Friday, October 22, 2010

The underbelly, but stark reality, of aid to starving people...What to do???

Human Rights Watch issued this very aggressive report on the state of donor aid to Ethiopia.  It is sad that this creates a Catch-22 situation for humanitarian aid.  If you give aid some people will be helped but you contribute to the consolidation of an oppressive regime. If you don't give you starve the regime of a tool for repression  but you also starve the people of needed food aid....
""This 105-page report documents the ways in which the Ethiopian government uses donor-supported resources and aid as a tool to consolidate the power of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of development aid, more than US$3 billion in 2008 alone. The World Bank and donor nations provide direct support to district governments in Ethiopia for basic services such as health, education, agriculture, and water, and support a “food for work” program for some of the country’s poorest people. The European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany are the largest bilateral donors.""
Ethiopia: Donor Aid Supports Repression

Quotes from the Report

"There are micro-loans, which everybody goes to take out, but it is very difficult for us, [opposition] members. They say, ‘This is not from your government, it is from the government you hate. Why do you expect something from the government that you hate?'"
- A farmer from southern Ethiopia

"Yesterday in fact the kebele [village] chairman said to me, ‘You are suffering so many problems, why don't you write a letter of regret and join the ruling party?'"
- A farmer with a starving child from southern Ethiopia, denied participation in the safety net food-for-work program

"The safety net is used to buy loyalty to the ruling party. That is money that comes from abroad. Democracy is being compromised by money that comes from abroad. Do those people who send the money know what it is being used for? Let them know that it is being used against democracy."
- A farmer from Amhara region

"It is clear that our money is being moved into political brainwashing."
- Consultant to a major donor, Addis Ababa

"Intimidation is all over, in every area. There is politicization of housing, business, education, agriculture. Many of the people are forced or compromised to join the party because of safety net and so on, many do not have a choice - it is imposed."
- Western donor official, Addis Ababa

"Every tool at their disposal - fertilizer, loans, safety net - is being used to crush the opposition. We know this."
- Senior Western donor official, Addis Ababa

"Which state are we building and how? It could be that we are building the capacity of the state to control and repress."
- World Bank staff member, Addis Ababa
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