ICGAnnual Report1995-96

Message from the President
Nicholas Hinton, November 1996

Nicholas HintonICG can claim to be unique in the sense that it brings to the relatively new discipline of conflict prevention a particular blend of high quality field assessment and high-level international advocacy. However, ICG would by no means claim to be alone in the conflict prevention field; quite the reverse. Recent years have seen the emergence of a plethora of organisations of varying size and complexion, all declaring an interest in this area. In addition, many universities now offer courses in conflict prevention, and in both North America and Europe, significant resources are being devoted to documenting conflict prevention efforts. Perhaps not surprisingly, many initiatives in the field of conflict prevention have their origins in the non-government sector, thus continuing the traditional role of non-governmental bodies as pioneers of fresh approaches to solving some of the most vexed problems faced by human society.

There is a growing tendency today among more far-sighted politicians towards acknowledging the importance of conflict prevention as a means of avoiding the substantial and ever-increasing costs of post facto humanitarian and military intervention. ICG has been in the vanguard of organisations adding their voice to this encouraging trend. But much work remains to be done to translate the rhetoric of prevention into concrete action.

The task ahead for those of us advocating a fresh approach to dealing with nascent conflicts will not be an easy one as long as governments continue to view last-minute interventions as convenient and politically expedient means of demonstrating that they have acted decisively in the face of a crisis. The sad reality is that often humanitarian aid can actually obstruct the search for political solutions to a crisis and impede moves towards preventive action. Perhaps nowhere has this been more evident in recent years than in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa.

In order to move forward there is a relatively simple step that governments, major foundations and indeed the larger operational non-government organisations could take. They could review their funding structures in the light of the changed realities of life in our post Cold War world, shifting resources from the substantial budgets currently allocated to the delivery of humanitarian aid and creating new budgets for preventive work. How long we will have to wait for this crucial change in the culture of donor organisations to take root will depend to a large extent on how much longer we are all of us prepared to tolerate the appalling levels of death and human misery arising from the sort of disasters that we have witnessed in recent years.

Sadly, ICG Founding President Nicholas Hinton died suddenly on January 20, 1997, whilst en route to Bosnia on behalf of ICG. For more details of his life and work prior to ICG, please refer to the obituary carried by the Independent newspaper of January 22nd 1997.

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