UNHCR and ICRC in the former Yugoslavia: Bosnia-Herzegovina
30-09-2001 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 843, by Kirsten Young
Among the most complex issues facing the humanitarian operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina were: the sheer scale of the crisis, which produced the largest number of refugees and displaced people in Europe since World War II; the displacement of populations as an objective rather than as a consequence of the war, through a practice euphemistically known as “ethnic cleansing”; flagrant attacks on humanitarian principles, including systematic denial of humanitarian access; the unprecedented level of security risks faced by humanitarian personnel; and the involvement of UN troops with the primary mandate of supporting the humanitarian operation.
UNHCR and ICRC were uneasy bedfellows in the early days of the operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. UNHCR was stepping on traditional ICRC turf in working in a situation of open conflict with the internally displaced and local war-affected populations. But as the humanitarian needs rapidly increased, UNHCR came to the conclusion that the ICRC did not have adequate capacity to address the enormity of the crisis on its own, and the two organizations developed a collaborative, complementary relationship.