Letter: A public relations tonic for the UN

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The Independent Online
Sir: In his well-balanced analysis of the Rwanda challenge that now confronts the world community, Peter Pringle ('Can good come from this hell?' 4 May) argues that a 'successful' result to this sudden nightmare could give the UN the public relations tonic it sorely needs. He's right. But which of the courses he offers should the United Nations, together with the Organisation of African Unity, the humanitarian agencies and neighbouring nations, take?

So far, a traditional sequential approach to conflict resolution has been followed; an armchair observer with the UN Secretary-General's report An Agenda for Peace in hand, can practically predict what the Security Council might propose next. And yet we see hesitation and uncertainty.

In the happy eventuality of the 'successful' result that Mr Pringle hopes possible, we would be wrong to congratulate ourselves on that outcome; we have already failed in our efforts in preventive diplomacy, having being warned by Actionaid and others in November 1993 of the impending disaster. And looking further back from that point, the Rwanda challenge asks another question. How did we, the world community, take so long to recognise the symptoms of a dangerously crumbling violence- prone society?

The UN, and the regional organisations on to which it fairly prefers to devolve such challenges, must recognise how vital a role can be played by Non Governmental Organisations and other transnational bodies in encouraging a state like Rwanda to turn its back on 'tribal solutions'. Unesco's Culture Of Peace programme and other initiatives suggest ways we can follow. These will require NGOs and the UN to adjust their goals. Efforts to promote wider co-operation in this field should be welcomed.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW6

5 May