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The United Nations in Bangladesh

The United Nations in Bangladesh

Thomas W. Oliver
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The United Nations in Bangladesh
    Book Description:

    This book provides the first analytic account of the United Nations relief operation in Bangladesh. Written by a United Nations staff member involved in the operation, it reflects his direct access to archives and thus offers a doubly valuable description of the inner workings of an international organization. The unusually large relief program in Bangladesh has been described as "a rare example of international cooperation that has enlarged the scope of constructive United Nations action."

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7058-5
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Brian Urquhart

    The United Nations Relief Operation in Bangladesh and the humanitarian efforts that preceded it in the same area were among the most ambitious and grand efforts ever undertaken by the world organization to help people in distress.

    Efforts to relieve the sufferings of the people of that hard-pressed and disaster-prone area began in 1971 and continued through a period of violent military conflict into the very difficult first years of the newly independent sovereign state of Bangladesh. Despite the extreme difficulties of the situation, the assistance of the international community provided through the United Nations was extraordinarily effective.

    Early in...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xi)
  6. Map of Transportation Network of Bangladesh
    (pp. xii-xii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-2)

    The United Nations relief operation in Bangladesh is one of the organization’s great unsung success stories. It began in March 1971 with an initiative by then Secretary-General U Thant, which demonstrated both the scope and the limitations of the secretary-general’s executive authority. The initiative, like the more directly political ones he took in the course of the year to preserve peace in the subcontinent, was frustrated by events, and brought him more criticism than commendations. The relief operation he started was still struggling to establish itself when war broke out in December and changed the map of the subcontinent. The...

  8. CHAPTER 1 The Secretary-General’s Offer of Assistance: March-June 1971
    (pp. 3-15)

    Until March 1971 events in East Pakistan were, for most observers outside the subcontinent, part of the nagging background of international affairs, one of the many threatening clouds that might blow up into a storm but that might equally well dwindle and disappear over the horizon.

    The ingredients for disaster were there. The devastating cyclone of November 1970 had taken a heavy toll of lives, drastically reduced rice production, and made between two million and three million people dependent on external food aid for survival. It also had political repercussions. The government’s dilatory response to the emergency confirmed Bangalee suspicions...

  9. CHAPTER 2 UNEPRO—The Start-Up: June-July 1971
    (pp. 16-31)

    The humanitarian relief operation was taking shape. The pace, in the view of large and articulate segments of public opinion and in the eyes of many governments, was unconscionably slow.

    As the sheer scale of the disaster became apparent, the demand for action became more and more insistent, and dissatisfaction with the little the United Nations appeared to be doing more vocal. The flow of refugees to India had become a flood, belying the optimistic view that peace had been restored in East Pakistan and that conditions were returning to normal. At the end of April Indian sources reported that...

  10. CHAPTER 3 The Wider Issues: July-August 1971
    (pp. 32-42)

    Throughout June and July the crisis showed no signs of abatement. The faint hopes of a return to normality that had been entertained in late May were apparently illusory. The influx of refugees into India continued and by the end of June had reached over 6 million according to Indian sources. During the next month a million more were reported to have fled East Pakistan. In June international correspondents were readmitted to the country and the press, particularly in the Western countries, was flooded with reports of savage repression and destruction that further aroused public opinion and intensified the demand...

  11. CHAPTER 4 The Operation Takes Shape: August-November 1971
    (pp. 43-60)

    On 13 August—four and a half months after his first offer of assistance to the people of East Pakistan—the secretary-general convened a meeting of government representatives to discuss United Nations humanitarian assistance for displaced persons from East Pakistan in India and the United Nations relief operation in East Pakistan. It was the first quasi-formal step in the establishment of a relief operation in East Pakistan, as distinct from a purely coordinating effort, and appears to have been intended both to stimulate contributions and to secure a degree of at least informal intergovernmental endorsement of the venture or acquiescence...

  12. CHAPTER 5 The Secretary-General’s Offer of Good Offices: October-November 1971
    (pp. 61-71)

    Organizationally the humanitarian relief operation in East Pakistan was moving forward. Politically the downhill slide continued.

    There were no signs of reconciliation within Pakistan. At the beginning of September, President Yahya Khan appointed Dr. A. M. Malik, a Bangalee, as civilian governor of East Pakistan. As a move toward conciliation the appointment was futile. “It is,” El-Tawil reported two days later, “very doubtful if his appointment will be considered by the Bangalee people as anything more than a superficial political gesture by Islamabad. It falls far short of what they consider is needed to bring about the return to normalcy...

  13. CHAPTER 6 UNEPRO—The Attempted Evacuation: December 1971
    (pp. 72-79)

    On 28 November the secretary-general cabled Geneva asking the director-general of the United Nations office there to telephone Paul-Marc Henry urgently to inform him that a decision to continue or suspend UNEPRO could not be delayed. The secretary-general hoped that some substantial part of the operation might continue. Henry was snatching a few days’ leave at Vaucluse on his return journey from headquarters to Bangkok, Singapore, and Dacca.

    Since the middle of October a chain of incidents had undermined the optimistic assessment that UNEPRO would be fully functional by November, and made its continuance problematical. Guerilla activity and counteraction by...

  14. CHAPTER 7 The End of UNEPRO: December 1971
    (pp. 80-97)

    On 4 December the Security Council met “to consider the recent deteriorating situation which has led to armed clashes between India and Pakistan.” A meeting had been urgently requested by the representatives of Argentina, Belgium, Burundi, Japan, Nicaragua, Somalia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, later supported by Tunisia.

    Throughout the crisis, the secretary-general had kept the president of the Council informed of his efforts under the broad terms of article 99 of the Charter, and on 3 December he had published a selection of his correspondence with the governments of India and Pakistan and with the president of...

  15. CHAPTER 8 UNROD—The Early Days: December 1971-February 1972
    (pp. 98-112)

    On 20 December the secretary-general informed Henry in Dacca that the successor operation to UNEPRO would be known as UNROD—the United Nations Relief Operation in Dacca. The following day he issued a report to the General Assembly and the Security Council on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 2790 (xxvi) and Security Council resolution 307 (1971).¹

    The first resolution had been unanimously adopted by the Assembly on 6 December on the proposal of the Third Committee. It endorsed the secretary-general’s designation of the high commissioner for refugees as the focal point to coordinate assistance to East Pakistan refugees in...

  16. CHAPTER 9 UNROD—The End of the Beginning: March-April 1972
    (pp. 113-129)

    In Bangladesh—and at headquarters—the operation was in trouble. The high hopes of January were being disappointed. Staff were being recruited, equipment—minibulkers, tugs, barges and trucks—was being mobilized, contributions were beginning to build up, but the visible effects in Bangladesh were few and discouraging. The period of emergency relief was obviously going to extend far beyond the three months Hagen originally foresaw.

    Even the efforts to keep UNROD clear of the minority problem and political entanglements were being frustrated. At the highest levels of government there were no objections to UNROD’s providing food for the Red Cross...

  17. CHAPTER 10 The Consolidation of the Operation
    (pp. 130-141)

    In mid-April the secretary-general received and transmitted to governments the report of the high-level assessment mission headed by Ambassador Sailer, which he had sent to Dacca the previous month.¹ In the month that had elapsed since the mission left Dacca progress had been made. From Dacca Ambassador Sailer had cabled a list of critical shortages that needed urgent correction to avoid suffering and further damage to the economy. In the formal report the mission recorded the action being taken by bilateral donors and UNROD to meet the most pressing needs. The results, although insufficient, were impressive evidence of UNROD’s increasing...

  18. CHAPTER 11 The Right Road: May-September 1972
    (pp. 142-154)

    From May onward, grain shipments from overseas began to arrive at the country’s main ports, Chalna and Chittagong, in larger volume, supplementing the increasing overland flow from India. On 17 May the Montpellier-Victory arrived in the outer anchorage at Chittagong with 48,000 tons of bulk wheat from the United States. It was the largest single UNROD shipment to date and brought to 125,000 tons the total amount of food delivered through UNROD.¹ The period of waiting was over and with more than 400,000 tons of grain still in the pipeline, the crisis seemed to have been surmounted.

    There was no...

  19. CHAPTER 12 UNROD—The Last Six Months: October 1972-March 1973
    (pp. 155-167)

    For UNROD and the government of Bangladesh, 1972 ended in disappointment. UNROD and, with its assistance, the government of Bangladesh had weathered a succession of crises in the course of the year. By August basic food supplies for the year were assured and preliminary estimates of theamancrop, which is harvested in November and December and accounts for more than half of domestic grain production, were encouraging. There were many imponderables, but there was more than a little hope and it seemed likely, at least to optimists, that UNROD would achieve its primary objectives by the end of the...

  20. CHAPTER 13 Winding Up the Operation: April-December 1973
    (pp. 168-182)

    On 1 April 1973 UNROB, the United Nations Special Relief Office, Bangladesh, came into being under Ambassador Francis Lacoste as chief of mission and special representative of the secretary-general.¹ In some quarters in Dacca UNROD’s departure was viewed with apprehension, as a sign of waning United Nations interest in Bangladesh’s problems. The anxieties were groundless. UNROB’s establishment was a direct response to the prime minister’s request for continued United Nations relief assistance, and its work would be complemented by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, UNDP, UNICEF, and the specialized agencies acting in their traditional development roles. The secretary-general’s...

  21. CHAPTER 14 How the Operation Worked
    (pp. 183-202)

    The fundamental purpose of the relief operation was to mobilize and harmonize the efforts of governments, the international voluntary organizations, and the organizations and programs of the United Nations system to assist Bangladesh. This objective was achieved. The volume of aid mobilized was unprecedented. On 31 January 1973 the total aid committed from all external sources since 16 December 1971 stood at $1,318.85 million.¹ The total was made up as follows:

    As the table shows, the greater part of aid committed—65.85 percent of the total—was pledged bilaterally. From the beginning some major donor countries, most notably India and...

    (pp. 203-206)
  23. APPENDIX 2 Published United Nations Material
    (pp. 207-210)
  24. Notes
    (pp. 211-226)
  25. Index
    (pp. 227-231)
  26. Back Matter
    (pp. 232-232)