Letter: UN aid convoys must be beyond politics

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: At least the UNHCR decision to stop humanitarian aid in Bosnia has now been rescinded, but it should never have been made in the first place. The Bosnian government's decision to block further aid to Sarajevo, to draw attention to the 100,000 persons starving in Muslim villages in eastern Bosnia, may have been perverse but it certainly does not justify the UN using aid as a form of retaliation.

The real target should be dealing with Serb obstruction of the UN convoys. Once the UN has set a goal - in this case the delivery of aid to besieged areas - the purpose of UN troops is to enforce its implementation. This does not mean engaging in a war against the Serbs (or any group impeding aid delivery), but it does mean, or should mean, using whatever force is necessary to secure delivery where free passage is denied.

There is too much readiness to make politics out of aid. It is even being seriously proposed at senior UN and Western levels that if the Vance-Owen plan collapses then the whole UN operation should pull out. Certainly the Vance- Owen plan is deeply flawed. It rewards ethnic cleansing, destroys the principle of a centralised government, cantonises the country into enclaves which, from historical experience, never work and almost wholly abandons the 2.5 million refugees.

But if Vance-Owen does break down, aid will not be less necessary: it will be far more necessary. What is needed is a policy that will enforce the no-fly zone, provide a stronger mandate and much greater security in the so-called UN Protected Areas, stiffen sanctions (at present almost a joke in places) and continue them until at least a majority of the areas stolen by ethnic cleansing are demilitarised and refugees enabled to return home in safety, and station enough troops (perhaps 3,000, not just the present 700) in Macedonia and Kosovo to deter any extension of the war southwards.

For any such policy, the continued delivery of effective humanitarian aid wherever needed must be absolutely non-negotiable.

Yours sincerely,


MP for Oldham West (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1