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DATE=11/2/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=ATROCITIES / ROBINSON NUMBER=5-44669 BYLINE=JOE DECAPUA DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The U-N High Commissioner for Human Rights warns that atrocities are occurring or imminent in Africa's Great Lakes region and the former Yugoslavia. Mary Robinson issued the warning at a recent (10/28- 29) U-S State Department Conference on preventing and responding to atrocities. The event was held at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. V-O-A's Joe De Capua reports. TEXT: The U-N High Commissioner for Human Rights says the evidence is clear that central Africa remains one of the world's major regions of conflict. /// ROBINSON ACT /// As you're aware, reports coming from the Great Lakes region speak of a dangerously unstable state of affairs. Despite the high expectations raised by the signing of the Lusaka peace agreement, fighting continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo with reports of widespread human rights abuses. In Burundi, attacks on the capital and elsewhere have cost the lives of hundreds in the past three months alone, including United Nations workers, whose only aim was to bring humanitarian help to the region. The danger of more widespread conflict flaring up again is clear. Yet, can we really say that international attention is focused to the extent it should be on the problems in that region. Can we really say so? I don't think so. I don't think we have an adequate focus given the concerns that we must have from the reports and information that's available to us. /// END ACT /// Mary Robinson says things are no better in the Balkans region of Europe. /// ROBINSON ACT /// In the former Yugoslavia the situation remains critical, too. Three months after the fighting ended in Kosovo, attacks against the Serb and Roma population are ongoing. Houses are burned down for forcibly occupied, people are driven out or killed. The plight of Montenegro draws little attention. But it's clear that the potential exists there for another outbreak of conflict. /// END ACT /// She called on officials, diplomats, and representatives of humanitarian organizations to make the hard decisions needed to prevent conflict and atrocities. /// ROBINSON ACT /// If this conference is to be successful, it will have to address the issues that lie at the heart of prevention. And devise ways of putting more emphasis on and more resources into prevention. Discussion should include the policy and financial implications of really putting prevention into practice. The hard choices which "fail" to be made and the shortfall between what we say should be done and what has happened in practice. /// END ACT /// The High Commissioner for Human Rights says too often during recent crises, intervention has been too little too late. /// ROBINSON ACT /// If we look at failures of prevention in the past, what becomes apparent is that many were put into effect too late or were half hearted - the equivalent of bringing a leaky bucket to a fire that is already threatening to blaze out of control. Prevention is by no means a new concept. But there are many cases where insufficient attention and resources have been devoted to prevention only for the cost of repairing the damage afterwards to exceed preventive costs many times over. And it's something we should bear in mind. Every effort and resource we put into prevention would always be a small proportion of what we will have to pay when we have failed to prevent. /// END ACT /// Ms. Robinson outlined a four-point plan to prevent conflict and its resulting atrocities. /// ROBINSON ACT /// Firstly, economic and social development programs, which have human development as their chief focus. And which are capable of improving the lot of the poorest. Secondly, accountability. Thirdly, strengthening capacity - support for participatory systems of government, for democracy, the rule of law, the judiciary, for national human rights institutions. And Fourthly, human rights education. All of these strategies are important. But I place economic and social development at the top of the list because I see it as a fundamental significance. And because it receives less attention than the others. /// END ACT /// The U-N official says rich countries are often guilty of doublespeak when they talk to developing countries about rights. She says rich countries urge that civil and political rights be observed and are properly critical where abuses occur. However, she says when it comes to economic, social and cultural rights of poor countries - and the right to development - they have a good deal less to say. But Mary Robinson says those rights are also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Signed) NEB/JDC/KL 02-Nov-1999 09:11 AM EDT (02-Nov-1999 1411 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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