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Addressing root causes

Your reference to the Copenhagen Summit as “discussions on economic development” is misleading (Issue 3-1995). The World Summit on Social Development (the “Social Summit”) did indeed discuss economic development, but in the context of the wider themes of poverty eradication, employment and social integration.

As one-fifth of humanity lives in absolute poverty, world leaders committed themselves to the eradication of poverty, full employment, and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Conferences do not change anything in themselves. It is people that must do that. Each of us now has a duty to ensure that our governments honour commitments made in our name.

Standing for humanitarianism in an inhumane world, members and representatives of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have an added responsibility to be informed about the impact of poverty and social injustice on human lives, as well as relieving the suffering they cause.

Deborah Eade
Editor, Development in Practice
Geneva, Switzerland


Cambodia’s plight

I should like to thank Red Cross, Red Crescent for the wonderful insights you bring into the Movement’s work. I wanted especially to say how much I welcomed your recent material from Cambodia. The story about landmines made me recall my time there in 1993. I shall never forget the people in this wonderful country who so much deserve a chance but whose lives remain blighted by landmines and the legacy of genocide.

Dr Terry Duffy
University of Ulster, Magee College
Northern Ireland, UK

Hiroshima revisited

As a Japanese citizen, I read with interest your article on Hiroshima in Issue 2 - 1995 and recalled the fear I felt when I visited the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum. I would like every visitor to our country to visit this Museum and to recognise how ferocious the atomic bomb was.

Just one month ago, I had a chance to meet a 17-year-old girl who was visiting Japan from Papua New Guinea. She was quite angry about French nuclear experiments and worried about the effects they will have on her descendants.

I hope that Japan will remain the only country ever to be attacked by nuclear weapons, and not just the first one.

Yoko Uchida
Japanese Red Cross Volunteers
Tokyo, Japan


What to do?

While Deborah Eade (Issue 2 - 1995) was right about much in her article critiquing the split between emergency and long-term relief assistance, I believe she underestimates long-on going efforts within NGOs to bridge this gap. Particularly in the 10 years since the Sahelian famine, international NGOs have been exploring new ways to prevent, mitigate and prepare for crises and to respond to and rehabilitate people once crises have struck. We are all learning that returning the destitute to the “status quo” is ridiculous; facilitating herd re-seeding and increasing access to training and credit for women returnees are two of the many experiments.

What puzzles me is how Eade expects agencies to operationalise many of her criticisms. How can we start addressing the needs of individuals without grouping them by the causes of their vulnerabilities? The men and women farmers, herders, fishermen and traders I met in Mali may all be individuals with “needs and priorities [which] may not coincide”, but they all seemed to be suffering equally. Many responded by rationing food, selling their produce, labour and assets, migrating or taking on a debt. How should we address their needs on the scale demanded while being increasingly constrained by falling food aid and shrinking budgets? In that case, I suggested preventive and responsive interventions such as temporary food for work, while strengthening existing projects’ seed/cereal banks, credit and subsidised food sales. Constructive suggestions are the best follow-up to a good critique.

Jindra Cekan
Food Security Technical Advisor
Catholic Relief Services
Baltimore, US

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