Review of Ã¢Â€ÂœEthnic Warfare in Sri Lanka and the UN CrisisÃ¢Â€Â by William Clarance
Speaking in early December 2006 to an assorted group of representatives from local and international humanitarian agencies in Colombo, I began my speech with the most virulent expletives imaginable.Ã‚Â I then enquired as to why cuss-words are considered impolite, when we blithely utter words that describe a reality far more abhorrent – such as IDPs, refugees, conflict. The situation in Sri Lanka today is unfortunately one in which the full gamut of excuses and alibis, from national security to political correctness and caution, are run to evade the responsibility of basic human decency and rights protection. The employment of language that shocked, to illustrate the real obscenity that constitutes egregious human rights violations and violations of humanitarian standards in Sri Lanka and drew attention to the imperative of action in respect of preventing such abuses, was fortunately understood by those present.
Accordingly, it is with great interest that I picked up a copy of Ã¢Â€ÂœEthnic Warfare in Sri Lanka and the UN CrisisÃ¢Â€Â by William Clarance as a forthright text that looked at humanitarian concerns and the protection of civilians in Sri Lanka. The author was posted to Colombo in 1988 to head the UNHCR monitoring and reintegration programme for Tamil refugees repatriating from South India. Following the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord 20 years ago in July 1987, the 3 years that ensued were supposed to usher peace, but resulted in the ignominious rout of the Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF) in March 1990. The complex geo-political factors and actors that led to the breakdown of the Peace Accord, and the civilians caught up in the middle of the resulting spike in violence, forms the tableau upon which the author fleshes out UNHCR’s engagement with civilian protection. 275 pages of analysis, reminiscence, regret, innovation, diplomacy, spirited negotiations and frank prose serve, above all else, as a grim reminder of what is the inevitable outcome of violent conflict – civilian displacement in the form of refugees & IDPs, the loss of livelihoods, human security and life. The book is also a wonderful marker of how a few committed individuals can make a difference in even the most bureaucratic organisations, when the issue at stake is the urgent and sustained protection of ordinary civilians caught up in conflict.
Read the full review here -Ã‚Â Review of Ethnic Warfare in Sri Lanka and the UN Crisis