Writing intermittently on life, politics, and society

Posts tagged “Humanitarian Assistance

Language is our Tool

Meta-Culture has released the following paper in response to the Delhi Policy Group and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue publication: Conflict Resolution: Learning lessons from dialogue processes in India. The paper highlights the need for clear terminology and an understanding of distinct conflict resolution modalities in order to draw lessons relevant to policymakers and practitioners.

Article here


World Development Report

Peeped the World Bank’s World Development Report for 2011. It’s being considered a significant development by people I know in the humanitarian field because the report seems to indicate a move from “just infrastructure and capacity building” to addressing the deleterious effects of violent conflict on development the field has long called attention to. Better writers have expressed some of my thinking on the report, so I’ll spare you my iffy prose.

I hope to  talk to the bosses about the organisation’s current role in assisting state actors with building the kinds of coalitions, mentioned in the report, required to bridge problems of low trust between societal groups and between the state and society. I think that’s a place where they’re keen on increasing the organisation’s presence.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler…

Nevertheless, I feel the need to knock back a few after reading these stories on Afghanistan.

The most alarming, but not entirely unsurprising read:

Afghans in two crucial southern provinces are almost completely unaware of the September 11 attacks on the United States and don’t know they precipitated the foreign intervention now in its 10th year, a new report showed on Friday…

The report by The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) policy think-tank showed 92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar know nothing of the hijacked airliner attacks on U.S. targets in 2001.

“The lack of awareness of why we are there contributes to the high levels of negativity toward the NATO military operations and made the job of the Taliban easier,” ICOS President Norine MacDonald told Reuters from Washington.

And I had to laugh at this:

But many residents near Kandahar do not share the view. They have lodged repeated complaints about the scope of the destruction with U.S. and Afghan officials. In one October operation near the city, U.S. aircraft dropped about two dozen 2,000-pound bombs.

In another recent operation in the Zhari district, U.S. soldiers fired more than a dozen mine-clearing line charges in a day. Each one creates a clear path that is 100 yards long and wide enough for a truck. Anything that is in the way – trees, crops, huts – is demolished.

“Why do you have to blow up so many of our fields and homes?” a farmer from the Arghandab district asked a top NATO general at a recent community meeting.

Although military officials are apologetic in public, they maintain privately that the tactic has a benefit beyond the elimination of insurgent bombs. By making people travel to the district governor’s office to submit a claim for damaged property, “in effect, you’re connecting the government to the people,” the senior officer said.


It gets better

Joel Burns says what needs to be said.

I’m glad that Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project has helped draw attention to bullying, the social costs of homophobia, and the tragedies they can cause. I remember my own school years which, while full of genuinely good experiences, are marred by memories of harassment and humiliation. I know well the kind of despair that gives succour to thoughts of suicide.

Not every kid will be able to get out of unloving or violently hostile environments though. I hope that for them just knowing that there are other people like them, and people who do not think they are an abomination, freaks, or going to hell will be enough to mitigate their circumstances.

The new bottom billion

Caught a good discussion over at the Guardian last week on this thought provoking paper by Andy Sumner of the Institute of Development Studies.

Sumner presents data that points to a shift in the distribution of the world’s poor as the states in which they live have transformed from low to middle-income countries.

This shift -and fact that some of these countries have substantial resources at hand- points to a need for a rethink of aid strategies. As Jonathan Glennie writes:

… if Sumner is right (which he is), that means fundamentally changing the way we give aid and encourage poverty reduction. It is one thing transferring money to very poor countries – there is a logical argument for filling a savings gap, although one that I have criticised. But to transfer cash to countries like China and India that not only have nuclear power and space programmes, but also have their own multi-billion dollar aid programmes, is quite another. Aid money is irrelevant to them – should the traditional donors therefore just leave them to it?

The paper, and the whole discussion at the Guardian Data Blog, are well worth reading. Do check them out.

Time for a brown ribbon campaign?

Caught a story on a cholera outbreak in Nigeria that has spread to Chad and Cameroon (along with the requisite Africa-bashing/anti-black comments – my species never fails to disappoint me.) It made me think of this story I found in the Guardian on the relative lack of attention that is given to basic sanitation even though diarrhoea – a symptom of diseases like dysentery, typhoid, rotavirus and cholera – is a serious killer of children. It kills more children than AIDS and tuberculosis combined.

Sanitation opens the door to a whole load of development goals. People can work if they’re not sick with preventable diseases, it means more bums on seats in schools, less pressure on hospitals, and money is saved when governments in lower income countries do not have to spend their already scarce resources on containing outbreaks.

There’s also money to be made: human waste can be composted, or turned into bio-fuel. There are opportunities here for entrepreneurs to get involved in transport, manufacturing, and sales. Though in some contexts there may be taboos against handling waste – encouraging the creation of a new underclass like the Burakumin is a no-no.

Composting toilets are one possible solution, they’re more workable than sewage systems in countries with severe infrastructure challenges, you can avoid using large quantities of precious water to flush the waste away, and from anywhere between a couple of months to a couple of years you can produce fertiliser.

The main issue for advocates like Rose George is getting sanitation higher on the aid agenda. The brown stuff is just not sexy enough, not right now anyway. It’s hard to imagine many politicians gleefully posing for pictures in front of newly completed latrines.


Afghanistan is now more dangerous than it has ever been since the US invasion. The New York Times reports on the deteriorating security situation:

“We do not support the perspective that this constitutes ‘things getting worse before they get better,’ ” said Nic Lee, director of the Afghan N.G.O. Safety Office, “but rather see it as being consistent with the five-year trend of things just getting worse.”

Just depressing.