UN hopes to improve methods of handling world tide of refugees

Renewed efforts are under way here to slow the tide of refugees casting up on world shores. Perhaps the boldest move is being put forth by West Germany, which hopes to halt the flow at its sources.

Specifically, the West Germans hope to establish an international code of conduct and make governments accountable for policies encouraging the mass exodus of their own people.

The move is likely to run into heated opposition from some communist countries. But it has received the backing of numerous third-world countries as well as many in the West.

On a less political level, West Germany also hopes to strengthen and better coordinate existing United Nations organizations -- the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and UNICEF -- so they can respond more quickly and efficiently to the needs of displaced persons.

Currently, the UNHCR reports, there are between 8 and 10 million homeless people in the world. In the past year the global refugee total has jumped from 4.5 million to 6.5 million, while the number of displaced persons has risen from 2 million to 2.5 million.

Few signs indicate the exodus will abate soon.

"The plight of these refugees is rooted in war; ethnic, religious, and political persecution; a lack of economic opportunity," US Ambassador Donald McHenry said in a speech before the UN Economic and Social Council last July.

On another humanitarian front, the Nordic countries at the UN (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, finland, Iceland) are launching an initiative aimed at curbing the increasing incidence of diplomatic hostage-taking on the international scene.

Their intention is to pressure governments into providing more protection for foreign officials by establishing international laws governing diplomatic and consular relations.

They hope to set up a registration system and record all instances of government neglect in this area. Violations would be brought to the attention of the General Assembly.

"At least, the violators will know that the international community is watching them," says one senior Nordic diplomat.

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