I’ve never been entirely sold on most of the common aid critiques, but here is one I can get behind, full-stop: NGO provision of public services (infrastructure development, education, health care…) allows heads of state to maintain power without addressing those needs. All along the democratic spectrum, this disincentives them from developing the capacity to do so as their economies grow, and may prevent governments from even viewing these elements as a responsibility under their purview.
On a panoramic scale, that sounds like very vague, theoretical role-of-the-state talk – so what? But the consequences are tangible: refugees really don’t think much of aid agencies. What might otherwise be a quasi-libertarian humanitarian pipe dream melts down because the feedback cycle is stilted. No votes, no purchasing power.
I’ve seen this play out most obviously among Palestinian refugees, so that’s what I’m going to talk about here. I’m sure there are better examples – South Sudan comes to mind as a more traditionally-managed NGOistan – but the high-wire aspect of Palestinian politics makes this a particularly interesting case study. My hunch is that the UN/NGO provision model encourages governing parties to focus more than they otherwise would on issues of militarization, shifting public discourse away from immediate needs and toward high-level issues in a way that facilitates the development of international quagmires. Continue reading “NGOistan in the Levant”
IS is repairing roads in Iraq.
Other sources have reported forced marriages to IS militants. Forced marriages – a debatable enough term in a place where choice of suitor is often not really left up to female teenagers at all – contrary though it may seem, may also be seen as a form of economic relief. Families in Iraq’s rural areas are large, and feeding a fifteen-year-old girl during times of conflict becomes something of a burden when that responsibility could just as easily be transferred to a husband (a powerful one who has just experienced a windfall, no less!). Continue reading “Hearts & Minds: IS, “NGOs” and State Responsibility in Iraq”
At lunch with Arthur Lenk yesterday (thanks, Baker Institute!), someone inquired how he (Israel) felt about the US pulling their (22% cut of) UNESCO funding after Palestine was admitted as a full member nation . He brought up the obvious valid point – what happens when bids to other multinational organizations succeed, and when we “have” to cut funding to, say, the World Health Organization – and then proceeded to scold voting parties for not considering the result of cutting US funding.
Are you kidding me? That’s the problem? That other member states care less about international research or cultural preservation or AIDS treatment or global vaccinations than acknowledging statehood? Absolutely not. It’s a huge and conscious “fuck you” to hypocritical, contradictory US policy. No better way to do that than to call a bluff.