Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 13

Shadow aid

YaleGlobal summarizes  an intriguing article by journalist Elizabeth Dickinson for the Middle East Research and Information Project:

“Across the Middle East, the United Nations is coordinating the largest operation in its history to help nearly 3 million Syrian refugees at a cost of $4.2 billion in 2014 alone….But on the side, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of start-up charities and regional donors have built parallel networks of aid.” Distribution is uneven, relying on select connections and networks, manipulated by politics and corruption....Dickinson concludes that the piecemeal approach to aid based on individual whims results in inefficiencies, waste, new power structures, inequality and conflict – all of which threaten sustained giving. Refugees might receive dates during Ramadan but their children have no schools to attend.


As a journalist, Dickinson gets to the heart of human predicaments. The inefficiencies and piecemeal aid she describes are not limited to Syria or the Middle East and can be found in countries as secure as the United States. Charities elsewhere have come under scrutiny, too. Malfeasance by a few hurt legitimate charities.

Allure of Deceit is the story of a fictional  charitable foundation, huge and influential, and its director who uses funds and programs in Afghanistan and India to figure out why a young inventor and his wife were killed in a terrorist attack. Afghan villagers are dismayed to be regarded as recipients of zakat, and in the book, a foundation employee is distraught, too, as he tries to explain the disparities to an Afghan man: 

.... so much charity was based on whims. “I sometimes feel as if all that matters is an administrator’s last conversation with a donor. A donor hears a report that children are going without shoes and soon we’re unloading crates of shoes, every size and style imaginable, most of them inappropriate for this terrain. So we look for storage, often paying to lease the space.”

Lessons of Allure of Deceit: Needs are great and transform abruptly over time, with shoes and coats desperately needed one day and not the next. Motivations, whether for generosity or murder, also transform over time - and too often, some regret their choices.

Photo of US Navy officer delivering shoes to children in Dijbouti in 2010 is courtesy of US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Bruns and Wikimedia Commons; photo of a US Air Force helping a young Afghan girl try on donated shoes at Parwan Refugee Camp in 2008 is courtesy of US Air Force Master Sgt. Keith Brown and Wikimedia Commons. 

Saturday, February 15

Tough road

Afghanistan does not have many roadways but the few it has are treacherous -  a result of both roadside attacks and poor maintenance.

"Since 2012, the United States has refused to fund the Afghan government’s road maintenance projects because it has no faith in the country’s ability to perform even simple tasks, such as dispatching a contractor to fill in a pothole or repaving a stretch of highway," reports Kevin Seiff for The Washington Post. He adds that the US continues to build new roads to assist the economy. "The new, U.S.-built highways seemed to be a godsend for this impoverished nation. But the projects became notorious for their exorbitant costs and poorly implemented contracts."

Taliban fighters target the roads, knowing that they are security priority. Military vehicles patrol the road and regularly clear them of IEDs. Highway 1 is the "lifeline," suggests a member of the US Army’s 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry in a report from Alexa Pena for Stars & Stripes. As US troops prepare to leave this year, responsibility for patrols and checkpoints is being handed over to Afghan troops.

More than two thirds of Afghans live within 30 miles of Highway 1. The highway, also known as A01 is 2,200 kilometers, circling the country, connecting major cities. In the sequel to Fear of Beauty, two characters travel Highway 1 from east of Lashkar Gah in Helmand to Kandahar, and only one returns to the small fictional village of Laashekoh.

Photo of Highway 1 reconstruction in 2003,  courtesy of USAID and Wikimedia Commons. Screenshot of the 137-kilometer stretch of Highway 1 between Lashkar Gah and Kandahar, courtesy of Google Maps.

Friday, December 14

Corruption

Each year Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index releases international rankings and for 2012, Afghanistan has landed in last place along with North Korea and Somalia, reports Frank Vogl for the Huffington Post.

"There is a brutal message here for the architects of Western geo-political strategy in general and for those most responsible for the Afghan debacle in particular," Vogle writes. "Despite all the diverse experiences of decades, the harsh fact is that Western powers have a zero success rate in establishing decent governance in poor countries embroiled in conflict that have no history of democratic institutions."

Public trust and respect is minimal in such countries, Vogle explains. Human rights abuses and violence are high. This does not bode well for security - for Afghanistan, neighbors in India or Pakistan, or anywhere else in the world.

Image courtesy of Transparency International.