O que é este blog?

Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org. Para a maior parte de meus textos, ver minha página na plataforma Academia.edu, link: https://itamaraty.academia.edu/PauloRobertodeAlmeida;

Meu Twitter: https://twitter.com/PauloAlmeida53

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulobooks

quarta-feira, 28 de fevereiro de 2024

I traveled across Ukraine with a U.N. refugee agency - Max Boot (Washington Post)


I traveled across Ukraine with a U.N. refugee agency. Here’s what I saw.

The Washington Post, February 27, 2024 at 6:00 a.m. EST


Public opinion surveys suggest that, while nearly 60 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the United Nations, they are less supportive than the citizens of many other countries. Forty percent of Americans have an unfavorable impression of the global body compared with 25 percent of Britons and Germans.

Some criticism is definitely warranted. For example, the Biden administration has suspended funding for the United Nations’ Palestinian-aid group, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), after some of its employees were alleged to have participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The U.N. Human Rights Council is a sick joke: Its members include notorious human-rights abusers such as Russia, Venezuela and China. And U.N. peacekeeping troops have become notorious for abusing the very people they were supposed to protect.

But the United Nations also does a lot of important work for which it receives scant credit in the United States. I recently spent a week traveling across Moldova and Ukraine with a delegation of American experts assembled by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, as the U.N. refugee agency is known, and I came away greatly impressed by UNHCR’s efforts to alleviate the refugee crisis created by the Russian invasion. Its work — which is helping Ukraine and its neighbors to weather the onslaught — deserves continuing U.S. support.

The scale of the refugee crisis is mind-boggling: Two years after the Russian invasion, nearly 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine and another 3.7 million are internally displaced. That’s roughly a quarter of Ukraine’s prewar population. And, in front-line communities, even many of those who remain in their homes are struggling to survive. In all, some 14.6 million Ukrainians require humanitarian assistance. Those needs are far beyond the capabilities of the Ukrainian government or those of its neighbors to cope with on their own; Kyiv can only fund half its own state budget and requires foreign aid for the rest.

Filling the vacuum have been myriad governmental and private relief agencies, including organizations funded by the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. The United Nations is often in the lead. In 2023, UNHCR provided 2.63 million people in Ukraine with assistance of various kinds. That includes repairing damaged houses, sending winter blankets and generators to front-line communities, helping displaced Ukrainians restore legal documents lost in the war, and offering psychological and social services to people traumatized by Vladimir Putin’s incessant bombing.

UNHCR sometimes delivers relief supplies; we saw a warehouse full of food, winter clothes, hygiene kits and kitchen sets in Odessa. But the agency prefers, wherever possible, to provide cash assistance via an ATM card utilizing Ukraine’s existing banks. Those grants went to nearly 900,000 Ukrainians last year. Though the average stipend is only about $120 a month, that pittance helps displaced Ukrainians get whatever they need the most, whether it’s housing, health care, transportation, food or clothing. It also boosts the local economy rather than creating a parallel “aid economy.”

Our group visited a Kyiv apartment building two days after it was hit by a Russian missile to see how quickly and effectively UNHCR and its local and international partners can swing into action. Four people had been killed, 39 injured and hundreds forced out of their homes. By the time we arrived, laborers were already repairing the damage while, in a nearby school gymnasium, UNHCR and other aid agencies had set up shop to help the affected families. The gym was emptying out because most of the people had already received what they needed, whether food or medicine or a place to sleep. Such rapid response operations occur all the time across Ukraine, and they are helping that country to survive the Russian onslaught.

UNHCR also has been an indispensable lifeline in European countries struggling to cope with a massive refugee influx. We visited Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova (population 2.5 million), which has been inundated by more than 1 million Ukrainians since the start of the war in 2022. Yet there are no tent cities for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova or anywhere else in Europe; all the newcomers either move on or get absorbed by the local population. That’s one of the hidden success stories of the past two years. In part, that speaks to the generosity of European nations in dealing with the continent’s biggest refugee crisis since 1945. But it is also a reflection of the international aid effort spearheaded by UNHCR.

UNHCR is far from perfect; it is subject to some of the same problems as other U.N. agencies. Its Uganda operation was rocked by a corruption scandal in 2018, and in Ukraine it was initially criticized by government officials for being slow to respond to the Russian invasion.

But I was impressed by the UNHCR employees I met in Ukraine, a combination of local and foreign hires who appear intensely committed to the mission and work long hours under grueling and often dangerous conditions. The UNHCR country director, Karolina Lindholm Billing, is a no-nonsense Swede who has been in Ukraine since 2021. She manages 370 staff in 10 different locations, employing a combination of firmness and compassion.

Lindholm Billing had to evacuate her husband and three teenage children from Kyiv when the Russians invaded and sees them only on occasional home visits to Stockholm. “If I didn’t believe that the work my colleagues and I do, often seven days a week and in risky situations, was meaningful to the people we serve, then I would never sacrifice these years with my teenagers,” she told me. “Because we are on the ground where the brutal war hits people every day, we see the positive impact that humanitarian support has on people’s lives.”

I saw it, too, as we visited the refugee-assistance sites that UNHCR operates for grateful Ukrainians who are eager not only for material aid but a sign that the world cares about their plight.

UNHCR spent nearly $1 billion in 2023 responding to the Ukrainian refugee and displacement crisis. The U.S. government was the single biggest donor, giving $200 million, but European nations gave more in aggregate, while also incurring substantial costs in handling millions of refugees in their own countries. This year, UNHCR is asking for a similar contribution from the United States to continue its lifesaving work.

But that money may not be forthcoming. It is part of the $95 billion foreign aid bill — which includes $60 billion for Ukraine — that passed the Senate but is stalled in the House by Republican isolationists. Even some House members who support military aid for Ukraine are talking about removing humanitarian aid and budgetary support for Ukraine.

That would be foolish and heartless. Humanitarian and budgetary aid allows Ukraine to keep functioning in the face of continuing Russian aggression, and makes it possible for refugees to return to their own country — as roughly 2 million Ukrainians have already done. Without that international support, Ukraine could become a failed state no longer able to defend itself and millions more refugees could flee the country, destabilizing its neighbors.

Congress needs to provide both military and budgetary aid to Ukraine as that country battles not only for its own survival but also the security of the entire West. And it needs to keep supporting UNHCR as part of the U.S. response to refugee crises not only in Ukraine but also as far afield as Lebanon, Sudan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The United Nations makes its share of mistakes, but UNHCR is an unheralded success story.

Opinion by 

Max Boot is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. A Pulitzer Prize finalist in biography, he is the author of the forthcoming “Reagan: His Life and Legend.  


Nenhum comentário: