Kabul Tomorrow Sunny
Kandahar Tomorrow Sunny
Herat Tomorrow Sunny
Mazar-i-sharif Tomorrow Sunny
Ghazni Tomorrow Party cloudy
Jalalabad Tomorrow Sunny
Bamiyan Tomorrow Sunny
Zaranj Tomorrow Sunny
Mimana Tomorrow Party cloudy
The Killid Group
Humanitarianism - a business or a cause?Written by Aimal Dawi
Saturday, 23 April 2011 10:31
It's has become a normal practice for some foreigners to lambaste Afghans for corruption and misuse of external aid but little is investigated and reported about aid agencies, which have swallowed billions of aid dollars over the past decade.
If proved true, Greg Mortensen's scandal will be an irreparable blow to humanitarian work in Afghanistan. Until two weeks ago, Mortensen was widely revered as a role model in the mostly foreign-led humanitarian community in Afghanistan and Pakistan and his bestselling book "Three Cups of Tea" was read as a humanitarian bible by aid workers, diplomats and even soldiers. In a country where most aid agencies have lost access to vulnerable communities and some have even lost their traditional credibility as independent and impartial actors, Mortensen was popular for his independence, effectiveness and work in some remotest and insecure areas where the UN and other international organizations cannot tread.
Mortensen and his Central Asia Institute (CAI) were also popular in the U.S. where millions of dollars of donations were pouring to CAI's coffers every year. Even President Barack Obama donated US$100,000 from his 2010 Nobel Peace Award to Mortensen to build and maintain schools for rural children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
An investigative report "60 Minutes" by the U.S. television network CBS which was aired on 18 April, accused Mortensen of "lies" and abuse of charity funds for his personal interests. Mortensen allegedly used the CAI as a personal "ATM machine" and spent millions of dollars to promote his book - the money given to him by donors for philanthropic projects.
Off course Mortensen rejects the allegations. However, his murky finances speak against him.
Mortensen is not the only problem in the extravagant humanitarian community in Afghanistan.
On 14 April the UN World Food Programme (WFP) issued a stark warning: give us $275 million immediately or over 7 million Afghans will starve. Really?
Donors have already given $155 million to WFP but it says the amount does not meet even half of its annual budget. WFP says it has fed Afghans since 1963.
Like Mortensen, WFP does not specify how much of its over $430 million budget in 2011 will go to foreign staff's world-class salaries, armoured cars, R&R packages, office fortifications and other profligate spending but only warns about "hungry Afghans". Added to the problem is our inability to substantiate the allegation of over 7 million WFP beneficiaries and the quality of food aid they allegedly receive from the organisation.
Every year hundreds of millions of aid money goes to international humanitarian organisations in Afghanistan. Only the UN system (over 20 agencies, funds and programmes) takes over a $1 billion a year from donors for its Afghan operations.
It's easy and has become a normal practice for some foreigners to lambaste Afghans for corruption and misuse of external aid but little is investigated and reported about aid agencies, development and humanitarian, which have swallowed billions of aid dollars over the past decade.
Corruption is not part of the Afghan culture. It has been imported and propagated from abroad, just like many other ugly practices such as suicide attacks.