Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

UNDP roundtable on harmonizing diplomacy and development in at-risk regions

At a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) roundtable in Washington today, two experts on post-conflict reconstruction gave their take on how diplomacy and development should be most effectively linked in regions that have been recently affected by, or may be prone to conflict.

Ambassador John Herbst, the coordinator for the U.S. State Department’s Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), which helps to mobilize American civilian expertise to nations in crisis, addressed some of the achievements that his office has garnered since its inception in 2004 in spite of admitted funding constraints. Herbst noted that S/CRS is the only State Department presence in Darfur, and employees there are currently working with rebel leaders to sign on to a needed peace agreement. In Chad, S/CRS is conducting refugee assistance interventions, and in Haiti employees on the ground are helping to reintroduce a police presence into the largely-lawless Cite Solei. Herbst went on to extoll the virtues of civilian engagement in post-conflict and at-risk regions, calling these types of interventions “the diplomacy of the future” and adding that the establishment of a U.S. civilian reserve corps would also be of much benefit.

Ben Slay, the director of UNDP’s Regional Centre in Bratislava, also cited specific cases where area-based development has been effective in conflict prevention or post-conflict reconstruction. In south Serbia, $20 million in UNDP-administered aid has helped to improve infrastructure, basic service delivery, education, and political participation in the wake of a conflict in 2000 and 2001 between Yugoslavian forces and Albanian insurgents, Slay said. Additionally, Slay said that the creation of a multi-ethnic police force and the appointment of ethnic Albanians to high-level government positions have helped to placate ethnic tensions in south Serbia. In Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine beset by tensions between ethnic Russians and Crimean Tartars over land and language rights, among other issues, Slay detailed effective integrated development initiatives that have focused on equitable land distribution and basic service access (notably to water and sewage), improved job creation, and enhanced cooperation between the government and citizens. Slay said that challenges remain, though. These include increasing inter-agency collaboration among government ministries, securing higher levels of private investment, and improving access to credit and legal safeguards for entrepreneurs active in the informal sector.

As a final note Slay added that, in general, post-conflict development aid tends to be more effective if it is granted in incremental and manageable allotments, as too much at once can be overwhelming and lead to chaotic reconstruction efforts.


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