It added the concepts of safe havens and secure corridors to the humanitarian toolbox. And it concluded with a massive repatriation campaign orchestrated by UNHCR that was unprecedented in scale and scope.
Underlying the success of the Kurdish refugees operation was an alignment in the strategic orientation of coalition forces, neighboring countries, Iraqi authorities, and the refugees themselves, who all shared the need to find practical solutions while preserving their interests. By contrast, in the humanitarian crisis situations that evolved in the Balkans and in the Great Lakes region of Africa, no comparable strategic action emerged on the basis of the convergence of interest among various contenders. In Bosnia, UNHCR was virtually left alone to lead the massive humanitarian intervention, serving as a "fig leaf" to cover the reality of strategic inaction. It was forced to condone the policy of ethnic cleansing that forced people to turn into refugees. The UN was seen by Serbian leaders as partial to the conflict, and UN personnels were the target of harassment, arbitrary arrest, or worse. The Srebrenica enclave made a mockery of the concept of safe areas when its inhabitants were crushed by Serbian forces right in front of hapless UN soldiers. The repatriation campaign was unable to reverse the policy of ethnic cleansing, as refugees returned only in areas dominated by their ethnicity and very few minority returns occurred. Again, UNHCR broke new ground with the design of reconciliation and community-building projects, such as interentity bus lines, priority assistance to municipalities committed to a policy of open cities, women's job training, and "imagine coexistence" workshops in divided communities.
Compared to the Balkan drama, the internal wars and cross-border conflicts in the Great Lakes region have the character of a tragedy of gigantic proportion. UN's failure to act during the Rwandan genocide and the protection extended to Hutu criminals afterward left the new authorities in Kigali with a profound sense of betrayal and mistrust toward the international community. Following the Gersony report that exposed cases of human right abuse by the RPF, Rwanda's president Bizimungu accused UNHCR staff of "a malicious campaign to stop refugees from returning" and suggested humanitarian actors had "private interests" to protect their jobs by keeping refugees in the camps. Within these camps, political leaders and Hutu militias that had perpetrated genocide killings recreated administrative structures, levied tax to fund their attacks against Rwandese territory, and prevented refugees from returning home. Two influential NGOs withdrew from the camps in protest of their militarization. War eventually spread in former Zaire and refugees were dispersed, some of them returning, others fleeing farther west into Zaire or in neighboring countries. The human toll was enormous, estimates of the "missing refugees" population being itself subject to an absurd number game. UN's search and rescue operation for the lost refugees was distracted by "search and destroy" attacks by Kabila-led Alliance forces whenever Hutu refugees came out of their hiding in the forest. The transition from war to peace proved elusive, and the constant flow of refugees, militias and armies permanently destroyed the fragile ethnic mix in the region.
During its long period of war and oppression, Afghanistan produced the largest and the longest refugee exodus in the world. Before the September 11 attacks brought the Taliban's regime to international opinion's attention, Afghanistan was a forgotten country, and its refugees dependent on continued UNHCR support. The Taliban themselves were largely a product of refugee status, many of them raised and indoctrinated in Pakistan's border region before their successful military campaign against corrupt warlords. Sadako Ogata did not hesitate to dialogue with Taliban leaders in order to find solutions to the refugee problem. As she notes, "I had learned that historically major political concessions resulted from bringing to the negotiating table hard-line leaders belonging to bad regimes." She continued to deal with Afghanistan after she left UNHCR in 2000 and was appointed as Japan's special representative on Afghan reconstruction. In recognition of her leadership, the comprehensive area development program sponsored by Japan became identified as the Ogata Initiative.
The UNHCR's core mission is to provide effective protection to refugees and find durable solutions to their problems. But as Mrs Ogata insisted time and again in various settings and to diverse publics, "there are no humanitarian solutions to humanitarian problems." To be more specific, humanitarian problems might be best addressed by humanitarian action, but it could not substitute for the necessary exercise of political will to solve the underlying causes of the conflicts. For the sake of refugee protection, Mrs Ogata was ready to walk the extra mile and she did not refrain from doing what others were not ready or not prepared to do. But she also expected other major actors to play their part and not dodge over their duties. In particular, she held the UN Security Council and its members accountable for their key duty to provide peace and security. As humanitarian problems became legitimate political issues, the Security Council invited her twice every year when the situation in the Balkans and of the Great Lakes region gained central attention in world politics. She also held regular consultations with the White House, the State Department, and Congress over issues of pressing concern. She recalls insisting to Secretary Albright that what UNHCR and the world needed was an 800 telephone number that would respond immediately to requests for dealing with crises.
In the course of her duties, Sadako Ogata relied on a cadre of able UN workers and interacted with prominent individuals from various countries. They are not portrayed in detail, but their names and deeds are worth remembering. UN officials include Sergio Vieira de Mello, then assistant high commissioner, whose tragic death as UN representative in Iraq was a huge setback in the reconstruction process; Lakhdar Brahimi, UN special representative for Afghanistan, whose report on peace operations was strongly welcomed by the humanitarian community; Sadruddin Aga Khan and Thorvald Stoltenberg, two predecessors in the high commissioner position who remained active throughout the period; and Soren Petersen-Jessen and Filippo Grandi, Mrs Ogata's two successive chefs de cabinet. World leaders and government ministers that she met regularly are too numerous to recall. But special mention should be given to Ashraf Ghani, the American-educated development economist with World Bank experience who led donor coordination and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan; and Aloysi Inyumba, the young and resourceful minister for women who later chaired the Rwandan commission on national unity and reconciliation. As Mrs Ogata recalls in her farewell speech to UNHCR, friends that you meet in difficult times are friends for life, and she did indeed develop exceptional friendships along her bumpy road as high commissioner for refugees.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention minor squibbles I have with some parts in the book. The first is the way she depicts France's role before, during and after the Rwandan genocide, still a sensitive issue in my country of birth and residence. I don't mean to imply that France doesn't bear a share of responsibility in the tragic course of events that led to the slaughtering of 800 000 innocent people. But to depict, as she does, France's involvement in the Great lakes region as a result of a proxy rivalry with Anglo-saxon countries, or to pinpoint France's support of Mobutu's Zaire while ignoring the involvement of other powers, seems to me a little simplistic. The second reservation I have has to do with the mostly uncritical, even laudatory stance adopted toward the US. This is in part due to the time period under consideration: obviously Mrs Ogata bears more sympathy with Bill Clinton's internationalist stance than with the going it alone course that George W. Bush was to take in the following decade. There may also be a personal equation at play: Mrs Ogata spent time in the US as a child following her father's diplomatic posting in Washington, DC, and she later went on to study at Georgetown and at UC Berkeley. She is obviously at ease mingling with US leaders or academics. But the US did not always fulfill its role as a protector of refugees, and its support to the UN system was always more lukewarm than the multilateralist policy adopted by Japan and by European countries like France, Germany or the UK.
The third, more general critique I might formulate stems from her depiction of the US as a benevolent hegemon. The last decade of the twentieth century may well be remembered as the time when the world turned multipolar. But other great powers such as China, India, Brazil, or South Africa, not to mention the European Union, are largely absent from the narrative. By contrast, Japan gets a positive if only secondary role, and Sadako Ogata gives a useful account of some aspects of its foreign policy. Whether due to her power to influence decision-makers in her country of origin, her role as a spokesperson for Japan's international role, or simply the congruence of interests and values between herself and officials in Tokyo, Japanese government initiatives often seemed aligned with those of the high commissioner for refugees, and Japan did indeed play an active role in humanitarian issues. Japan's international contribution to world peace and development assistance in a multipolar world might inspire and encourage other powers with similar roles and ambitions, such as Canada, Australia, Brazil or South Africa; and Sadako Ogata's personal example as an independent and committed woman may set a role model for other women to follow.
It would have been helpful for a more nuanced history of the organisation. Formed in 1950 the UNHCR is, with the exception of Palestinian refugees (which comes under the remit of the UNRWA), responsible for managing the international cooperation on UN member states and plays a key role in monitoring refugee movements and providing initial humanitarian relief. The UNHCR, together with the 1951 Refugee Convention itself, began life dealing overwhelmingly with European refugees, most notably the Jewish displaced after WWII. Thereafter the Cold War ensured that refugees were predominately European and (in the case of the US), South American. However, in the 1990s there were a number of changes. The end of the Cold War put an end to the often overtly political recognition of refugees from the eastern bloc and the UNHCR focused its attention on the developing world to a far greater extent.
In this book Ogata basically offers an extended survey of the UNHCR operations within the key refugee causing crises of the 1990s, namely the first Gulf War, Afghanistan, the Balkan Crisis and the Great Lakes region. As a memoir this is at times an interesting account but I must say as a professor of international politics i was really hoping for a lot more from Ogata. For example, much is made of the reasons why in the First Gulf war the UNHCR made the very significant move from managing refugee flows (which, by definition, requires the extra-territoriality of the refugee) to creating camps of Internally Displaced Persons. Not only is this an extension of UNHCR's traditional mandate but it represented a positive collaboration of UNHCR operations with alien (that is non-iraqi) military forces - this is a theme that Ogata reiterates as a key part of her approach in various fields of operation; yet there is very little critical comment on this highly significant trend of making the military a pivotal agent of humanitarian relief.
This could have been an excellent book; her position, together with expertise at a time of immense change in humanitarian operations over the decade in question should have made this a significant text - as it is, however, it's more suitable as a coffee table book for the more discerning reader. One to avoid.