Inke Arns on Sat, 23 Oct 1999 13:52:30 +0200

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Syndicate: interview with a high-ranking UN-official, belgrade september 14th

Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 20:12:31 +0200
From: "f," <>

	interview with a high-ranking UN-official, belgrade september 14th

Q: what are the effects of the sanctions on the average population in
A: if you look at other countries under sanctions you will notice that the
average population gets bitten by the sanctions about three years after
they were imposed. so sanctions do rather have a long term effect. when the
sanctions against yugoslavia were started in 1991/92 they were very tight;
later they were loosened but tightened again in 1998 in connection with the
the sanctions on yugoslavia mainly had three effects: there was no access
to the international finance market, there was a limited access to the
international oil market and there was redirection of yugoslav exports
because it could only export into countries which either did not adhere on
the sanctions or were exempted from the sanctions. yugoslavia did loose
income by that - countries that would accept yugoslavia imports would not
pay the same price as for instance the western market would have paid. with
the money yugoslavia lost the capacity to maintain its industrial
structure, its employment-structure and its productive structure - but that
was already on the verge of being obsolete anyway. without the sanctions
yugoslavia could have probably perpetuated the old communist type of
industrial setup. but the sanctions did force the country to give that up
sooner or later because there was no more money. the bombardement
ultimately exacerbated the situation but there was a continious process of
reduced productivity, increased unemployment, devalidation of the currency,
lack of imports lack of repair and maintenance before. so the present
situation is a very bad one. it's the consequence of nearly ten years of
sanctions but also ten years of a transition from the communist system to
market system. and this transition was hampered again by the complete
absence of money.

Q: that means that yugoslavia during that time was and still is in a state
of forced autarky?
A: yes. the system was and is able to continue functioning for a while. but
an autarky works only if you have all needed components - and they were not
all available in yugoslavia. particularly with the breakup of the former
yugoslavia components dropped off. so the system is incomplete now and
cannot function properly: before the split the finance market was largely
concentrated in zagreb. the labor pool was bosnia. and the other states
suffer now because they do not have all the diplomatic and business
contacts that were located in belgrade. so in a way bosnia has the labor
pool without anything to do. zagreb has the money but not the productive
capacity. each single state had to build up the missing parts. in croatia
it was easiest - they had the money. in bosnia it works because of the
international support. slovenia did not face too many difficulties because
they had everything. but here was a lack of finance and specific types of
labor which were previously located elsewhere.

Q: what are the tasks of the world food program?
A: the world food program started in former yugoslavia in support of the
unhcr that had a mandate for all the displaced people. so obiously in the
beginning of the war the displacement were the main issue, and when the
borders were drawn again they became refugees because they were on the
other side of the border. we have provided food for the unhcr and directly
since 1991/92 in yugoslavia specifically in serbia and montenegro and
including kosovo. during that time we were supplying food for refugees from
bosnia and predominantely from what is now croatia. about half of those
people require food assistance. then last year with the unrest in kosovo we
started a program where we supported predominantely displaced people within
kosovo. then this displaced people program became a refugee program. and
now the kosovar serbs began to leave kosovo and we are supporting them of
because the level of poverty has risen so dramatically that we included the
poorest of the poor people here in serbia. they are resident people. those
people who have an income can manage somehow even if you consider that the
minimum income that a person gets here legally is 580 din or about 25 $.
but for the old people who cannot work anymore, who need medicine and
warmth it's exteremly difficult. the pensioneers are one of our target
groups because for a long time the gouvernment was not able to pay pensions
regulary. so we have a program now to support 186.000 pensioneers that will
start this month. instutions for handicapped, orphanages, social
institutions, people who have been registered by the state as extremely
poor or deprived of some things, female headed households without an income
and families with handicapped people without relatives in germany or autria
are included, too. on that base we have slightly more than 300.000 people
we give food assisitance starting in september.

Q: so in a way you are fighting the effects of the sanctions?
A: yes. but that is not unusual. if you think of the iraq - the iraq never
had a food aid program. the moment the sanctions were put on it was decided
there has to be a food aid program. even though the actual food aid
requirement came a couple of years later. that is something natural that
the weakest of the people are protected at the same time
if you have sanctions that prevent countries or people or armies to import
weapons - that makes sense. if you have sanctions that prevent people from
getting petrol when they're in the middle of a war - that makes sense, too.
if you have sanctions that prevent a population from getting heating oil
when the winter is minus 10 degrees - then sanctions are quite doubtful. 
sanctions in most cases are imposed to change something in the politics of
a country. ample research on sanctions particularily in the united states
have shown that hard sanctions never did removed a regime. but they always
had the effect of harming the economy and the population. at the same time
sanctions are a very clear message to the regime on which they are imposed:
this regime is in the offside and has to something to get back into the
mainstream. but many regimes choose to keep it their way- if you think of
libya for instance which had sanctions for decades; south africa was big
enough to even prosper under the sanctions and they have a harder time now.
sanctions are a message political but there's no evidence that they ever
achieve the objectives for which they are imposed.

Q: but even since the failure of the strategy of sanctions is known nothing
A: well - this is something that surprises me especially after the
us-american congress last year acknowledged that the sanctions didn't work
so good. at the time it became public that the us have sanctions against 87
countries in the world - of which most are members of the united nations.
it is very easy to impose sanctions but hard to lift them. the decision to
lift sanctions usually takes three times longer than the decision to impose
them. when the congress realized that sanctions are not the perfect
political means yugoslavia was already under sanctions; and with the things
happening in kosovo it was easier to put just another layer of sanctions
instead of rethinking the strategy.

Q: do you think that the bombing reached the goal it was started for? do
those sanctions have a effect on the cultural development here?
A: the sequence of the atrocities that were supposed to be stopped by the
bombing did not quite justify the bombings: the intention was to keep the
albanian population inside kosovo - that didn't happen. to keep the army
out of kosovo - that didn't happen. to get the milosevic-regime down - that
didn't happen. 
as far as the cultural development is concerned - i've been in a number of
countries that have been under sanctions, that have gone through a war,
that have seen similar levels of violence that yugoslavia has seen in the
last ten years. it is not so much the sanctions or the bombardment that
changes the mentality of the population - it is the continous exposure to
violence, to violent propaganda, to polarization in the sense that there
are the enemies and we are the victims. if this lasts long enough you end
up with a generation with an upcoming generation that has an increased
level of aggresiveness- and this requires another generation after that to
get back to rather peaceful solutions. and you can see that in a good
number of other countries that for instance the early propaganda, that he
inundation of the schools with propaganda has a devastating effect. 

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