The end of Foreign Aid as we know it?

According to a detailed 15-page State Department budget document obtained by Foreign Policy, President Trump has vowed to drastically cut assistance to developing countries. Additionally, Trump administration officials are considering folding USAID into the State Department.

The agency anticipates that the budget proposal will necessitate eliminating 30 to 35 of its field missions while cutting its regional bureaus by roughly 65 percent. In addition to closing missions, global health funding is also targeted, with 41 countries facing cuts.

Likewise, the Bureau for Food Security is slated to lose 68 percent of its funding. This would reduce development aid geared toward preventing food shortages and may instead force the United States and other donor countries to spend more resources on emergency food assistance.

Other programs and offices that are on the chopping block include the ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, and the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.

Foreign-policy and national security experts on both sides of the aisle have argued that the cuts pose concrete risks to U.S. security interests.

[Foreign Policy]

Who gives 0.7% of their gross national income to overseas aid?

Under legislation approved in 2015, the UK government is legally required to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance (ODA), popularly known as foreign aid. And Microsoft founder Bill Gates has urged the UK to maintain its promise to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, warning that reducing the commitment would cost lives.

According to the latest figures from the OECD, in 2016 two G7 countries met this target: the UK and, for the first time, Germany. Other countries that spent at least 0.7% were Sweden, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Denmark and Norway.

Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May described the target as a “critical pillar” of the country’s foreign policy. But some Conservative MPs and newspapers have suggested that the figure is too high and should not be maintained after the election.

The top 10 country recipients of UK aid in 2015 were Pakistan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, India and Bangladesh. Humanitarian projects received the largest proportion of aid in 2015.

 [BBC]

Top European givers

Despite budgetary constraints, the European Union and its member states have collectively managed to keep their place as the world’s largest aid donor. Below is a overview of six major European donors.

United Kingdom – One of the only major aid actors with a development ministry responsible for both policy and implementation, the United Kingdom is also the first country to enshrine in law the U.N. target to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid every year. U.K. aid is praised for its clear focus on the neediest. Out of the 28 countries it prioritizes, 21 are fragile and conflict-affected states.

Germany – These are promising times for the world’s third biggest bilateral donor. After undergoing major reforms in 2011, German foreign aid is seeking to be more selective and strategic in its spending priorities. But for the time being, Germany’s political commitment to focus on the poorest countries, especially in Africa, has yet to be reflected in its ODA allocations.

France – President François Hollande’s budgetary choices might have set the country back by more than a decade in reaching the 0.7 percent aid target, but France is expected to stabilize its aid budget. In the next few years, French ODA is further slated to increase the amount dedicated to climate change.

Sweden – Despite the global financial crisis, Sweden’s aid program has managed to stay the course.  Since 2006, the Nordic country has maintained its ODA at around one percent of its GNI. In line with its strong poverty focus, most of Sweden’s bilateral aid resources are directed to low income countries and fragile states. Three specific priorities drive Sweden’s aid giving: democracy and human rights; environment and climate change; and gender equality and the role of women in development. Sweden has also been particularly reactive to the critical situation in the Middle East.

The Netherlands – The Netherlands was one of the first countries to meet the ambitious goal of spending at least 0.7 percent of its GNI on ODA, but Dutch aid has plummeted in recent years.  Historically focused on social sectors, Dutch aid is now increasingly geared toward economic development and national interests.

Norway – Known for its long-standing commitment to high aid targets, Norway disbursed 1 percent of its gross national income in 2014 — making it the third most generous OECD DAC member in terms of its ODA/GNI ratio after Sweden and Luxembourg. In the future, ODA levels are likely to be maintained at this level. Norway is one of the world’s most committed donors to least-developed countries. Global education especially in conflict or disaster contexts — a topic which has been sliding off the aid agenda of many top donors — is another area where Norway is trying to lead the way.

[DeVex]

British Cabinet split over foreign aid spending

Government Ministers have urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to drop Britain’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on helping poorer countries, and have proposed diverting money to a new combined defense and security budget.

The UK, the world’s third-biggest donor, spends £13 billion per year on aid, and the Prime Minister has stood by the spending commitment despite pressure to reduce it following a series of scandals over where the money goes.

Some ministers believe Britain is doing more than its fair share when it comes to helping poorer countries, and point to the fact that the average spend by other wealthy nations is just 0.4 per cent of GNI.

In fact, the USA spends just 0.18 per cent.

Mrs May, however, has made it clear that she is a supporter of the 0.7 per cent spending pledge and remains “fully committed” to it. Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, also sees the commitment as a key part of the post-Brexit “global Britain” brand.

A Whitehall source explained: “A lot of the world’s biggest problems, such as disease, mass migration and terrorism, are incubated in countries affected by conflict, such as Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan.

[The Telegraph]

Why Trump should use Foreign Aid to make America great

Investing in global health is essential to the safety, security, and future prosperity of the United States. In addition to the humanitarian case for foreign aid, there are three very powerful reasons, which are aligned with President Donald Trump’s populist “America first” vision, why the administration should maintain and even spend more on global health.

  1. Deadly epidemics threaten US lives and prosperity – Over the course of the past two decades, we have faced numerous periodic crises stemming from infectious diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), swine flu, Ebola, and now the Zika virus. Each of these cost US lives and billions of US dollars in response. By investing in health research to develop and stockpile new vaccines and drugs, and stronger health systems to deliver these preventive tools and cures, we will get out ahead of new infectious diseases before they become global disasters.
  2. Foreign Aid for health yields huge returns for the United States – Every US dollar spent on HIV prevention and treatment generates $10 in health and productivity benefits for the countries mounting large AIDS programs with our help, as a result of the infections and deaths averted; every dollar spent on tuberculosis generates $30 in societal benefits. US leadership in global health has helped produce remarkable improvements in global well-being.
  3. It strengthens US leadership on the global stage and counters our rivals – The United States launched its first international health programs in Africa after World War II out of Cold War ideological concerns. These early investments in health were motivated by the belief that training health professionals and controlling infectious disease would improve the population’s quality of life, and in turn, reduce their susceptibility to communism. Since that time, global health aid has continued to serve as an economically efficient way for the United States to promote its values and promote conditions that discourage turmoil around the world, from which the United States stands to gain in the long term.

If we cut our aid and leave a vacuum, it will be filled by US rivals, starting with China. Chinese foreign aid is growing fast, at an annual rate of more than 20 percent per year, and is rapidly catching up with US assistance. Chinese health aid to Africa in particular has grown rapidly. China is now one of the top ten bilateral global health donors to Africa and provided at least US$3 billion dollars in African health aid from 2000 to 2012. If our health support to developing nations … is severely curtailed, we should expect China to fill the void.

In addition, withdrawal of US support for health in areas affected by military conflict and military crisis could lead to the entry of non-state actors whose views are antithetical to those of the United States. Health aid can help fight the underlying causes of terrorism.

[Read full article at Health Affairs Blog]

Hillary Clinton warns President Trump of ‘grave mistake’ of cutting Foreign Aid

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that she thinks President Trump is making a “grave mistake” on foreign aid. In a speech on women’s rights at Georgetown University, Clinton said Trump’s proposed cuts to international aid in his budget would undermine American diplomacy.

“Turning our back on diplomacy won’t make our country safer,” Clinton said. “It will undermine our security and our standing in our world.”

Clinton’s comments about Trump came in a talk that was largely an impassioned call for advancing women’s rights around the world.

“Advancing the rights and full participation of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the 21st century, she said. “It is not a partisan issue, it is a human issue. A rising tide of women’s rights lifts entire nations.”

[TIME]

Trump White House wants to slash billions from international grants and aid

The White House is proposing $17 billion in spending cuts from levels Congress approved in 2016, focusing on medical research grants, scientific research grants, education and foreign aid.

Internationally, the White House’s 2017 proposal would cut $300 million from PEPFAR, an international program to combat HIV and AIDS focused mainly in Africa.

The White House would also eliminate or drastically cut its foreign aid programs it says lack a significant return on investment for taxpayers. These include international food aid and security grants, rural business grants, Community Development Financial Institution grants, the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps services programs, and grants meant to improve literacy and physical education.

Funding levels are ultimately set by Congress, not the president, and White House spending proposals are routinely ignored by lawmakers. Many of the proposed cuts are unlikely to end up in legislation.

[The Hill]

How Foreign Aid Helps Americans

Foreign aid projects keep Americans safe. And by promoting health, security, and economic opportunity, they stabilize vulnerable parts of the world.

For one thing, it helps prevent epidemics. The most recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people, but the death toll would have been much worse if the disease had spread widely in neighboring Nigeria, an international travel hub that’s home to 180 million people. What contained it? Among other things, a group of health workers who were stationed there for an anti-polio campaign. They were quickly reassigned to the Ebola fight, and their efforts helped stop the disease—and keep it from crossing the Atlantic to the United States.

Another example is America’s global HIV/AIDS effort, known as PEPFAR. There are 11 million people with HIV who are alive today because of the medicines that it provides. Many more never got the virus in the first place because of prevention efforts supported by PEPFAR.

This is not simply a humanitarian accomplishment. For those countries it means more teachers, entrepreneurs, police officers, and health-care workers contributing to strong, stable societies.

Better health puts nations on the path to self-sufficiency. How? When health improves, people decide to have fewer children, because they’re confident that the children they do have will survive into adulthood. As family size drops, it gets easier for countries to feed, educate, and provide opportunity for their people—and that is one of the best ways to stabilize any vulnerable region.

A more stable world is good for everyone. But there are other ways that aid benefits Americans in particular. It strengthens markets for U.S. goods: of our top 15 trade partners, 11 are former aid recipients.

US foreign aid represents less than 1 percent of the federal budget, not even a penny out of every dollar. It is some of the best return on investment anywhere in government. This money is well spent, it has an enormous impact, and it ought to be maintained.

[Read full article by Bill Gates]

Bill Gates meets Trump to argue for foreign aid

Tech billionaire Bill Gates met with President Donald Trump and highlighted the “indispensable role that the United States has played in achieving these gains,” his foundation said in a statement.

Gates wrote a blog post Friday to argue that the U.S. shouldn’t slash humanitarian aid. Spending on projects overseas helps “keep Americans safe,” Gates wrote.

“By promoting health, security, and economic opportunity, they stabilize vulnerable parts of the world.”

American aid, Gates wrote, helps prevent and eradicate epidemics, citing polio and Ebola as examples.

To illustrate the security benefits of international aid, he praised former President Bush’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS abroad with a program known as PEPFAR. Eleven million people with HIV are alive because of the program, Gates said, and “many more never got the virus in the first place because of the prevention efforts supported by PEPFAR.” What this meant, he continued is that there were more teachers, entrepreneurs, and other workers “contributing to strong, stable societies,” and Gates pointed to a study that showed that political instability and violence in African countries with PEPFAR dropped signficantly, compared to when PEPFAR was not in use.

[CBS]

International aid under the new US Presidency

Since coming to power, President Trump has signed a slew of executive orders. One, the executive order ‘Auditing and Reducing US. Funding of International Organizations’ aims to slash a minimum of 40% of funding to multilateral institutions, such as the UN and the World Bank. While the executive order is apparently being mulled over by departments concerned within the new administration, if it is put into effect without much modification, this order will have major international implications. The US is, after all, the largest donor of international aid in the world today.

It is understandable that the new US administration wants to cut its expenditures and focus on increased growth. However, there are other areas than the international aid budget, where such cuts can be exercised. This past year, the US military budget easily dwarfed the rest of the world. With a defense budget of around $597 billion, it was almost as much as the next 14 countries put together.

The new US administration’s proposed reduction of support to international organizations is troubling. Tackling the reasons of conflict instead of putting in place security-based interventions is the more sensible choice, as it is less expensive, and it also deters needless human suffering.

It would have also been great to see the US pay more attention to why the UN system, the World Bank, the IMF, and other major development agencies, continue to produce such lacklustre results in delivering human development goals. Tangible proposals by the new US administration to make the existing aid agencies more accountable would also have been welcomed. However, simply tightening the purse strings of available international aid instead, will not bode well for anyone.

[The Express Tribune]

United Arab Emirates $8.8 billion in foreign aid

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Chairwomen of International Humanitarian City in Dubai, called for establishing a data bank to allow governments to document their humanitarian work. 

The Humanitarian Logistic Data Bank will depend on of the use of technology in charitable aid for a quick response to those in need, said Princess Haya, wife of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, during the second day of the World Government Summit.

“We have to move away from conventional ways of providing aid. Innovation is necessary for humanitarian aid,” she said to a crowd of delegates, as she highlighted the role of smartphones in changing forms of aid in developing countries such as limiting the spread of Ebola in west Africa and targeting those in need in a quick manner. Drones and satellites were among the technologies that helped in providing aid.

Princess Haya noted that the United Arab Emirates has topped the list of donors to foreign aid, reporting a 34 per cent increase in 2015, reaching $8.8 billion.

She praised the UAE food bank initiative, recently launched by Shaikh Mohammed for the Year of Giving. “While reports show that current food waste is worth $2.6 trillion, which can feed three times of world’s population including the 800 million hungry people.”

[Khaleej Times]

Determining if developing aid to poor countries really works

It seems like a no-brainer. Before you spend big bucks on a massive effort to improve life for the world’s poorest — say, distributing millions of free bed nets against malarial mosquitoes, or offering thousands of women microloans as small as $200 to start small businesses — you should run a smaller scale test to make sure the idea actually works. After all, just because a project sounds good in theory doesn’t mean it’s going to pan out in practice.

Or maybe some totally different method wouldn’t achieve better results for less money? For instance, maybe the key to lifting women’s incomes isn’t helping them start a small business but helping them land a salaried job?

Yet for decades, questions like this have been left unanswered.

Instead  health and development aid for the world’s poorest has largely been designed based on what seems reasonable, rather than what can be proved with hard evidence.

However, in the early 2000s a growing movement of social science researchers have been pushing policy-makers to do “impact evaluations” of their programs.

[NPR]

Britain investigating ‘superficial’ foreign aid projects

British taxpayers’ money is being wasted on “superficial” foreign aid projects by some of the world’s biggest international bodies, Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel has warned.

Ms Patel told The Telegraph that her department will in the coming weeks “call out” foreign aid organizations using British money in “completely the wrong way”. And she disclosed that in future Union flags should be displayed on all British foreign aid packages, in a major show of “soft power” in the wake of Brexit.

Her department’s Multilateral Aid Review will be published in the middle of next month and will lay bare the way large aid agencies fail to get good value for money on British taxpayer-funded aid projects.

The last review in 2011 assessed 42 international bodies, judging them against performance indicators. Eighteen were judged to offer “adequate” or “poor” value for money. That review found there was “not enough evidence of multilaterals consistently delivering results on the ground, particularly in fragile states”.

“These organizations are there for their beneficiaries – not for their own self-serving interests.

[The Telegraph]

Some Israelis see $38 Billion in US aid as a failure

It was billed by President Obama as “the single largest pledge of military assistance in U.S. history,” a gift from the American taxpayer to the Israeli taxpayer, totaling $38 billion over 10 years, complete with squadrons of F-35 fighter jets.

But in Israel, the deal inked in Washington last week between the closest of allies has been met not with big love, but with mostly a collective “So what?”

Leaders in the Israeli defense establishment said the deal should have ushered in a new era of cooperation, but did not. They said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his mutual antagonism with Obama, blew it. Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak called the pact for the most advanced weaponry ever a failure and a sign of the withering relationship between the United States and Israel.

Several defense analysts pointed out that, after factoring in inflation and previous supplemental bumps in funding for Israel by Congress, the new assistance package represents less money than the past 10-year deal. Yair Lapid, a leader of an Israeli centrist party, warned that the White House demand in the pact that Israel buy military hardware from U.S. contractors–and not the Israeli defense industry–would backfire. Lapid said last month, “The only thing Israelis will remember from the deal is the unemployment line” in the nation’s economically hard-pressed cities.

Yet there are other views. David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel, published a column headlined, “Ungrateful Israel owes the US a simple thank you.”

[Washington Post]

Zuckerberg Chan fund pledges $3 Billion to banish disease

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla on Wednesday pledged $3 billion over the next decade from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative established by the couple, toward helping banish or manage all disease.

“We plan to invest billions of dollars over decades,” Zuckerberg said. Late last year, they had pledged to donate 99 percent of their Facebook holdings or some $45 billion to “advance human potential and promote equality.”

“This is a big goal,” Zuckerberg said, “But we spent the last few years speaking with experts who think it is possible, so we dug in.”

The first investment being made as part of what the Zuckerbergs hoped would become a “collective” effort will be $600 million for the creation of a Biohub in San Francisco. The Biohub will bring together engineers and scientists from three prestigious California universities to help the effort.

“Mark and Priscilla are inspiring a whole new generation of philanthropists who will do amazing things,” said Microsoft billionaire turned global philanthropist Bill Gates, who has made improving health around the world a top goal at the foundation he created with his wife.

[AFP]

Imagine how $5,000,000,000,000 could change the world

The U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost taxpayers nearly $5 trillion and counting, according to a new report released to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the attacks.

Dr. Neta Crawford, professor of political science at Brown University, released the figures in an independent analysis of U.S. Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Veteran Affairs spending. Crawford’s estimate includes budget requests for the 2017 operations in Afghanistan–which are poised to continue despite President Barack Obama’s vow to withdraw troops from the country by then–as well as in Iraq and Syria.

Separate reporting late last month by the U.K.-based watchdog Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found that the Pentagon could only account for 48 percent of small arms shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11–meaning more than half of the approximately 700,000 guns it sent overseas in the past 15 years are missing.

What’s more, a recent Inspector General audit report found a “jaw-dropping” $6.5 trillion could not be accounted for in Defense spending.

Crawford’s report continues: “Interest costs for overseas contingency operations spending alone are projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023. By 2053, interest costs will be at least $7.9 trillion unless the U.S. changes the way it pays for the war.”

And, Crawford notes, that’s a conservative estimate. “No set of numbers can convey the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how they have spilled into the neighboring states of Syria and Pakistan, and come home to the U.S. and its allies in the form of wounded veterans and contractors,” the report states. “Yet, the expenditures noted on government ledgers are necessary to apprehend, even as they are so large as to be almost incomprehensible.”

[Common Dreams]

A joint humanitarian and longer-term response to refugee crisis

The ongoing refugee crisis is unprecedented in scale and affecting people and places far from the scene of civil war and conflict. For years, most of the response to this crisis was entirely shouldered by a handful of countries and by humanitarian workers who risked their lives every day to confront an emergency that shows no sign of abating, and could last a generation or more.

And with the number of people fleeing their homes growing, it underscores the great need to find new solutions to help refugees and people in countries torn apart by conflict. For far too long, humanitarian and development groups have not worked together, but the situation today demands that we do so — immediately.

In particular, development organizations such as the World Bank Group can bring much greater levels of financing as well as experts who know how to put children in school and create jobs for refugees as well as people living in the host countries. Working with humanitarian actors and with countries hosting refugees, [World Bank is] developing financing with long-term, extremely low-interest loans that can support development projects at the appropriate scale.

The World Bank Group and six other multilateral development banks have agreed to collaborate more closely on creating jobs, increasing financing, analyzing the root causes of fragility and violence, and helping the Middle East and North Africa region recover once conflict ends.

Last year, the Bank Group developed a financing facility for the Middle East and North Africa, the goal in the next five years is to raise $1 billion in funding and turn that into $3 to $4 billion in long-term, very low-interest financing. Recently, the European Union joined eight nations pledging more than $1 billion in grants, loans, and guarantees to this fund supporting Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as recovery and reconstruction across the region.

[The plan is] to provide resources to low- and middle-income countries hosting refugees across the world, to be launched in September at the UN General Assembly.

[Huffington Post]

Somali Diaspora mobilizing in wake of World Humanitarian Summit

8 years ago Abdulkadir Ga’al fled the horrors of civil war in Somalia and ended up in Denmark. Since then, he has built a career as an employment advisor at the Copenhagen Municipality and he has been elected three times to the advisory board of the Danish Refugee Council’s Diaspora Program.

“Somalia is in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, health care, food security, water and sanitation,” Ga’al told CPH Post Weekly. “In March, the drought exacerbated by El-Nino hit Somalia with force and Somali Diaspora mobilized in order to organize fundraising events and send money and remittances to the people affected in those areas.”

According to the World Bank, in 2015 remittances were estimated to reach a total of 9.25 billion kroner (US$ 137,634,022) in Somalia and support 23 percent of the nation’s GDP. These numbers give a clear glimpse of the massive aid and effectiveness provided by Somali Diaspora.

Ga’al’s commitment towards his home country has recently been facilitated by the DEMAC project, which he represented at the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul, Turkey. Ga’al had the opportunity to interact with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, conveying conveyed his concern about the Kenyan government’s plan to close the Dadaab refugee camp, which hosts around 350,000 people. Ga’al stressed that Somalia doesn’t have the capacity to receive refugees back home as the country doesn’t have the resources to relocate the people.

“Ban Ki-moon understood the issue, while he highlighted the Kenyan government’s security concern. Being such a populated camp, it could be infiltrated by the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab,” said Ga’al. Ki-moon pledged to speak with the president of Somalia and the deputy president of Kenya about Ga’al’s concerns.

Moreover, while speaking with Peter de Clercq, the deputy head of the UN’s Assistance Mission in Somalia, Ga’al underlined the need for international humanitarian actors to recognize the Diaspora’s engagements in humanitarian aid as complementary actors, not as competitors. “We have geographical knowledge, we speak the local language, we have access to local community partners, we have relevant and timely information and we are able to provide direct support.” said Ga’al.

[CPH Post]

Nepal’s recovery only just beginning a year after earthquake

Many people here in Nepal pin their hopes on promises of foreign aid: After the disaster, images of collapsed temples and stoic villagers in a sea of rubble were beamed around the world, and donors came forward with pledges of $4.1 billion in foreign grants and soft loans.

But those promises, so far, have not done much to speed the progress of Nepal’s reconstruction effort. Outside Kathmandu, the capital, many towns and villages remain choked with rubble, as if the earthquake had happened yesterday. The government, hampered by red tape and political turmoil, has only begun to approve projects. Nearly all of the pledged funds remain in the hands of the donors, unused.

The delay is misery for the 770,000 households awaiting a promised subsidy to rebuild their homes. Because a yearly stretch of bad weather begins in June, large-scale rebuilding is unlikely to begin before early 2017, consigning families to a second monsoon season and a second winter in leaky shelters made of zinc sheeting.

Visitors who came here to assess the reconstruction expressed shock at how little had been done. In March, a German lawmaker, Dagmar Wöhrl, publicly warned Nepal’s leaders that private donations to foundations and nongovernmental organizations would no longer be available if Nepal did not use the aid soon. She said it was the first time in her seven years as the head of Parliament’s economic development committee that she had given such a warning.

“I had the feeling that someone has to raise a voice and give an input from outside, because time is running out,” Ms. Wöhrl said in an interview. “It does not help a single Nepalese if there are millions of dollars of donation money on charity accounts. The money has to be invested now.”

The Nepali authorities say they must maintain control over the actions of nongovernmental organizations and foreign donors. Bhishma K. Bhusal, an under secretary of the reconstruction authority, said, “We didn’t want to make Nepal like Haiti, where more than $14 billion has been spent, but still people are living in tents.”  Mr. Bhusal acknowledged that the reconstruction agency remained weak, with more than half of its 208 positions unfilled, because civil servants were refusing to accept transfers to an overloaded, much-criticized division.

[New York Times]

Refugee Camps are anything but temporary

More than 600,000 refugees have flooded into Europe this year. However, more than 58 million displaced people remain, mostly in the developing world. Millions are stuck in refugee camps, housed in row after row of tents, enduring the cold and blistering heat and dust that blows in from every direction.

There is a spirit of technological optimism in the humanitarian community that sees refugees’ problems as logistical issues amenable to high-tech solutions. In Turkey refugees use debit cards provided by the World Food Program to shop in stores rather than waiting for food packages. In Jordan, refugees get texts from UNHCR when aid money is deposited and then use an iris scanner to withdraw cash at an ATM. Facebook just announced it will bring the Internet to camps around the world.

Refugee camps are meant for short-term emergencies. They are supposed to be temporary way stations where displaced people can get medical care, food supplies, and shelter until they can either return home or be resettled elsewhere.

But although camps are designed to be temporary, the average length of stay is now more than 17 years. More than half of the world’s displaced people are in what UNHCR calls “protracted displacement.” In Nepal’s Beldangi Camp, refugees have waited 18 years to resettle or return to Bhutan. In the Republic of Georgia, people displaced from Abkhazia 23 years ago are still crammed into decaying Soviet hotels that have become vertical refugee camps. Many Palestinian camps, some almost 70 years old, are now outright slums.

In order to pursue the explicit goal of keeping displaced people from being stuck in poverty and violence or to achieve the implicit goal of preventing an even more massive influx of migration into Europe, donor countries must find a way to turn camps into places where people can rebuild their lives.

[Slate]