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close this bookDisaster Management Ethics - Trainer's Guide - 1st Edition (Disaster Management Training Programme, 104 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentTrainer's guide
View the documentThe basics
View the documentThe specifics
View the documentWELCOME
Open this folder and view contentsINTRODUCTION TO ETHICS
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 1: Military intervention in disaster relief, cooperative relationships and implications for long-term rehabilitation and development
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 2: Providing humanitarian assistance to displaced populations and refugees
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 3: The relationship of disaster response to on-going economic and social development
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 4: Disaster fund raising, appeals and the utilization of funding resources
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 5: Disaster declaration and response
View the documentETHICS HANDOUTS



"Boutros-Ghali angrily condemns all sides for not saving Rwanda"
Paul Lewis, New York Times, May 26,1994

Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali expressed exasperation today at the refusal of most countries to send troops to Rwanda. He called the continuing slaughter there "genocide" and said it was a "scandal" that the world has not acted speedily to end the blood-letting.

At a news conference in New York, the Secretary General described the United Nations efforts in Rwanda in harsh terms, saying: "It is a failure not only for the United Nations; it is a failure for the international community. And all of us are responsible for this failure. Not only the great powers but the African powers, the non-governmental organizations, all the international community.

"It is a genocide which has been committed. More than 200,000 people have been killed and the international community is still discussing what ought to be done."

Mr. Boutros-Ghali said he had done all he could to persuade African governments to give him the 5,500 troops he wants to send to Rwanda to protect refugees and help aid workers.

"I have tried," he said, by writing to more than 30 heads of state after the United States and Western countries made it clear they would not get involved. "I begged them to send troops. I was in contact with different organizations and tried my best to be able to help them find a solution to the problem.

"Unfortunately, let us say with great humility, I failed. It is a scandal. I am the first one to say it." The Secretary General placed the blame on "donor fatigue" among countries that frequently assign troops to the United Nations but now find themselves being asked to support 17 such operations with personnel and money.

In Annapolis, Md., today, President Clinton listed Rwanda among the world's many bloody conflicts where the interests at stake did not justify the use of American military power.

We cannot solve every such outburst of civil strife or militant nationalism simply by sending in our forces," Mr. Clinton said in a commencement address at the United States Naval Academy.

At an emergency meeting today in Geneva, the United Nations Human Rights Commission voted unanimously to send an investigator to Rwanda for a report back within four weeks. It also called for "human rights field officers" to be stationed in Rwanda to deter abuses.

In Kigali, the capital, the army and the forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Front battled today for control, trading artillery and mortar fire that killed two people at a Red Cross hospital and ended Tuesday's brief truce. A United Nations envoy, Iqbal Riza, drove through the fighting in an armored car to confer with Government ministers, who have fled to Gitarama, 35 miles from Kigali.

The renewed fighting has stopped deliveries of food and water to all but 3,000 of the 12,500 refugees under United Nations protection at 11 sites in Kigali. Nearly half the refugees are children.

Roger Carter, of the United Nations Children Fund, said in Nairobi, Kenya: "As the siege of Kigali goes on, the situation is going to get worse. In the next few days you are going to see malnutrition in Kigali."

So far the United Nations has received firm pledges from Ghana, Ethiopia and Senegal for about 2,000 of the 5,500 troops it wants for Rwanda. The United Nations is asking Western nations for equipment for the African troops and has asked Australia for soldiers specialized in logistics.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali indicated today that he still hopes Egypt, Nigeria and Zimbabwe will provide soldiers. Although Italy has said it is ready to send troops to Rwanda, no firm offer has been received, he said.

His display of near despair over Rwanda is not the first time Mr. Boutros-Ghali has appealed emotionally for troops to rescue a country degenerating into chaos. Two years ago, he helped push the Bush Administration into sending troops to Somalia after contrasting the world's indifference toward the catastrophe there with its extensive effort to halt the fighting in Yugoslavia, which he described then as "a rich man's war."

African diplomats say most countries are shying away from offering soldiers because of the obvious dangers. But there are other inhibitions.

Nigeria and several African countries have already sent peace-keeping forces to Liberia. And East and Central African countries generally have small, poorly equipped armies or are consumed by civil war themselves. Newly democratic South Africa has a large modern army but apparently has not been approached.

Furthermore, few African countries can afford the cost, especially when the United Nations' own financial difficulties are delaying reimbursements to nations contributing troops.

The Secretary General emphasized that the troops he wants to send to Rwanda cannot impose a solution, but he said a large United Nations force could "contain" the deteriorating situation and "reinforce" the position of his mediator there.

"They may help protect both Tutsi and Hutu," he explained. "But the mandate is limited so it is not our intention to impose on the protagonists of the dispute a certain formula."

When last year's peace agreement collapsed on April 7 and fierce fighting broke out between Hutu and Tutsi, the United Nations cut its 2,500-member force in Rwanda back to a few hundred at the urging of the Clinton Administration.

As the killing got still worse, the Secretary General backed African calls for a new larger force to be sent in. But the Administration, which had just set tight guidelines for supporting new peacekeeping operations, successfully opposed doing more than restoring earlier cuts until certain conditions are met.

These conditions include progress toward a cease-fire, a firm schedule for ending the operation and agreement that the emphasis should be on protecting refugees along the borders rather than sending troops into Kigali airport, as the Secretary General favors.



Along the southern coast of Bangladesh, community people and government officials are realizing that, though they cannot alter the annual pattern of cyclone hazards that hit their country, they can take actions to prevent these events from becoming massive disasters. The first action of the government has been to develop effective prediction and warning systems, and to undertake educational programs for the local people so that they understand and heed the cyclone warning signals when they are issued.

In addition, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry in charge of water resources, together with UNICEF and local NGOs, have found that they can quickly meet emergency needs for medical supplies and clean water by deploying staff and supplies from other parts of the country to reach all affected areas in a matter of a few days. Government and international donors are currently assessing the costs of building sufficient cyclone shelters to house everyone who remains in the stricken areas. Evidence from the past shows that people who were able to reach shelters have survived while the death and injury rates among those who remained outside shelters have been high.

Finally, and most important, scientists are now realizing that the destruction of stands of mangrove trees along the coastal regions has increased the likelihood that tidal surges will come ashore and do extensive damage. Attempts are now being made in Bangladesh, and in other countries where the pattern has been similar, to replant these "natural" disaster mitigation features which human beings have destroyed. Everyone realizes that many of the people who live in the high risk coastal areas of Bangladesh do so because they have no options. Land is scarce and population pressures coupled with poverty force poor and marginalized groups to live in areas which are subject to the damage of cyclones. One thrust of government development policy is to provide options to these people so that they do not have to occupy and depend on these vulnerable lands.


Earthquake Damage

An expert in earthquake resistant housing has, over the years of her professional life, been flown into post-earthquake zones by many donor agencies. Her instructions have been to identify the needs of the people and to get word back to the agency about what they should send for housing reconstruction. She has been instructed to accomplish this mission rapidly, mindful of the time required to ship building supplies and the importance of meeting people's housing needs urgently.

This expert has, however, found her own, more efficient way to promote reconstruction. When she arrives on site, she asks local people to take her on a walking tour of the damaged areas. As she walks, she asks these and other community people questions. "Why did this house fall down? Why did this one next door remain standing?" She finds that, very often, people give informed answers to these questions; they know a lot about the kind of construction that resists seismic tremors and they know who has built carefully and who has not done so.

At the end of her walking tours, usually a good sized crowd has joined and participated in the discussions of why some houses stand and others fall. Even as the local people begin to ask her for expert advice about earthquake resistance and for funds and supplies which (they know) she is authorized to grant, she points out to them that they know, better than she, what works and does not work in earthquake resistant construction with local materials in their own area. She "mirrors" back to them their own expertise. Having done so, she then can work with them to figure out whether they need outside assistance and, if so, what kind will support their own efforts and capacities to rebuild without submerging them in foreign, and hence inappropriate and expensive aid.


Ethical Questions - For each question there is a pitfall to avoid when developing a course of action.

____ 1.

Are we giving due recognition in our operational strategy and in our public pronouncements to the role and contribution of the affected population and its neighbors?

____ 2.

Have the resources of the affected local community and of the affected country at large been adequately recognized, factored in and drawn upon in our operational strategy and in our fund-raising efforts?

____ 3.

Have we constructively solved, or at least avoided, what is at times referred to as the "luxury island" problem, whereby the victims of a particular disaster end up being substantially better off economically and with respect to social services than the local population surrounding them?

____ 4.

Does our intervention play a genuinely supportive role vis-is the recipient government's own disaster relief efforts, or does it directly facilitate or indirectly condone the recipient government's neglect (be it benign or malignant in nature) of the plight of its disaster-stricken citizens?

____ 5.

Does our assistance for disaster relief in a given situation have a built-in long-term perspective, promoting disaster prevention and disaster preparedness, so that the recipient country will be better equipped to solve its own problems the next time disaster strikes?

____ 6.

Are the needs of the disaster victims the sole or the primary factor determining what we intend to do in a given situation? If other considerations are at work, are they justifiable as a means of maintaining public interest in the donor country and preventing future "compassion fatigue"? Are there other legitimate long-term reasons informing the plan for humanitarian assistance?

____ 7.

Do our fund-raising efforts project a true picture of the situation in the disaster-stricken country? Do they convey respect for the dignity of the survivors? Have we carefully considered the effect of the images of reality we project on the psyche and inter-cultural attitudes in the constituencies from which we hope to raise funds?

Pitfalls - Match the pitfall to avoid with the appropriate ethical question above.

A. Disaster relief directly facilitates or indirectly condones the recipient government's neglect (be it benign or malignant in nature) of the plight of its disaster-stricken citizens.

B. Humanitarian assistance creates dependency and increases vulnerability in disaster prone areas.

C. Misleading advertising misrepresents beneficiary capacities and needs and tends to manipulate donors to give in response to guilt or pity, leading eventually to 'donor fatigue' and a reduction in the willingness to respond to other serious disasters.

D. The victims of a particular disaster end up being substantially better off economically and with respect to social services than the local population surrounding them.

E. Surplus commodities and excess resources of donor peoples and nations are unnecessarily gathered and inappropriately unloaded in communities impacted by disaster. Contributions will be driven by resource convenience or availability.

F. NGO fund-raising appeals to extreme need and victimization imagery of disaster affected population.

G. Motivation for humanitarian assistance becomes questionable.

H. Paternalistic intervention and relief efforts are implemented.


Fiji Relief Program

No longer are just food, clothing and blankets provided to disaster victims; often an entire range of goods that would make a department store owner envious are shipped to the scene. When the distribution system is set up, it is almost always controlled by the relief agency acting through its representatives in the community.

When disaster strikes a community, the economic systems of the community are also affected. Physical facilities may be destroyed or damaged, and the distribution of goods and services disrupted. If the community is to return to normal, it is essential that these systems be restored as quickly as possible. But just as these systems are struggling to recover, new systems in the form of relief and reconstruction programs appear and compete directly with them. A recent example occurred on Fiji. One island group was severely affected by an intense hurricane that destroyed much of the agricultural production of the country and approximately 80% of the housing. Massive relief efforts were organized by the government. To qualify for the relief, family members had to show they were unemployed as well as being disaster victims. During the period that the aid continued, the normal economic systems (such as small stores, material suppliers, and their respective distribution networks) were bypassed. The aid, in effect, became a competing system. Thus the victims were denied much-needed capital that would have enabled them to recover more quickly. Several of the smaller stores eventually closed, and a number of suppliers put off reordering stock.

The relief program delayed recovery of the normal economic systems within the community.

- Fred Cuny, Disasters and Development, p. 97