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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Secretary's Open Forum > Proceedings > 2004

Humanitarian Assistance in Africa: Old Obstacles, New Challenges

Christoph Harnisch, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Remarks to the Secretary's Open Forum
Washington, DC
March 5, 2004

Opening Remarks and Introduction

MR. HARNISCH: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased and honored to be in a position to address this Forum, and I would like to thank the U.S. Government, the U.S. authorities, for what is rightly termed in the introductory remarks by the chairman as a "generous support" to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Without this support, it would not be possible for the ICRC to do everything it does -- in Africa especially.

The ICRC enjoys a relationship of confidence with the U.S. authorities here in Washington, but also in many countries where we have operations and where we have extremely good contacts with the missions of the United States of America. So accept my thanks for this support, and hope that this support will continue, and that the ICRC as a humanitarian organization is up to your expectations.

It was said that the ICRC is an old organization in Africa. I would put this into some perspective, because one can question the ICRC about the fact that the ICRC has not been in Africa before the independence movement in the 1960s. I think this has to do a lot with the ICRC's incredible development since the '60s, and it has a lot to do with the ICRC's focus in those days on the problems of the Middle East, where the problems of Africa were largely ignored by Europe and the rest of the world. But what the ICRC has done in the last few decades is certainly not good news always for Africa, but certainly has been a major challenge and continues to be so.

Let me first describe the environment in which the ICRC works today in Africa, then to give you some ideas about how we perceive the evolution of conflicts in Africa, and then move on to the challenges.

Anybody speaking about Africa will first start with the description of all the illnesses of the bad governance and of the many social problems that Africa has. For us it is clear that these are problems that exist, but the fundamental problem in areas where the ICRC works is and continues to be poverty.

If this problem, this fundamental problem, is not being tackled in a more coherent way by the whole of the international community, we have to accept that humanitarian assistance will not be successful in the mid or long term. One cannot conceive humanitarian assistance in Africa as being an end to itself and a solution to all the problems. The humanitarian assistance, especially humanitarian assistance in emergency situations is the least the international community can do. But it is not the solution to the fundamental problems.

Africa -- and this is very much the impression one gets when traveling in Africa, talking to Africans, is the continent that has been marginalized and is living an existence at the periphery of international politics. Africa very often is very well known to so-called specialists, but it's certainly not a concern for the public in general anywhere in the world. The feeling of Africans to be marginalized, the feeling to be at the periphery, is certainly something that makes our work more difficult and makes the diplomatic support that the ICRC can get from representatives of the international community more important. I think even in the framework of humanitarian assistance what we have to improve is to take Africans and African problems more seriously than in the past. It is obvious that this is only to be achieved through a dialogue, and I would say a critical dialogue between the Africans and the rest of the world. It is not sufficient that Africans stay in their position of victims. It is must more important that we really try to develop a relationship of partner.

It's all the more important that conflict situations continue in many parts of Africa, and I would say I'm speaking to you as a representative of an organization that knows Africa only through conflicts. I would say that the ICRC is an organization that does not know Africa where Africa is developing -- where Africa has less problems. We are working in 29 countries of Africa with major programs in 22 countries. And I speak only of the region of sub-Saharan Africa.

The good news that we could see last year and certainly this year is that the number of conflicts in Africa has not increased. Certain conflicts have been managed, or have been the object of diplomatic initiatives, led for the Sudan by the United States Government, that have contributed to slow down the dynamics of conflict. And I would say having been following the Sudanese context for several years, we must accept that had it not been for the involvement of U.S. diplomacy certainly the process in Sudan would not be where it is today. And I think this is an important contribution to the conflicts in Africa.

But of course all this positive news in the framework of the peace processes -- be it in the DRC, be it in Burundi, be it in Sudan, be it in Angola -- all this is still not sufficient to relent and to say that peace has now arrived. I think all these processes show one thing is that humanitarian assistance, while important during conflict, is still important and relevant in the phases where a peace process is going on. And it would be too easy to say that an organization like the ICRC, which has a mandate to intervene in conflict areas, but this organization should stop working when a peace process starts. I think the reality of today's conflict in Africa and elsewhere is that our engagement has to continue in this very delicate phase, if only because these delicate phases sometimes trigger reactions by those who do not agree on the peace process that is taking place in these contexts.

So for the ICRC the engagement in Africa is still very much a priority and will continue to be so.

What are the challenges that we face in carrying out our mandate? I think the most important one is in fact an old challenge and is nothing new, and this is to gain access to victims where they are during the conflict. We still face by governments the idea that humanitarian assistance is useful before and after the conflict but not during the conflict. By saying so it is in fact a denial of the ICRC's mandate, given to it by the international community, because our role is during hostilities. It is of course difficult for governments to accept that the ICRC or other organizations work during a conflict and see what happens. But this is why we are existing, and this is what we have to do.

Access to victims in access to victims, and therefore access to areas in Liberia last year, has made it almost a crime when humanitarian organizations ask to cross borders. Discussions with governments in the area of West Africa last year about the possibility to cross borders in order to help an area like northern Liberia have come to nothing, because governments in the area did not agree on this. And it is a pity, because the population of Lofa (ph) County in Liberia has not been assisted during five years, and we now start to see the results, and the results are terrible -- a population totally traumatized, not willing to come out of the forests, even when humanitarian assistance starts to come. But this is certainly an example where humanitarian assistance and negotiation for humanitarian assistance has completely failed. And I would say there are still too many examples on the African continent where access is difficult, or even denied. This means that we have to find ways to better work together with those who are in a position to help negotiations -- with governments, with national red cross societies, with the civil society -- in order to create an environment where negotiation becomes possible and a positive result as well.

The second challenge for an organization like the ICRC to make and understand its mandate of protecting and assisting civilian populations in times of conflict. While assistance is easy to be accepted, because assistance is material and concrete, the mandate of protecting civilians in conflict situations is much more difficult to be accepted. And of course the whole question of protecting civilians from the ICRC's perspective is a question where the civilian population is at the center. This means being close to where war happens. This means being closer to victims where they live. This means being close to where violations are being committed. This means being accepted by all parties to a conflict.

And I think when one says being accepted by all parties of the conflict this means also having contact with all parties to a conflict. In Africa there are contexts where the ICRC has not succeeded in getting contact with parties to the conflict which are responsible of humanitarian law. Northern Uganda is an example in point. The ICRC has negotiated years to try to get contacts, significant contacts, with the Lord's Resistance Army. We have not succeeded. There are still many opposition movements within Africa where it's difficult to have a dialogue, and where the acceptance of this dialogue by the governments is difficult to obtain. While the government is always -- and this is unfortunately the reality in many countries in Africa -- while countries are always ready to dialogue -- and I think in Africa this is one of the positive points where an organization like the ICRC has a significant access to decision-makers in the political field -- it is much more difficult to make people in government accept that the ICRC has also contact with the opposition or with the opposition parties responsible for unrest in the country.

So protection and assistance for us is difficult to be accepted. On the other hand, the approach that humanitarian assistance has to be together with protection is something that is also difficult to understand. But we think assistance and protection goes together, because it would be too simple to just deliver assistance and ignore problems of violations. This comes especially true when one thinks of patterns of violations, like sexual violence against women -- a phenomenon that is being increasingly observed by the ICRC delegates in many areas -- and where ways and means have to be found to protect these persons.

The third challenge is certainly cooperation with African institutions, African NGOs and African civil society. Humanitarian organizations in the past thought that humanitarian work should be done by expatriates and expatriates should have the education background and they should have the experience to carry out humanitarian operations. Increasingly this is no more true, because increasingly we realize while having contacts with national societies in Africa, or in civil society, that many aspects of humanitarian work are in fact better done by Africans themselves, and that we have a -- I would say an obligation -- to try and identify these areas of competence, and to find new ways of cooperation.

This is a difficult thing when you compare this to donor requirements of accountability, because of course it is not always easy to convince our African interlocutors that they have to accept the same obligations to say and to account of what they have received in terms of donations. But I think that also a new thinking should start in order to become more flexible, because working with local female NGOs in Burundi as an example in the field of HIV/AIDS is much more efficient than working through the national committee or the national institution that is doing the same work. If you want to have an impact, small projects, well designed, well focused, are much better than big concepts that are also absorbing quite a lot of administrative and bureaucratic costs.

There are several challenges that are I would say challenges of the day or challenges of the present times that have still not found solutions. All these peace processes that I mentioned raise the question of demobilization and reintegration of competence -- the question of child soldiers, demobilized child soldiers; the question of what to do with militias or ex militias. And I think the reality today clearly shows that we have failed -- including the ICRC has failed -- to find the good solutions.

And a lot of time and energy is being absorbed by coordination and discussion of concepts, but not enough is being done in the field to do that. The discussions we have with some ex-combatants in Sierra Leone and in Liberia now show very clearly that it is maybe somewhat simplistic to give some assistance to ex-combatants and some training in the agricultural field if one does not know that the person really is interested to become a peasant. So for the sake of preventing further conflicts, I think we will need to intensify our thinking and to find solutions that are better than those found until now.

I would close with the last challenge that I can see, and it is a very personal reflection of mine, and this is credibility of humanitarian assistance in Africa. Two weeks ago I was in a forum in Nigeria with Nigerian officers. They clearly indicated that humanitarian assistance is important. But what they said is it's important that you do the job you do, but you are a disorderly bunch of people, not always knowing what you want. And I think he is not completely wrong, because there are some examples which show clearly that humanitarian organizations are not very well organized, have sometimes difficulties to prioritize, and certainly have sometimes agendas that are not only humanitarian but also financial and that have other priorities -- religious or else -- than purely humanitarian. And I think this is the area where coordination and discussion with government representatives of donors is most important, to allow discussion about how best to organize the humanitarian industry -- some say the humanitarian business -- because Africans are right to say that they should not continue to be seen as mere victims, and to be given assistance without having a say as to the form of assistance and the modalities of distribution.

We have on the other side to learn how to coordinate, keeping alive our principles of independence, our principles of neutrality, and our principles of impartiality. And I think if the title of this presentation is a very appropriate one among the new challenges that are very important are in fact the old challenges and that is to have accepted humanitarian organizations and operations that are independent, neutral and impartial. Independence I think is key in terms of independent decision-making. One questions the ICRC very often, and says, How can you pretend to be independent when you depend on the U.S. contribution or on the contribution of the European Union? How can you be independent if your headquarters is in Switzerland and that Switzerland has also some interests in areas where you act?

Very often we are being challenges, saying, well, neutrality is a concept of the past. How can you be neutral? -- because most of the people who ask the question think that neutrality is equal to indifference. And I think the question where most heads of delegations in the world spend most of their time is to explain what impartiality means, that impartiality is to have humanitarian operations based on needs, and that these needs have to be assessed independently, and that decisions have to be taken independently. And I think these principles -- you might argue that they are old and outdated. But for us in the reality of my experience, and in the reality of the experience of our heads of delegations, these principles are all still very important. I thank you very much for your patience to listen to me. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER: Will you take some questions?

MR. HARNISCH: Of course.

MR. KEPPLER: Mr. Harnisch has generously agreed to take some questions. Also too you might have some comments of your own. You might notice there are two microphones up there. Anyone who is not sitting in front of a microphone, we would encourage you to go to the microphone to ask your questions, so we can include it in the transcript. And anyone who is sitting in front of a microphone, if you just press the button then you can be heard.

I'd like to ask the first question, if I may. Given the fact that you've just returned from this field trip to Africa, in terms of talking about challenges and obstacles, what was the most compelling observation you had, and in which country?

MR. HARNISCH: I think the most compelling is certainly the observations in the DRC about the whole question of demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, which raises a whole range of questions about how humanitarian organizations can coordinate their activities and be ready with their intervention in times of a peace process. I'll give you an example where the ICRC with other organizations in the DRC was faced with a sudden influx of ex-Mayi-Mayi fighters in the city of Kindu (ph). We were not ready for that. These people wanted to demobilize. They wanted to come out and say, Okay, now we have finished our work, we finished fighting, and we want to go home basically. There was nothing ready -- no procedure was ready -- and they ended up going back to the bush. We hope that they will not go back to combat. And I think this is where you cannot just apply old standard solutions. This is something where you have to be ready conceptually, and where we have failed to be ready conceptually. So we have done basically registration of these people, but this is not what people wanted. They wanted to be given a perspective. And the question then comes of course: Is it the humanitarian organization that should give them a perspective, or is it political actors, diplomatic actors, together with governments, together with humanitarian organizations that should discuss these issues before?

Of course, having been in Rwanda, the most compelling challenge is 10 years after the genocide for the ICRC continuing visiting persons detained for their implications in the genocide, and doing this while nobody is really interested in this category of victims. Nobody is really interested to know what happens to them, except for observers. And I think the effect that we have seen in many areas of Africa is that once a context is no more on the agenda of the big public then the interest falls and you are left alone with your mandate and your activity. And I think the support we have had for Rwanda operations from the U.S. government and the European Union is certainly key to keep up our activities. Which means also that we are being challenged, and rightly so I think, about the continuation of such operations, because they are costly. And the question also of whether the government of Rwanda should take more responsibility to that.

So I think, to answer your question, there are many challenges. I would say there are not so many new challenges in Africa today, but there are challenges that become more complicated than they might have been in the past.

MR. KEPPLER: Anybody else have any questions or any comments they would like to make? While the audience is overcoming its shyness -- oh, good, there's a gentleman over here -- just come forward. There's a microphone right there, and if you'll press the button, sir. Thank you.

Q: I think one appreciates the self-assessment of some of the failures and successes of the ICRC, especially in respect of its operations in Africa. Yet what constantly comes up in policy debates is whether the ICRC has any early-warning systems to ensure that before a crisis erupts -- be it humanitarian, a conflict, or natural -- whether the organization does have the capability to detect crises before they erupt, and to act upon that immediately. Do you have systems to ensure that? You know, do you have early-warning systems in your areas of operations? Thank you.

MR. HARNISCH: Yes, this is unconditional. Yes, we have it. And I think we several regional delegations in areas of relative peace whose prime objective is to remain in contact with governments in the countries they are assigned to, and to make analysis of humanitarian needs and of potential conflicts that might erupt.

This is by the way a very costly enterprise, because our office in Harare, our office in Pretoria, our office in Cote d'Ivoire, our office in Cameroon, our office in Tanzania -- they are not funded. And, again, would it not be for the American contribution, the ICRC could not have this system. And I think this is the occasion to thank you for that as well, because not all governments -- not all donors understand the need to have it.

What is I think insufficient at this stage -- and that is a challenge I touched upon briefly -- is to be in a position to have contacts with all parties, and especially with those who oppose humanitarian assistance and humanitarian organizations like the ICRC, because they perceive them as being pro-West, and maybe they perceive them as being an agent of foreign policy of different states. And this is where we have to put much more effort in it until now. I think the challenge is huge, because let's face it, our people in the field, they would need to spend time in areas that are not very hospitable, talking to many people until they get to the right people. When we want to have better contacts in the Horn of Africa with all groupings of Islamic origin, when we want to have the same contacts in the north of Mali and Niger and the north of Nigeria, it is the willingness of the ICRC to better understand how they think and to better understand what is the perception of ICRC and of humanitarian assistance in general. And I think this has not been done sufficiently in the past, and I certainly have the willingness to do much more in this field.

But there are still situations where in spite of these early-warning systems there are surprises. West Africa is a case in point, where we have been surprised many times. The Republic of Congo-Brazzaville, where in spite of being present we have been surprised as well.

Our challenge internally is to have people on the ground who would be able to make what I call independent local analysis. One of my biggest enemies is this is the Internet, because our people in the field are all hooked up on the Internet, reproducing analysis being done by think tanks. And this is not what I want. What I want is to have the grass-roots information and an independent assessment, which means you can have this if you have the good contacts and if you have to write people to do these contacts and to draw out of these contacts to write conclusions. So this is something we have to improve not only in Africa, in the Middle East, and in other countries as well.

And I think we should not focus only on the Islamic movements. I think we should focus on all groups, because there are for which humanitarian assistance is a tool of Western imperialism or is a tool of Western manipulation, and there are many. You can find them in religious groups, you can find them in political groups, you can find them elsewhere. And I think we have been in the last few years discussing much among ourselves and to like-minded people. But I think we have to change and really discuss trying to create networks, discrete and efficient with people who don't like us.

MR. KEPPLER: Ms. James.

Q: Mr. Harnisch, thank you very much for your presentation. I'd like to go back to the question of how ICRC and groups like yours can help protect civilians, particularly in the context of refugee camps. There have been some horrendous horrifying examples of refugee camps attracting not only victims, but the victimizers, and particularly in the context of sexual violence against women. What are some of the ideas ICRC has for providing better protection at camps? Which is not a role that we normally think of NGOs' responsibilities. We think of this as a peacekeeping role or a role of security forces in the country. But what is ICRC thinking about in that regard, particularly with respect to women in the refugee camps, and providing better protection there?

MR. HARNISCH: First, it's very rare that the ICRC is carrying out its protection mandate in refugee camps, because this is for us a mandate that the UNHCR has. And I think in the African context there is no activity the ICRC has in refugee camps in terms of assistance.

But the broader problem of assistance -- for us there is a strong belief and consensus that significant protection is possible if proximity with victims in the mid-long term is guaranteed. To simply have ad hoc presence in IDP camp or vulnerable resident populations, to advocate with governments the need for these populations to be protected is certainly not sufficient -- unless governments are responding positively and taking their responsibility seriously. But I think this is as far as my experience goes the minority.

The fact remains that a well-thought-through systematic protection activity needs people on the ground who can intervene when or just after a violation happens, and a well-prepared dialogue with governments, with opposition groups on the mandate of the ICRC, or of any other organization. Because it is not sufficient to talk to presidents or to talk to prime ministers and ministers of foreign affairs about these issues when they have happened. It is very important that the activity of being close to victims, and of talking about so-called taboo issues like sexual violence, that this activity is being accepted. We have made many experiences in areas of countries where there has been a broad and principled agreement for the ICRC protection mandate.

When it comes to the case you want to tackle, the systematic rape of women on the checkpoint, and then you start going to the government, that's where the problem comes up, because a government can easily say, We accept your mandate and the Geneva Conventions. The security service, the military intelligence, those who have the responsibility -- this is another story. And if you don't have a real acceptance of this mandate -- and this is why we are having all this dialogue at all levels of government -- this is key to it. So I think we can talk seminars and seminars about protection, but if we do not increase our presence in those areas where we think things happen, if we don't responsibilize governments as to their obligations to protect, I think we will not have a big impact. It is the same question if you visit a prison once this is not very useful. If you visit a prison many times unprepared you might have after a certain time an impact on the treatment that prisoners receive.

MR. KEPPLER: In a previous incarnation earlier in my career I was a State Department inspector, and for the first couple of years I worked on refugee relief programs, mostly in Africa. That's where I met your colleague, Frank Severs, many years ago. One of the things I observed and we learned as inspectors as a major impediment to delivering human relief and assistance was corruption. You already talked in your presentation that in a conflict obviously relief and assistance, a lot of that is materiel, and we can clearly understand the impediment that armed conflict and the danger it poses. To what extent does corruption in government -- not just in the government, but also in the infrastructure and the delivery systems of relief -- play a role in the ICRC's ability to be effective in hits humanitarian relief and assistance efforts?

MR. HARNISCH: Well, I think this is a very difficult question, but let me say this: we certainly are working with --and we are obliged to work with the level of corruption that we can see elsewhere, not only on the African conflicts. I think to say that humanitarian assistance faces obstacles because of corruption I think it's not totally correct, because humanitarian organizations have learned how to deal with the issues and how to keep this phenomenon under some control. It means that you need to have the courage to say no if you feel that your assistance is being -- there's an obstacle to your assistance because of corruption.

I think this is in Africa certainly one of the topics that is most discussed among humanitarian organizations, because those in the field who are being opposed by this say, Well, there is a level of acceptance of corruption. But I think increasingly you can -- and this is certainly the case in our dialogue with national red cross societies where the phenomenon does exist -- increasingly you can become extremely clear and very, very demanding about procedures that are clean and you can work with.

In Kenya, for instance, known for its corruption, where we have major logistics operations and where we have about $2 million a month being spent, we certainly have discovered many irregularities, and we have just to change the people we work with. So this has also become in some areas part of the dialogue with the government, and this dialogue in many countries shows some results. I wouldn't say this is completely absent, but I think the mere fact that you can talk about this is certainly a progress.

MR. KEPPLER: Last chance for questions or comments.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for this informative presentation, for being with us today. Let me just ask you your own personal view with the nature of war -- (short audio break for tape flip) -- more rapidly than any time probably since the invention of the long bow. What is your view on the need to change the laws of war? You mentioned that the old principles are still valid, you are not going to depart from those. But the bedrock convention and laws that you are promoting, is there a need to re-look at the laws of war?

MR. HARNISCH: Thank you for the question. I think -- and I've said it repeatedly -- when one sees African contexts and conflicts, and when one sees the readiness of many African governments to sign international conventions and international treaties one comes to the conclusion that would the law that exists now be applied and respected, the continent would certainly be in a much better shape.

And I think the challenge is very much of is it international humanitarian law or is this something that comes from us? Is it something Western and that the applicability of it is somewhat different by African governments? Or is this something that Africans have really accepted? And I think in our discussions with the military especially, with the African military, with many governments, the realization that law is fundamentally important also in situations of conflict, this attitude is gaining some strength, and I think this is due also to the dialogue with the military since quite a long time.

My personal view on the validity of law is that, yes, I am convinced that the Geneva Conventions, that Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions that the protocols when applied are beginnings of effective responses for a better protection of those people who are supposed to be protected. It does not mean that there are solutions for everything, but it means that they are relevant to the contexts we are working with. And certainly there is no one in Africa at this stage questioning the rules. I would say we are quite often in situations where governments try to use international humanitarian law in order to make their positions accepted by the international community. I just before in the group gave the example of the Burundi government, who used Article 17 of Protocol 2 in order to justify forced relocation and resettlement of 350,000 persons in 1999 in Bujumbura. So it is an indication that these people not only understand IHL, but they also try to use it for their own interests. So law is always something that if used it can be abused as well.

In a nutshell, I think for me, from an African perspective, this law is still very much valid.

But it is clearly that this law is becoming more and more part of a discussion between governments and the civil society, and in this sense there will be much talk about the validity and applicability of this law. I think this is a very good development and I think we should welcome it. And we should also have a position to say if really there is a consensus that some things are not protected conveniently by this law we should be open to debate and to the willingness to change. I think the ICRC should not be an organization as only a guardian of IHL. It should be an organization a little bit more open.

MR. KEPPLER: I believe there is a question over here. And this will be our last question for today.

Q: Thank you. I was wondering if you could illustrate briefly work that ICRC is doing to indicate that they are viewing the refugees and internally displaced people as partners in their own survival. You mentioned earlier working more with African civil society and NGOs in governments, and strengthening the availability of humanitarian assistance. And I was wondering if you could look also at the other side, at the people receiving the assistance themselves, to clarify what role you see them playing as beyond recipients. Thank you.

MR. HARNISCH: Well, I think the first and most important element in this is that I think that in the '80s and in the early '90s the ready-made standardized humanitarian assistance was very convenient for reasons of efficiency. The kit and the distribution. And this kit was more or less the same in all parts of the world. And I think this is fundamentally wrong, because people don't really need that to distribute which has happened, to distribute seeds bought in Kenya in Liberia is simply stupid because it's not appropriate.

And I think humanitarian organizations have done many, many mistakes in this sense. We are now learning. We are now trying to become more operational, which is not always easy.

Now, it's extremely clear for us that more and more we have to be as close to the needs of populations as possible and to the populations so as to better understand their needs. And also I would say we have to be careful not to carry out distributions or doing assistance too quickly, and without having a political analysis behind it. Now, it might be strange for you to listen to a humanitarian worker who says political analysis -- no, I think what is important is the understanding of the environment, the understanding of the whole dynamics that has led to the victimization of these persons is necessary and indispensable in order to have the right approach to the victims. Then of course comes the nitty-gritty of consultation mechanisms that can be quite complicated in cases of displaced persons camp is relatively simple, because you know it. An example I always give is to say in the Liberian IDP camps in the north the ICRC carried out the registration at 2:00 in the morning, because every time we did it at 10:00 in the morning we had twice the number that were in the camp. And if we did it at 2:00 in the morning we knew exactly who were the persons sleeping there. But this means to have a critical dialogue also with the camp leaders. This means also to have a critical dialogue with those who you want to assist and to be quite demanding also as to what they have to do.

So it is still in this sense a major challenge also in terms of coordination, because you will have to have discussions with other organizations on approaches and on exchange of information. And God knows the ICRC is an organization that has been viewed in the past as very secretive. But I think in this more the exchange of information can be beneficial so as to know what to do. And in the last resort I think we have to understand that humanitarian assistance is in a way always an intervention in an economic cycle in a society, and in this sense we need to maybe improve our analytical skills in terms of war economy, in terms of economics in general.

There is one big, big "if" that I put to this, and this is we should not become -- we should not intellectualize humanitarian assistance. I really think that there are some tendencies within the humanitarian assistance community is that you study the problem as if you would study a problem at university, and then you go to these areas, you spend lots of money to evaluate, and at the end you say, Well, I did so well an evaluation I don't need to assist, which means then people will think, Who you are?

Mr. Wolfensohn last year in an article in the International Herald Tribune has said that in one year the international community is spending $1 billion on consultancy fees in Africa. And I think the humanitarian organizations must be very careful to be perceived and seen as professional, but active, and not only studying things. And I think while professionalism has improved within the international assistance, it's a good thing. We should not overdo it, and still see at the end of it is the victim that we want to assist, and it's not only the science or the article that we want to write in a specialized publication afterwards. I think humanitarian assistance needs to be centered on victims, and not on ourselves. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER: I promised you in my opening remarks that we would have an interesting and informative program, and thanks to Mr. Harnisch I think we've delivered. I want to also thank you for your insightful comments and candor in responding to the questions that were raised here today.

The next Open Forum program will be on March 24. Robert David Steele will be coming in. He'll be talking about how we need to reinvent our intelligence capabilities to deal with the current threats we face in the 21st century. So we hope to see you on -- I think it's Thursday -- or Wednesday, March 24. I want to thank you all for coming, and once again a warm thank-you to our guest speaker. (Applause.) Thank you.

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