U.N. to appoint coordinator for relief operations Person would deal with tough situations

December 19, 1991|By New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- Under attack for its ineffectual efforts to help persecuted Iraqi Kurds, the starving millions in the war-torn Horn of Africa and the victims of Liberia's civil strife, the United Nations has agreed to appoint a single humanitarian aid coordinator with authority to deal with governments that deny assistance to suffering people.

The agreement, reached after weeks of difficult negotiation, represents a victory for the United States and the 12 European Community countries, which had called for such a reorganization of U.N. relief operations as well as the establishment of a clearer right of humanitarian intervention, particularly in zones of civil strife. But they had to contend with skepticism and hostility from the Third World, where some governments feared the changes would undermine their sovereignty and encourage relief agencies to interfere in civil wars and other internal disputes.

Relief experts welcomed Tuesday's agreement as likely to make future relief operations more effective while striking a new balance between governments' claim to sovereignty over their territory and the right of suffering people to receive assistance.

"This action will literally save millions of lives," said Representative Tony P. Hall, D-Ohio, chairman of the House Select Committee on Hunger. "For the first time victims of famine and other disasters have a law to protect them and someone to enforce that law. This resolution should be seen as a tremendous accomplishment."

Western diplomats say the new high-level aid coordinator will be able to draw together the often chaotic and overlapping efforts of various United Nations agencies, as well as private humanitarian bodies, helped by a new $50 million cash fund for emergency supplies.

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