Some good news from the government on the unfolding international crisis that almost no-one in Britain is interested in, namely the Ivory Coast. The Department for International Development (DfiD) is giving £16m in emergency aid to help deal with the large numbers of people fleeing the violence.
Many of them are crossing the border to Liberia, a country itself struggling to recover from its own violence. As The Guardian reported,
Last week the UN high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres,visited Liberia and warned that the influx of refugees threatened the country’s eight years of peace, following a civil war that left up to 300,000 people dead and thousands more displaced.
“The amount of human suffering is horrendous. All neighbouring countries can be dramatically impacted,” he said.
The Liberian president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has already expressed her concerns, telling Reuters: “We’re already at war. We hope there will not be an escalation of war. It’s a serious threat to the stability of Liberia, and I might say to the stability of all neighbouring countries.”
DfiD has also been in the news this week with the publication of Paddy Ashdown’s review for the government into how Britain should respond to humanitarian disasters:
“DfID’s influence in bringing about much-needed change and reforms will be increased if it spends more time building alliances, and less time acting alone,” the report says.
Ashdown, a former United Nations high representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, has some tough words for the UN: “In all but one of the case studies for this review, UN leadership was poor.
“This was especially true in the large disasters. It is true at a strategic level and at an operational level. It is true across the international system and in individual crises. There is rarely a vision beyond fundraising, and rarely an organising narrative that draws together the disparate capacities.”
The review says Britain is right to push for reform of a UN system where the big agencies, such as children’s charity Unicef and the World Health Organisation can find themselves competing against each other.
Seen by many as the UN’s single, most-influential donor, DfID enjoys unique opportunities.”These need to be carefully managed, not squandered in frustration,” says the report. “Maintaining a position as a top donor will be essential if this influence is to be retained. But better use of positions on UN agency boards, within the various UN committees and sharper advocacy by leaders within DfID is needed.”