ICG Crisis Brief front page...
  Newsletter of the International Crisis Group Issue 1, May 1997     

by Charles Radcliffe

full story..

Bosnia: peace effort falters
A Statement by the International Crisis Group

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Saving Lives from disaster
an obituary of Nicholas Hinton
by William Shawcross

full story..

Chaos in Central Africa
by David Shearer

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Liberia: railroading peace
by Victor Tanner

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Hope and fear in Sierra Leone
by Charles Radcliffe

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Charles Radcliffe

Production Assistant:
Simon Sheehan

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed in Crisisbrief are the personal opinions of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the International Crisis Group.


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Saving Lives from Disaster

by William Shawcross

Nicholas Hinton, who died aged 54 on January 20, 1997, of a heart attack in Croatia, was one of the most respected, energetic and successful figures in the British voluntary sector. In recent years he was becoming more and more prominent in the international arena.

Nicholas Hinton, CBE
Nicholas John Hinton, founding president of the International Crisis Group, born March 15, 1942; died January 20, 1997
He was best known for his 10 years running Save the Children Fund (UK), from 1985. Since then he had been the first president of the International Crisis Group (ICG). It is fair to say that his energy, his commitment and his humour has put ICG on the map, and would have kept it there. Ambassador Morton Abramowitz, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington said Nicholas Hinton was "a wonderfully dedicated public servant".

Hinton was the son of a West Country canon of the Church of England. His parents' beliefs and obvious piety were an important influence on him throughout his life. He went to Salisbury Cathedral School, then Marlborough and Selwyn College, Cambridge. He always loved music and called himself a lapsed flautist. For a spell in the sixties he ran the Edington Music Festival in the South West of England. There he was always efficient without being officious, one musician later recalled.

His Church of England childhood remained with him throughout his life. One profile in the eighties quoted an admirer: "He always thinks strategically. But everything he does is imbued with Christian values". Throughout his own life he was interested above all in public service and he performed it with flair and authority.

After Cambridge, where he studied law, he went to work at an intermediate treatment scheme for young offenders at Northorpe Hall, near Leeds (UK). The early seventies he spent as first a training officer and then director of NACRO, the National Association for the Resettlement of Offenders, formed in 1966, the key non-governmental organisation concerned with the after-care of offenders. This was followed by eight years as director of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, to which all British NGOs belong, which exists to pressure the Government, which funds it.

Hinton learned how to function within the curious world of British official and semi-official private organisations. He was seen as dynamic, confident and ambitious. He was above all quick. Quick to learn, quick to dispatch.

All of these qualities stood him in good stead when he was given the job of director of Save the Children Fund (UK). He transformed and expanded the organisation. Out went cosiness, in came forceful and aggressive leadership. SCF had its most successful years both in terms of income raised and its international profile. Under his stewardship, income rose from �16.5 million to �113 million at one time. He thought SCF should not just deliver services but also campaign.

He was an excellent publicist and understood the immense value of Princess Anne's patronage of the organisation. He and the Princess were a superb partnership. He ran it as a tight ship, taking all important decisions himself; sometimes the board felt that it was being presented with faits accomplis. But he frequently visited the field and was marvellous at communicating with all workers at all levels. He had big visions. These were essential at ICG.

Nicholas Hinton was our first president and chief executive. He was ideal because he was always intellectually challenging. He would always ask such questions, as: "Why would we do this?" "How can ICG add value?" At meetings of the trustees he was swift and efficient, though never impolite.

Our biggest programme to-date has been in Bosnia, where we set up a group to monitor the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Hinton was tireless in support of the team based in Sarajevo. He was in favour of rigid scrutiny of the claims of the NATO command and of the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe, which ran the elections. ICG conducted a scathing analysis of the elections which showed how seriously flawed the process was.

He drove himself fantastically hard in the last couple of years. He was absolutely determined to get ICG going, and going well. He was always on planes to America, to the Balkans, to other European capitals, raising money, raising profiles, raising questions. Sir Terence Clark who ran ICG's Bosnia operation, said; "He was the guiding force behind ICG Bosnia and spared himself no effort to raise funds for promoting ICG's work there. At the same time he closely directed the work of the Bosnia Project and served as an invaluable link between the team on the ground and the board of trustees".

Ambassador Morton Abramowitz said at his death: "Over the past 10 years Nick helped save many lives. He was also creative in seeing that more than humanitarianism was needed in dealing with conflict. His work in setting up ICG from nothing was a superb example of his creativity".

Nicholas Hinton was a stylish man and a sharp dresser, favouring garish socks. He had great sang froid, great aplomb. He knew what he wanted and he knew how to get things done. He was a superb bureaucratic warrior, in the best sense of the word. He was awarded the CBE in 1985.

He was also a devoted family man. He was married in 1971; he leaves behind his wife Deborah and one daughter Josie, who is still at school.

Our loss is immense.

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