Responding to the Tsunami in Asia and Human-Induced Disasters in Africa
January 14, 2005 | Grantee Publications | Conservation & Sustainable Development, Human Rights

The worldwide response to the destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunamis in the Indian Ocean has been as heartening as the images from the region are tragic. Like that of so many people and institutions, our first reaction upon hearing the news was: What can we do? The devastation wrought by nature serves as a reminder, though, of ongoing tragedy caused by humans in other parts of the world. In such cases, the same question should apply-and with the same urgency: What can we do?

The tragedy in the Indian Ocean and human-induced disasters in Africa are the topic of this edition of the Foundation's newsletter, and, as always, we welcome your comments.



Immediate Response: Support for CARE
Looking to the Future: Indian Ocean Basin
Responding to Humanitarian Disaster


Immediate Response: Support for CARE

The MacArthur Foundation's immediate response to the earthquake and tsunamis is a grant of $1.5 million to CARE, an organization fully engaged in immediate disaster relief as well as in many parts of the world where the need is ongoing. In announcing the grant, Jonathan F. Fanton, president of the Foundation, said:

"The earthquake and tsunamis remind us of the power of nature, the fragility of life, and, in the days since, the caring and generous nature of people throughout the world. It is important to recognize, however, that catastrophic loss of life is also caused by human action and inaction. Our deep concern with the natural disaster in Asia should not deflect attention from the desperate plight of victims of civil war and ethnic conflict in Africa. So the funds we provide will also be used to help address needs in the Darfur region of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo."

The MacArthur grant will be used for disaster relief and reconstruction related to the earthquake and tsunamis, and in regions of Africa where disasters caused by humans are taking an enormous toll.


Looking to the Future: Indian Ocean Basin

Recovery and reconstruction will be a combined effort by organizations, governments, and government agencies working together. It will be a time to employ new technologies and ideas. Two organizations receiving support from MacArthur that will be part of the work are the WorldFish Center in Malaysia and the Locally Managed Marine Area Network in Melanesia.

WorldFish Center
An organization that has received grant support from MacArthur since 1996 and that is positioned to help in the rebuilding of the fishing industry is the WorldFish Center. Based in Penang, Malaysia, the Center is an international scientific research organization whose mission is to help reduce poverty and hunger in the developing world by improving fisheries and aquaculture. MacArthur has provided funds to support the Center's coastal zone management work in Southeast Asia, and most recently to help expand the information it provides about fishery and coral reef management innovations supported by MacArthur in Melanesia.

The WorldFish Center, which has developed one of the world's best databases on coral reefs, ReefBase, is helping assess the impact of the earthquake and tsunamis on coral reefs in the affected region. The Center is also working with international organizations to determine the extent of the damage to the region's fishing industry and will ultimately help in the rebuilding process.

Locally Managed Marine Area Network
Another useful source of ideas for the rebuilding of the affected region's fishing industry may well be the Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) Network in Melanesia. The objective of the LMMA Network is to find ways that community-based marine protected areas can be managed in ways that will preserve coastal environments and meet the needs of Melanesia for food from the sea.

Melanesia stretches for 3,000 miles across the South Pacific. It contains nearly half the world's species of coral. There are 1,600 islands and atolls in the region and 1,000 distinct languages. A unifying characteristic, though, is communal ownership of the land and sea resources. As a result, nearly all the natural resources of Melanesia are under traditional management systems of the communities.

The LMMA Network brings modern science to tradition, adding ways of sharing information among groups that have had little contact with one another in the past. It is the intersection of these two strands of marine conservation-the traditional and the modern-that is the heart of the LMMA Network. To date Macarthur has invested about $10 million in this work, which is part of the Foundation's Conservation and Sustainable Development grantmaking area.

There are more than 80 LMMA sites in various stages of participation in the network. Sharing information among the LMMAs, a particular challenge given the distances involved, ranges from face-to-face meetings to the publishing of articles in peer review journals and a website: The network also has a newsletter and even uses radio programming about coral reef management broadcast on Radio Fiji.

The process of bringing the resources of organizations like WorldFish Council and the LMMA Network to bear in the Indian Ocean Basin is already underway. On the WorldFish Center website is analysis of the impact of the disaster on the fishing industry, and of efforts to counter the rumors of unhealthy marine life that has severely depressed the market for fish. Although there are cultural and habitat differences between the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, we believe the marine conservation efforts of the LMMA can be useful in helping rebuild the part of the devastated region's economy that is based on the sea. 


The Foundation provides grant support for SeaWeb, an international organization working to protect the oceans and the life within them.  Seaweb provided us with a brief  assessment of the impact of the tsunami on the coastal shorelines and ecosystems, thoughts about considering history when making plans for reconstruction in the region, and related Websites.


Responding to Humanitarian Disaster

The scope of the ongoing disasters in Darfur and Congo is suggested by numbers.

In Darfur, an estimated two million people have been displaced and 70,000 killed, mostly civilians caught in the conflict between the Sudanese government and rebel groups.

In Congo, it is estimated that one of every eight households has experienced a violent death since the start of the war there; 40 percent of the dead are women and children. An estimated two million Congolese have been displaced.

The MacArthur Foundation's work in Darfur and Congo focuses primarily on human rights and international justice, the two primary themes of its Global Challenges grantmaking area.

In human rights work the Foundation supports organizations that hold countries accountable to their constitutions and international agreements, monitor the practice of international institutions and non-state actors, and seek concern for human rights as an element of national and international policymaking.

In its work on international justice MacArthur provides support for three interconnected areas of work; 1) the use of international courts and tribunals to provide redress for human rights victims, 2) the alignment of national laws with international justice systems, and 3) the advancement of international law and norms relating to international justice.

Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Rescue Committee receive support from MacArthur for both their humanitarian efforts and for their work to document and call international attention to human rights violations in Sudan and Congo. Human Rights Watch, among others, has been a source of information useful to the International Criminal Court as it pursues its first cases for prosecution in Congo, Uganda, and possibly Darfur. Also receiving support is the International Crisis Group, which has up to 50 full-time analysts and regional specialists stationed within or adjacent to countries either at risk or experiencing violent conflict-including Congo and Sudan-producing reports and briefing papers containing practical recommendations for international decision makers. Refugees International receives MacArthur funds in support of its Conflict Resolution and Prevention Program, specifically on the use of international frameworks such as the International Criminal Court to protect human rights.

Much of the MacArthur-funded work in Darfur and Congo advances the objectives of the report by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, titled "The Responsibility to Protect," that lays out a new framework for when the international community can help prevent, intervene in, or reduce the impact of a crisis within a sovereign nation. Deepening understanding of these principals, particularly among members of the United Nations Security Council is the focus of work by several MacArthur grantees.


United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court in Sudan

Late this month the United Nations Security Council will hear a report by its Commission of Inquiry on violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Darfur. An option for the Council is to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, a step that in itself could help in many ways reduce levels of violence. The MacArthur Foundation has been among those providing grant support for the process that led to the establishment of the Court and now to preparations for its first cases.

During a recent meeting with Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she noted that the situation in Darfur was first a human rights crisis and, because it was not properly addressed, it became a humanitarian crisis. Tsunamis are horrible acts of nature, and warning systems are certainly needed for places that don't have them. Tsunamis occur infrequently. Human rights violations go on all the time, and they are usually themselves a warning system that worse is to come.

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