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close this bookThe Courier N° 152 - July - August 1995 - Dossier: NGO's - Country Reports: Belize, Malawi (EC Courier, 1995, 104 p.)
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Ayala Lasso, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

On 23 May, Prof. Joao de Deus Pinheiro, the Commissioner responsible for relations with the ACP countries and South Africa played host to Ayala Lasso, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Discussions centred on cooperation between the two institutions and on the specific situation in three African countries: Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire.

On the subject of cooperation, Mr Pinheiro assured the High Commissioner that the EU was ready to maintain its efforts in the human rights field and that it was awaiting concrete proposals. Replying, Mr Lasso indicated that there was a need for support in establishing a corps of human rights observers so as to give the High Commission the capacity to react when the need arose. He also emphasised the importance of coordinating the actions of the UN, the EU and the NGOs, seeing, in this context, a pivotal role for the Union.

The High Commissioner went on to congratulate the EU on its initiative in sending human rights observers and technical personnel to Rwanda.

He took the view that the mere presence of the observers exerted pressure on the 'local actors' and that it had prevented further aggravation of the situation in recent weeks. Prof. Pinheiro spoke of the possible prolongation of this mission which was currently due to be concluded at the end of August.

As regards Burundi, the High Commission is looking at the possibility of supporting a similar operation in order to avoid a crisis developing. Currently, there was a need to look at the modalities of any such operation, and to establish the position of the Burundi authorities, Prof. Pinheiro indicated that the Commission was studying this question pending an initiative by the UN High Commission and that a decision in principal would shortly be taken.

With the same preventive approach in mind, a 'human rights' operation is envisaged for Zaire. The UN will shortly be setting up an office for this purpose in Kinshasa. Prof Pinheiro indicated that the Commission was again ready to study any proposals put forward by the United Nations.

Sadako Ogata, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Africa in general, and Rwanda and Mozambique in particular, were the main themes under discussion when Professor Pinheiro recently met Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

It should be noted that half of the UNHCR's resources are currently being devoted to the African continent. One problem, which is proving particularly difficult to resolve, is that of the Rwandan refugees. As Mrs Ogata pointed out, it is extremely expensive to support two million people in refugee camps, but the conditions necessary for their return home have not yet been created.

Prof. Pinheiro indicated that the situation would be studied in the light of the report by the international commission of inquiry. The Commission was looking at the conditions required for a resumption of aid-something which he envisaged taking place before the summer. The inquiry report had limited the responsibility of the Rwandan government for the events that had taken place in the Kibeho camp. For her part, Mrs Ogata was seeking clarification of the contents of the report.

Turning to Mozambique, the discussion then focused on the programme aimed at tackling poverty and reintegrating war victims in the country, which had been implemented jointly by the UNHCR and the European Commission, in close collaboration with the Mozambique government. The High Commissioner expressed the hope that this programme could serve as a model for Africa.

At the end of the meeting, Professor Pinheiro said he hoped that a further meeting could be arranged with Mrs Ogata once agreement had been reached on the 8th European Development Fund, for the purpose of discussing those aspects of the Fund which would require coordination between the two institutions.