Year in review: 1996.

Position:Includes related article on new appointments in the UN
 
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The United Nations has begun its second half-century in a mood of determination. In 1996, it had hard choices to make - principally that of deciding how to apportion scarce assets and resources to meet growing challenges.

* Preventing war and upholding peace are prime missions for the United Nations, but 1996 saw some tough lessons being applied - lessons learned through difficult experiences. It often meant going back to basics, as acknowledged by Iqbal Riza, then Assistant Secretary-General, Department of Peace-keeping Operations, who is now Chef de Cabinet, Executive Office of the Secretary-General.

"We have a far lower number of soldiers deployed and mostly in the classical, traditional peace-keeping operations that we have come to manage with success - rather than being catapulted into war situations where peace-keeping forces cannot discharge the mandate that they are given."

* In the former Yugoslavia, diplomatic efforts finally produced agreement to end the fighting. United Nations peace-keepers had struggled to maintain a lifeline to people trapped by war. With the peace accord, the United Nations force in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been succeeded by a NATO-led implementation force.

The United Nations took on new roles - like providing an International Police Task Force for Bosnia. It monitored community situations made tense by refugees and residents of different ethnic groups living in close proximity.

* Elsewhere in the devastated region, the United Nations took over as the Transitional Administration of Eastern Slavonia, a mostly Serb-populated region of Croatia.

In this, a more tightly focused effort than before, the United Nations disarmed rival factions. To deter hostile action, the force was strongly armed, but its greatest strength was its work to restore public confidence, feed the hungry, reconstruct war-shattered roads and bridges, and encourage new dialogue between former adversaries.

* In Angola, a welcome peace - though fragile - followed 20 years of civil war, and United Nations peacekeepers performed their tasks of supervising the disarming and demobilization of warring factions. They also instructed former fighters in clearing land-mines - sometimes planted by the fighter's own factions. And in a new departure, the United Nations helped establish training workshops where ex-soldiers could learn civilian skills. Their successful reintegration into normal work-life could help to assure a lasting peace.

* In Guatemala, there was a peace mission with a difference. A civil war which had lasted 34 years was brought to a negotiated end in 1996. Reconciliation was encouraged by the special emphasis the United Nations placed on building respect for human rights.

* Following the restoration of democracy in Haiti, United Nations personnel stayed on to help overhaul the country's administration - working to meet people's basic needs - and counteract generations of governmental neglect.

* In Liberia, encouraging developments took shape in the peace process after more than six years of civil war, as the 17 August Abuja Agreement established an implementation timetable, provided a mechanism for verifying compliance and proposed possible measures against the factions in the event of non-compliance.

* Besides peace-keeping, the United Nations humanitarian work came under challenge. Two years of coping with the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, and its wider impact on the Great Lakes region of Africa, led to a comprehensive review of emergency assistance, which concluded that, while international action had saved many lives and mitigated suffering, increased preparedness and better emergency planning could have achieved much more.

* Fresh responsibilities came in 1996 with renewed outbursts of violence, this time in Zaire, involving rival ethnic groups and rebels. Much needed relief for newly uprooted refugees was sent in by international agencies.

* The United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs set up new systems to improve the delivery of relief, including access through the Internet to an enhanced database, known as "Relief Web". For a complex emergency like Zaire, the...

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