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13 March 1996

Press Briefing



"Humanitarian action cannot substitute for political action", said USAID consultant and main author of the Synthesis Report of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda, John Eriksson, at a Headquarters press conference Tuesday morning.

Mr. Eriksson described for correspondents the major conclusions and findings of the evaluation report, which is entitled The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience. In addition to Mr. Eriksson's Synthesis, the report contains four separate evaluation studies concerning: I. Historical Perspective: Some Explanatory Factors; II. Early Warning and Conflict Management; III. Humanitarian Aid and Efforts; and IV. Rebuilding Post-Genocide Rwanda.

Mr. Eriksson said the hallmark of a "complex emergency" was that the political, human rights, humanitarian, peace-keeping and development aspects became inextricably intertwined. Those elements were seldom taken into account in an integrated manner during policy and strategy formulation by the international community. The approach to Rwanda by the international community had lacked "policy coherence" and left by default both the political and humanitarian problems in the hands of the humanitarian community. If appropriate political decisions had been taken early on, many of the subsequent humanitarian activities would have been unnecessary, he said.

The Permanent Representative of Denmark, Benny Kimberg, who introduced Mr. Eriksson and the evaluation, said there had been a world-wide proliferation of complex emergencies. They were essentially political in nature, entailed violent conflict and typically included a breakdown of legitimate institutions and governance, widespread suffering and massive population displacements. They often involved and required a range of responses. The Rwanda complex emergency shared all those characteristics and more.

Mr. Kimberg said the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recognizing both the magnitude of the Rwanda emergency and the implications of complex disasters for constricted aid budgets, had proposed the joint evaluation. It had evolved into a multi-donor effort, including: a Steering Committee of representatives from 19 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)-member bilateral donor agencies, plus the European Union and the Development Assistance Committee secretariat of the OECD; nine multilateral agencies and United Nations units; the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement; and five international non-governmental organization

movements. The evaluation had been financed by Steering Committee members. The smaller management group comprising Denmark, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States had provided day-to-day management of the various evaluation studies.

The main objective of the evaluation, he continued, was to draw lessons from the Rwanda experience relevant for complex emergencies, as well as for current operations in Rwanda and the region. The evaluation was initiated on the premise that, in spite of the complexity and chaos that characterized Rwanda's experience, it would be possible to identify applicable lessons to be learned by the international community in attempting to respond to future complex emergencies and in its continuing attempt to help Rwanda to rebuild its society.

He emphasized that every effort had been made to solicit comments from those interested in the evaluation and those who had played some role in the experience, but the evaluation teams had been free to accept or not to accept the comments based on their own work and independent judgement.

Explaining the main findings, Mr. Eriksson said study I found a complex of interactions. However, ethnicity in Rwanda had been, to a large degree, generated, exaggerated and manipulated for political reasons over the last century. The course of international assistance had not prevented that, and donors had not taken into account the ethnic and political situations in the design and analysis of their projects and programmes.

He said that study II explored whether the international community had been warned about what was likely to happen and, if so, how had it used that information. For 18 months, there had been significant signs that forces in Rwanda were preparing the climate and structures for genocide and political assassinations. However, they were ignored, discounted or misinterpreted, he said, "thereby, not only indicating an unwillingness to intervene but communicating that unwillingness to those who were planning genocide. Therefore, key actors in the international community share responsibility for the fact that the genocide was allowed to begin".

Another key finding, he continued, was that, through hesitation to respond and vacillation in providing and equipping peace-keeping forces in Rwanda, the international community had failed to stop or stem the genocide at an early stage. In that regard, the international community shared responsibility for the extent of the genocide.

Study II concluded that the magnitude and the speed of the movement of refugees and internally displaced persons following the Rwandan genocide was "without parallel in modern history", Mr. Eriksson said. Although the international humanitarian system then launched an impressive relief operation, saving countless lives and mitigating large-scale suffering, an estimated 100,000 that people had died in refugee camps and displaced-person

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camps, primarily from cholera and dysentery. The study concluded that more attention to contingency planing, preparedness measures and the adoption of more cost-effective interventions by United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and donor governments prepared to provide upfront funding could have saved even more lives, as well as relief resources. He stressed the importance of commitment and follow-through by donor governments to support more cost-effective approaches to relief management.

The evaluation included a recommendation to establish a small early- warning system directly responsible to the Secretary-General that would strategically analyse information on "looming complex emergencies", he said. Another recommendation was to promote integrated policy and strategy formulations. It called for the creation of a humanitarian subcommittee in the Security Council to focus on threatening and ongoing crises, as well as a senior policy team for the Secretary-General that would consist of the Under- Secretaries-General of Humanitarian Affairs, Peace-keeping Operations and Political Affairs to provide an adequate range of strategic options.

He said other recommendations included the establishment of a clear mandate for peace-keeping operations to protect civilians and support for regional approaches and organizations. In the realm of better management of relief operations, the evaluation recommended: better preparedness measures; improved contingency planning; upfront funding by donors; and strengthening coordination.

He stressed the importance of raising standards for non-governmental organizations in complex emergencies. Some non-governmental organizations had performed professionally. However, irresponsible, unprofessional behaviour by unqualified and inexperienced groups had led to loss of lives that could have been saved. The evaluation proposed increased efforts for self-regulation among non-governmental organizations and a joint approach to accreditation of non-governmental organizations acting in complex emergencies.

The report raised questions about the cost-effectiveness, predictability and ability of the military contingents to cooperate with other partners, he continued. It also recommended better reporting of accountability and performance among actors in humanitarian relief. The reporting that did take place was spotty, distorted and often biased. In addition, justice was a key factor for repatriation and reconciliation. The international community should do whatever it could to strengthen the justice system in Rwanda. A functioning system would have to assess degrees of guilt among those participating in the genocide, as well as degrees of punishment, and resolve disputes over property.

Regarding the international media, he said the media had played a positive role in generating massive private donations during the relief period. On the other hand, it had been "largely uninformed or biased or absent in the pre-genocide period" which had helped to either create

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misinformed opinions on the part of world leadership or to give the events lower priority. The media community should take a hard look at itself, he said.

He said that a press release issued on 11 March by the United Nations alleged that there were several inaccuracies in the evaluation. The evaluation team had sought information from all parties, as well as reactions to the draft reports. It was only in mid-January that the management team had received some indication of what the Secretariat believed to be gaps and inaccuracies. To the team's request for additional information, the Secretariat had responded that, for conditions of confidentiality, that information would not be provided. Although it was good that information was now provided, it could not be used to discredit the report. "Genocide occurred and, in several key respects, the international community failed to address what happened", he said.

A correspondent said that the report did not reflect the often-expressed perception of the Government of Rwanda that France and Belgium had a culpable role in the development of the situation in Rwanda and its aftermath, and that their fault was one of commission rather than omission.

In response, a consultant from Canada, Howard Adelmann, who was a co- author of study II, said the report did say that an ambivalent role had been played by France. The element of commission was in the provision of arms supplies to a regime that became responsible for genocide. On the other hand, France had called attention early on to the possibility of disaster and had urged that action be taken to prevent it. More than 20 studies had been completed, including one on the nuances of the French role and the changes in its policy. That study would be issued as a separate book.

The correspondent expanded his question, saying that the Rwandan Government, in numerous letters to the Council, had made clear that the response of the United Nations was being manipulated by France. Why was that not in the report? he asked.

"Because we don't think it was manipulated by France", Mr. Adelmann said. The French were only one of many elements involved. France had both a positive and negative role. It was not accurate to say that France was behind the whole event.

Asked about early warning signs that had not been taken into account, Mr. Adelmann said that after the Arusha Accords in August, evidence was sent to the Secretariat about an organized conspiracy. That had been documented later, on 11 January, by a high-level informant who identified plans to undermine the peace-keepers by: killing Belgians and getting them to withdraw; restarting the war by pulling off a coup; and by killing all the Tutsis in Kigali. The 11 January document explained how it was to be done and by whom and gave an estimated rate of killing of 1,000 people every

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20 minutes. There were other pertinent sources of information that were not acted on, including separate detailed intelligence reports that were sent to the Belgian Government.

A correspondent said that on 11 January, General Romeo Dallaire, the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), had sent a communication to Headquarters containing important information from a defector. What had happened to that information? she asked. Who got it and to whom was it passed on? Was the Security Council informed?

Mr. Adelmann said that the informant was not a defector, but had asked for and been refused asylum. There was some suspicion as to whether his information was genuine, although the team had difficulty understanding that, given the high level of the report and all the other corroborating evidence. There was tension between the members of the Council regarding what they were willing to do and, subsequently, what they advised. When they were dealing with 20 crises around the world, a hypothetical one did not rank. Had there been a proper analytic unit, all the information might have been put together, he said.

Why was not a greater attempt made to obstruct the broadcasts urging the massacres? a correspondent asked. Mr. Adelmann said it was technically feasible to take out the radio station or jam the broadcasts. Requests to do so were denied for many reasons, including the American interpretation of human rights, that the radio had the right to broadcast even hate propaganda. Mr. Eriksson added that there were attempts then and now to counter such broadcasts. It continued to be a problem, because clandestine radio broadcasts from camps housing former Rwandan militia were being beamed at Burundi.

In response to a question about the actions of non-governmental organizations, Krishna Kumar, Team Leader, Center for Development, Information and Evaluation of USAID, said there were the "cowboys" and the professional, established non-governmental organizations. The performance of the professionals during and after the emergency was impressive. The non- governmental organizations should look inward and develop their own code of conduct. Mr. Eriksson added that while some of the non-governmental organizations were working on a set of standards and code of conduct, they should go further in terms of qualifications and salaries. There also remained the problem of organizations that did not want to cooperate.

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For information media. Not an official record.