The United Nation's failure to ensure food deliveries in Somalia prior to American military intervention there in 1992 was a worrisome reminder that the international community lacks reliable and rapid mechanisms of response to famines. One reason this is so, suggests this expert study, is the limited learning carried over from past relief efforts. Focusing on international interventions in the Sudan during 1983-84 and 1989, the authors analyze the shortcomings and successes experienced in these operations and point to important lessons brought home to relief administrators: the need for more systematic U.N. planning and monitoring so that crisis situations are confronted earlier, the importance of combining humanitarian relief with an operational style that builds and reinforces local institutions and resourcefulness instead of undermining them, and the necessity of establishing clear authority for U.N. agencies to deal with armed combatants. Given a growing global consensus that principles of national sovereignty do not entitle governments to neglect or abuse their own citizens' right to survival, the authors believe that in the post-Cold War world, with greater determination to learn from past mistakes, a more effective international humanitarianism can emerge.
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