Monday, January 03, 2005

Accounting For The Aid

Today's Guardian leads with a story under the following headline: "$2bn pledged, but will the world keep its promises?". It's a legitimate question. The track-record of rich countries donating aid in times of crises is not very edifying. The article offers some salutary reminders of what has gone wrong in the past. Here are three reflections by those at the sharp end of coordinating the massive relief response for the Asian earthquake victims:

Robert Smith of
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):
We should be very cautious about these figures. Let's put it this way. Large-scale disasters tend to result in mammoth pledges which... do not always materialise in their entirety. The figures look much higher than they really are. What will end up on the ground will be much less.
Rudolf Muller, also of UN OCHA:
There is definitely double accounting going on. A lot of the money will be swallowed up by the military or will have been been diverted from existing loans.
Overseas Development Institute, UK:
The research evidence is that the immediate response to natural disasters involves some new money, but that rehabilitation needs are often met by switching aid money between uses rather than increasing total aid to the countries affected.
We have a compelling obligation to ensure that the money donated reaches its intended recipients. This is a matter of good faith. And it will also demonstrate that we have learned from the mistakes of the past.


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