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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
In the name of International Aid Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Harini Dias Bandaranayake, Sri Lanka Sep 12, 2007
Human Rights   Opinions

  

Having been a part of an international organization for humanitarian relief work, I have come to mature in my thinking of the world’s ways, views and sadly, have also come to feel somewhat jaded about the modus operandi of the monster mechanism of relief aid. Embroiled in a labyrinthine maze of bureaucracy and international hierarchy, the reality of processes and procedures that engulf all goodwill and good intention is a hard lump to swallow.

Sri Lanka, since its own foolish making of a civil war, and more recently, since the tsunami disaster, has found itself to be the perfect fodder to be chewed up alive and spat out by the devouring machination working to destroy a nation under the guise of humanitarian aid. A nation, already tottering in the aftermath of repeated blows hurled by the international community. And nearly twenty-five years since the conflict and three since the tsunami, the monster only grows stronger.

No doubt there are many organizations and government donors with noble intentions in participation in relief aid, and we cannot wish it away as long as nature has its terrifying ways and as long as communities don’t learn to get along with each other, but it cannot be taken for granted an equal number if not more of the organizations that have made Sri Lanka’s misery a lucrative business. I say lucrative because they have created an entire science in the dispatch of relief to the devastated and have cropped up opportunities for the like of university interns, no less, from the West with no experience and with even less skill to occupy positions of power and responsibility. Decisions taken by these so-called ‘experts’ may go on to have a generational impact on communities affected by the various disasters within the country.

It is also lucrative because of the free flow of aid money that is repatriated to the donor countries in the form of overheads and salaries for expertise lent from donor countries themselves, in many cases, insisted upon by the donor agencies. There are many justifications stated for this of course – to ensure transparency, to insure against the corruption rampant in developing nations and to assure qualitative and skilled project development and implementation. However, this reasoning, some cases have revealed, are only a crutch to expand the business of relief aid, to create employment and to set an inflated price for development services – synonymous with profit one could argue.

So what is the proactive way around this to ensure the monster stays domesticated and civilized? Local governments could start cleaning up their act and realize that while the relief aid business flourishes and everyone has a cut in the profits, dare I add including local politicians, it is in the long run bad for the business of home politics when disgruntled communities take to the streets. Heaven forbid this should be timed around election season. As staid as this argument may be, it is also for the benefit of the country to build its local resource base and to identify local capacities that could be dispatched in the event of a disaster in the future. This requires great reserves of political will, both at the administrative level as well as at each organization. Essentially then, pride in one’s own is an efficient deterrent against that part of the humanitarian core that may steal itself into an already wounded nation and fester it with fresh wounds of disunity, discrimination, political upheaval and the embezzlement of funds raised in the name of the suffering. In these ways it is hoped that developing nations like Sri Lanka could learn to help themselves, and foster the virtues of discernment and circumspection, that could ultimately save a nation’s self respect and its unity.





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Harini Dias Bandaranayake


Harini Dias Bandaranayake is a social/relief worker and coordinates capacity building for the youth in South Asia to work towards regional peace building and conflict resolution and to advocate and address the various social, political, economic and environmental issues homogenous to South Asia.
Comments


Hello
Udara Soysa | Dec 4th, 2007
I really like this article. I saw your article also published in another website. Thanks for sharing!



thanks
Udara Soysa | Dec 4th, 2007
I really like this article. I saw your article also published in another website. Thanks for sharing!

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