Letter: Refugees still need UN help

Sir: Paul Vallely remarks, about the current Zaire crisis ("Too late - yet again", 18 November), that "the odd thing is that such situations should take us by surprise in the first place". Yes, hindsight is always 20:20 but we don't yet have a lexicon of textbook responses to pre-conflict or post-conflict situations equivalent to those well-thumbed guides for the military.

Further, the collective memories of the UN, of its partner NGOs and of the myriad academic institutions that disseminate their own versions of the UN's excursions still require a satisfactory protocol.

This problem extends to the strategic issue of development. The UN's New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s has just published its Mid-Term Report. It details a good number of positive advances in Africa that will be widely welcomed. But tracking how these follow on from the UN's New Agenda leads one into tricky waters. The UN's new System- Wide Special Initiative for Africa seeks to address this issue. Its transparency, involving 28 UN agencies and the World Bank, will enable the objective onlooker to judge progress on each element of its programme. Perhaps the much-needed protocol might be emerging.


Chair, London Regional Council

United Nations Association

London W1