Sunday, February 11, 2007

UN shifts toward aid projects in Lebanon

Looking towards the UN, this CSMonitor article gives an interesting look at how the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon is, '...beginning to emphasis its humanitarian side.' The financial contribution from the Spanish alone is substantial.

In looking at the current UNIFIL mandate, it is curious to note that there is no explicit mention of asking peacekeepers to provide humanitarian assistance. At best, the only mention of humanitarian is the following: 'Extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.'

The notion of 'ensuring humanitarian access' is somewhat difficult to reconcile with the 5 million euros of humanitarian projects described by the Spanish batalion:

'That type of role [humanitarian], he says, is crucial to maintaining the good will of the local population. Spanish battalion doctors and a veterinarian now hold regular clinics in the villages, and the soldiers have just begun teaching Spanish language courses. Madrid has allocated €5 million ($6.5 million) to the battalion to be spent on humanitarian projects.

"Our training in Spain is always for war fighting," says Lt. Col. Garcia Vaquero, commander of the Spanish battalion. "But you don't need specific skills here – we rely on our Spanish character. We share a drink with the people, sing and dance."