Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More media scrutiny of development aid

A column in The Christian Science Monitor calls for more critical reporting of the international aid business.

While there is plenty of reporting on corruption by governments themselves, the author claims that aid organizations themselves regularly cover up managerial dysfunction, including sexual harassment, by ignoring the actions of those responsible. This includes a UN agency director in Geneva lying about his age to stay in power longer, the misappropriation of US funds by private contractors in the Middle East, and the placement of inappropriate personnel in well-paid UN positions by in-house "mafiosi" to the detriment of more qualified individuals.

There are also turf wars among agencies supposedly designed to help the people.

Numerous projects, too, are poorly coordinated as a result of interagency UN rivalries or inappropriate expertise among contracted consultancy firms, and sometimes such initiatives are implemented for the wrong reasons.

But NGOs can be hesitant to criticize the strings that come with aid money, no matter how nonsensical they may be.

NGOs, which rely heavily on donor funding, can cite innumerable examples of aid that makes little sense, they are cautious about criticizing their benefactors. One aid administrator in London pointed out that even when known to be part of a questionable political agenda, "it's still your bottom line."

Some UN member states have presented a plan to revamp the international aid structure but the columnist concludes that Many member states, however, have too much to lose from a truly open UN.

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