Letter: UN aid ban was worth backing

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WHILE FEW welcomed the decision of Sadako Ogata, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to cease humanitarian assistance to Bosnia, her action should have been understood in context, and it is unfortunate for her office that she was persuaded to back down.

For years, despite its ostensible humanitarian mandate, the UNHCR has been used as a political tool. Recent history is replete with examples of refugee situations in which the political interests of particular states have taken priority over the UNHCR's mandate to protect and help the victims of an irresponsible state.

For UNHCR to protect refugees, it must be in a position to take independent action on their behalf. If this was her intention, Mrs Ogata's action should have been supported.

B E Harrell-Bond

Refugee Studies Programme

University of Oxford