Cablegate: Visit of Special U.N. Envoy James Morris On The

Published: Thu 30 Jan 2003 10:37 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: On January 24, Ambassador Sullivan and key
Mission staff attended a meeting and lunch with Special
U.N. Envoy James Morris and members of his delegation
during his recent visit to Zimbabwe. At these events,
Morris provided briefings on the current international,
regional and country-specific humanitarian situation,
current U.N. plans and priorities for responding to the
crisis, and the results of his discussions (to that point
in time) with top-level Government of Zimbabwe decision-
makers, including President Mugabe. Although little
substantive progress was noted on the many critical issues
affecting the country's complex, interwoven crises, Morris'
visit provided the opportunity for an updated assessment of
the situation and possible revised priorities and options
for a more effective future international response. While
overall country prospects appear negative, Morris noted
some positive movement since his last visit in several
important areas. However, desires to shift from short-term
relief response to longer-term mitigation/recovery
activities are obstructed by the continuing adverse GOZ
policy environment. Without significant political change,
the prospects appear dim for an effective transition to
recovery in Zimbabwe. Hence, given the negative near-term
predictions, we are expecting a prolonged relief response
with associated USG resource requirements, at the very
least similar to last year's levels. Despite this rather
gloomy outlook, Morris (and WFP) continue to impress us
with their performance. The Mission recommends continuing
USG support for on-going humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe,
as FY2003 resources permit. End Summary.
2. On January 24, Ambassador Sullivan, USAID Director
Weisenfeld and Aidoff attended a U.N. meeting with Special
U.N. Envoy (SE) for the Southern African Humanitarian
Crisis (and Executive Director of the World Food Program
(WFP), James Morris. The meeting was well attended by high-
level representatives of most OECD country missions to
Zimbabwe, as well as the principal representatives of most
U.N. agencies in Zimbabwe. Morris was accompanied on the
visit by a large team of U.N. officials representing
relevant U.N. agencies, including the Special U.N. Envoy
for HIV/AIDS Stephen Lewis, Associate
Administrator/Director of Bureau for Crisis Prevention and
Response UNDP, Julia Taft, and WFP's Southern Africa Crisis
Coordinator, Judith Lewis. Immediately following the
meeting, Ambassador Sullivan hosted a lunch for selected
members of the delegation, including Morris, Taft and J.
Lewis, as well as the U.N. Humanitarian Co-ordinator for
Zimbabwe (HC) J. Victor Angelo and the WFP Country
Representative Kevin Farrell. Selected Mission staff also
3. The stated purpose of the visit (part of a six-country
tour) was to follow up on the results of SE Morris's first
mission to Zimbabwe in September 2002, focusing especially
on: 1) the additional challenges to the humanitarian
paradigm imposed by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, 2) an enhanced
role for women in the humanitarian response, and 3)
recommended "structural changes" in the humanitarian
response to accommodate the revised country (and regional)
scenario since his last visit and provide the
"comprehensive" international response to the regional
crisis called for by U.N. Secretary-General Annan. This
latter point was the rationale for the large, multi-
sectoral composition of the accompanying delegation. Note:
The meeting started slightly later than scheduled as the
delegation was delayed in finishing an "unscheduled"
meeting with President Mugabe and relevant Government of
Zimbabwe (GOZ) ministers and officials immediately prior to
this event. End Note.
4. Morris began the meeting by noting the extremely
challenging humanitarian situation the world faced,
particularly in Africa, with the significant
additional/competing emergency relief requirements imposed
by the Horn region. Note: Morris had just visited
Ethiopia prior to coming to southern Africa. End Note. He
then thanked all countries present for their generous food
donations to date, stating that the WFP was handling more
food now than at any time in its history (over US$1 billion
worth in 2002). For southern Africa, he noted that WFP's
regional and Zimbabwe country appeals were about 60 and 66
percent met, respectively. As a result, Zimbabwe's food
pipeline looked relatively healthy now (in contrast to last
month), with continuing incremental improvements in
coverage expected through March 2003 (i.e., the end of the
current WFP Emergency Operation (EMOP) period). However,
given the serious problems with the current agricultural
season (as well as other extenuating factors, such as GOZ
mismanagement, the adverse effects of the fast-track land
fiasco and HIV/AIDS), he emphasized the continuing urgency
of the situation, indicating a requirement of an additional
100,000 MT of food for the Zimbabwe EMOP to cover a planned
three-month extension of the appeal period to June 2003.
Note: With the delays experienced to date in the start-up
of this program as well as the temporary drop in aid
requirements anticipated following the April harvest, this
additional/extended target can readily be met within the
existing WFP food appeal, if its requested amounts are
provided in full. End Note.
5. Following these introductory comments, the focus of
Morris' briefing was on the results of his earlier meetings
with Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) officials, including GOZ
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mudenge and the meeting with
President Mugabe. Note: HC Angelo also noted that the
delegation had several additional, more specific meetings
scheduled during the ensuing course the visit with a wide
variety of GOZ ministers and officials. End Note.
6. Morris described the Mugabe meeting as a general review
of progress in the response to the country's humanitarian
crisis since his last visit. While no major breakthroughs
were reported (unlike the last visit - see reftel A), they
agreed that some "progress" had been achieved on some
issues. Examples included NGO registration/approval for
WFP operations (from four organizations in September to 12
now), importation of Genetically Modified (GM) food
products (accepted, with WFP milling - including local
milling - and labeling prior to distribution), and some
improvement in providing permits for food imports (although
problems remain in this area). On the GM issue, Morris
noted, parenthetically, the extreme importance of the
movement in this area, stating that, given the tremendous
importance of USG contributions (accounting for about half
of the total response worldwide), "they couldn't succeed if
all countries were like Zambia." Although the discussions
touched on most of the now familiar issues (e.g., GOZ Grain
Marketing Board (GMB) monopoly/private sector
participation, price controls on basic commodities, foreign
exchange shortages/controls, political
interference/manipulation of food aid, the plight of the ex-
commercial farm workers, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its
relationship to the food crisis, etc.), Morris reported
little evidence of significant GOZ movement in most of
these areas. The possible exception was Mugabe's apparent
support for a possible wheat monetization program for urban
areas, which are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to
the persistent market shortages and spiraling black market
prices. While there appeared to be some recognition of the
increasing severity of the humanitarian situation in
country, generally, Morris indicated his impression that
government appeared to have a "different view" of the
situation, with "grandiose predictions" of agricultural
production alleviating the crisis through such dubious
schemes as expanded irrigated winter maize production
(which failed dismally last year, as most experts had
7. Following Morris' presentation, SE S. Lewis briefly
highlighted the tremendous additional problems the HIV/AIDS
pandemic imposed on the crisis, with its significant
additional burdens on individual sufferers (nutritional
impacts), community coping structures (the increasing
numbers of elderly and especially orphan-headed
households), already-depleted health delivery systems, and
prospects for agricultural/economic recovery (labor
shortages). AA Taft then echoed these sentiments,
suggesting a greater focus on women (as primary family care
givers and food producers/providers), and the possibility
of capacity-building initiatives to mitigate the effects of
the serious "brain drain" of skilled heath sector
personnel. Notable on this subject was Foreign Minister
Mudenge's comment in an earlier meeting with the delegation
likening the alarming scope of the pandemic in Zimbabwe
(and, indeed, southern Africa) to a form of "genocide" (in
the rhetorical sense only, of course).
8. The briefing concluded with a statement of U.N.
priorities in future response efforts, including:
- the need to better integrate the effects of the HIV/AIDS
pandemic into country analysis and response activities;
- the need for greater support in the non-food areas of
assistance (health, nutrition, agricultural recovery, etc.)
for a truly comprehensive international response; and
- the need to begin to promote the transition from short-
term relief response to longer-term recovery/transition
initiatives to mitigate the crisis.
9. While other subjects were touched on (the situation on
the ground, HIV/AIDS, urban monetization, agricultural
season prospects, etc.), the ensuing audience discussion
focused overwhelmingly on the relative merits of attempting
longer-term development solutions within the current
adverse GOZ policy environment. While additional support
for short-term humanitarian relief activities seemed
inevitable, most donor country representatives present
expressed serious reservations about longer-term support in
the absence of significant reform of relevant government
policies (especially, but not exclusively, the land
problem). Until significant political reform occurred, the
response was likely to be limited to short-term
humanitarian relief (recognizing the negative potential
effects this approach might have in prolonging the crisis
and the concomitant increased international response
10. The ensuing luncheon discussion at Ambassador
Sullivan's residence repeated these same themes, with a
greater focus on HIV/AIDS and possible innovative cross-
sectoral initiatives that might be pursued within the
current country context. Suggestions discussed here
included using WFP food relief operations to promote AIDS
awareness (through messages on bags, presentations/messages
at distribution sites, etc.) and providing Food-for-Health
Workers (to attempt to arrest the significant loss of
trained sector personnel).
11. Comment: As for his last visit, his schedule during
this visit clearly demonstrates that SE Morris continues to
enjoy excellent access to top-level GOZ decision-makers.
However, contrary to his last visit, it appears that these
interactions are yielding diminishing returns. While more
significant movement on key GOZ policies was evident in
September, despite the increasingly dire nature of the
country situation, there appears to be reduced prospects
for substantive policy reform at this time (other than
"tinkering" with existing policies to reduce some of the
operational constraints to the response effort). From the
donor response, it also seems evident that until such
substantive reform occurs, the prospects for a transition
from relief to longer-term recovery remain dim. Hence,
given the negative prospects for the current agricultural
season, it would appear that the humanitarian crisis is set
to continue for some time to come (with the associated
additional USG relief requirements that this situation will
entail). Within this pessimistic framework, the Mission
generally endorses Morris' (and WFP) response efforts to
date (under extremely difficult circumstances), and
supports the continuation of USG assistance to the Zimbabwe
humanitarian response, as resources permit. In this
regard, we would highlight the possibility for a renewed
look at urban monetization schemes in Zimbabwe in response
to the more encouraging inputs received on this subject
during this visit. Sullivan
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media