SOC376 WT 2015

Why We Should Care

Why do we as a nation feel the need to donate our time, money and resources to those thousands of miles away?  The vast majority of living Americans will never meet those receiving the aid or even get any sort of short-term benefit from these actions.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve read or heard “national debt is going to be a burden on future generations” or how Bush’s/Obama’s policies are ruining the future.  The reason developed nations support those in need is because it will produces long-term benefits for all parties involved.

 

The first question many will ask is: why should we care about what happens thousands of miles away when we have so many problems at home?  The world is changing.  Global economies, communication systems and technology have greatly reduced the impact of geographic separation.  Not only do we know what happens across the globe, we can also meaningfully impact those situations.  We, as human beings, have an innate desire to preserve human life.  There are laws in almost every nation that punish murder and actions that unfairly affect other peoples’ lives.  Today, with this ability to render aid all over the world, we can sow the means to preserve life all over the world.   President Carter once said, “if you’re totally illiterate and living on one dollar a day, the benefits of globalization never come to you.”  Imagine if you lived in a place that had no power, no medicine and no roads; the global community is rising and we can’t simply forget about those that aren’t yet involved.

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Some will inevitably scoff at the notion that America, already almost $17 trillion dollars in debt, will benefit from trillion dollar aid initiatives.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Take “Power Aid,” an initiative to increase access to power to sub-Saharan Africa that the United States has pledged $7 billion dollars to support.  Finally, after so many failed humanitarian missions, the global community is focusing on long-term solutions.  The initial goal is to provide power, but this program will eventually enable better medicine, communication, protection and industry.  These nations will become self-sustaining.  America aiding this cause will provide goodwill and strengthen global ties.  America has, deserved or not, an imperialist reputation in many parts of the world.  Helping, through assistance not force, will enable America to sway many of its detractors and create a stronger global community.  Need something more tangible?  This $7 billion dollar investment will greatly help our economy.  Maybe not today, but in the future.  So many are upset as what they see as a bleak future for American youths, and this is a great way to turn that around.   The Power Africa fact sheet states “Power Africa will build on Africa’s enormous power potential, including new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas, and the potential to develop clean geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy.  It will help countries develop newly-discovered resources responsibly, build out power generation and transmission, and expand the reach of mini-grid and off-grid solutions” (Fact Sheet).  Lending a hand today could very well lead to shaking hands in partnership tomorrow.  Not only will Africa’s economy benefit the African people, it will also provide another trade partner.  Like Hillary Clinton said, “The growth of the developing world presents a major economic opportunity for American business today and a thousand opportunities tomorrow” (Porter).

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We cannot, and should not, ignore those in need just because it is inconvenient or because they are thousands of miles away.  Ensuring peace requires that we help others in good faith. Want to help future generations? Then support initiatives like “Power Aid” that truly have the future in mind.

 

FACT SHEET: Power Africa. White House Office of the Press Secretary. June 30, 2012. Web. June 3 2013.

Jimmy Carter. NobelPeaceLaureates.org. 2002. Web. July 3, 2013.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times.  Viking Press. 2010. Print.

Porter, Charlene.  Foreign Aid Support US Economic Growth, Clinton Says. US Embassy. July 12, 2011. Web. July 3, 2013.

Lincoln, Blanche. Why US Foreign Aid Still Makes Sense. Politico. October 22, 2012. Web. July 3, 2013.

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The Importance of Critical Examination

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Recently, President Obama announced his new “Power Africa” initiative.  Its goal is to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, and to have universal access by 2030.  Obama said that the program is intended to “lift people out of poverty” and to “provide a light where currently there is darkness.”  I think that several aspects of this program are admirable, but there are some things that should be examined.

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by; the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business.  It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs. And it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.”  (Obama, CNN).  Power Africa is a development aid program that will do more than provide emergency aid, such as food and water, to the continent.  Electricity will help African nations develop and be able to become more involved in the global economy.  Obama said, “…we are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance.” (Obama, Al Jazeera).  This type of development aid will help Africans in cities and villages and on farms and ranches to boost their economies.

Obama has called Power Africa a “partnership” between America and the continent of Africa.  A two-way street of trade and investment between different nations will help build the African and American economies, while establishing a relationship between the two.  I have said before that the aid industry needs to focus more on interacting with people in a way that “validates their dignity, validates a partnership relationship, not the traditional donor-beneficiary weirdness that can happen- instead, a relationship that can promote respect and hope and this optimism that together we can move forward.” (Jessica Jackley, TED Talk).  I think the Power Africa initiative is a way for this kind of relationship to begin to be built.  Promoting dignity and not charity is key.  When Obama was asked if the US had done enough to help Africa, he said, “Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans.” (Obama, BBC).

American companies will partner with the existing power sector in Africa, building on the budding industry.  Developing clean energy sources will help create many new jobs, as well as continue combating global climate change.  This is especially important in African because the continent is suffering from deforestation rates that are twice that of the world average.  One new source of energy will involve a soccer ball that charges up a generator when played with.  “Obama will also see a new invention that places a generator unit inside a football, which can be taken home after a kick around to power up lamps or even mobile electronic devices.”  (Al Jazeera).

With all of these proposed benefits resulting from Power Africa, we must be careful not to be taken in by pretty speeches that seem to provide easy solutions to tough problems.  Poverty is a difficult problem with complex roots, and to say that it can be fixed with the implementation of electricity is naïve.  The Power Africa initiative is a respectable cause, but we must still be critical of it.

We must be careful that this does not become a “white elephant” project.  Linda Polman describes white elephants as “large, costly infrastructural development aid projects that are not economically viable. ‘We like building roads,’ a representative of the European Commission in West Africa [said] in 2006.  ‘That’s quick and easy.   You hire contractors, order up a shipment of asphalt and slice a road through the bush.  Looks good, especially is you paint some nice white lines on it, and you can write in your report that you’ve laid so many kilmetres of highway.  The fact that the country has nothing to drive on a road like that and therefore little use for it isn’t our problem.’” (Polman 196).  If the electricity that Power Africa is providing to Africa is the road, do the African people have the cars to drive on that road?  Do they actually have a need for power yet?  How many African people actually have computers or other objects that require electricity?  Will there be a system in place to educate the people on how to use technology?  Most of America has had access to the Internet for years now, yet many people still do not know how to utilize all of its benefits.  Electricity is not currently a large part of sub-Saharan African culture, so is introducing it this rapidly going to be helpful to the people?  These questions need to be asked, and their answers need to be examined before this project is implemented.

The Power Africa program seems like a simple solution to the root of many of Africa’s problems.  And if it were carried out to a tee, it would probably help many people.  However, I believe that there are too many cultural differences.  Sub-Saharan Africa is not set up to accept a technological revolution at this time.  It must be introduced slowly, rather than just dropping a few thousand miles of cables and helping open several hundred power stations.  The people must be taught how to use these new tools, or else it will be money wasted on projects that will not be used.  The good intentions of the Obama administration, as well as those of humanitarian organizations, must be cross-examined with realistic outcomes.

I think that the most important thing for us as responsible global citizens to do is to ask questions.  Make organizations and administrations responsible for their choices, as they affect millions of people.  Linda Polman urges us to “stop avoiding the questions and start discussing how to do better.”  (Polman 158).  “If we don’t ask these questions for our own benefit, then we should ask them for the sake of the people who’ll see our next crisis caravan move in.” (Polman 164).  Millions, if not billions, of people are affected by the choices of the few.  It is our responsibility to ask the questions that they cannot, to make sure that they are actually being helped and not duped.  The Dalai Lama said, “It is our collective and individual responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weaker members and to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.”  I could not agree more.  We need to ask the questions that hold organizations accountable, to make sure that we are effectively helping others.  Discussions about Power Africa are only the beginning.  It is time to step up to our duty.

 

Works Cited

 

“Africa: Obama Promises U.S. $7 Billion Investment in Power Grids.” AllAfrica. AllAfrica, 01 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <http://allafrica.com/stories/201307010610.html>.

Doyle, Alister. “Africa’s Deforestation Twice World Rate, Says Atlas.” Reuters. Reuters, 10 June 2008. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/06/10/us-africa-environment-idUSL1064180420080610>.

Hall, Wynton. “Obama Unveils $7 Billion ‘Power Africa’ Electricity Plan.” Breitbart News Network. N.p., 30 June 2013. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/06/30/Obama-Unveils-7-Billion-Power-Africa-Electricity-Plan>.

Karimi, Faith, and Matt Smith. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. CNN, 30 June 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/30/world/africa/south-africa-obama-pledge/>.

“Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 01 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-23133214>.

“Obama for New Model of Africa Development.” Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, 02 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/07/20137121455338874.html>.

Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

“Responsibility Quotes.” Do One Thing – Quotes for a Better World. The Emily Fund, n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.doonething.org/quotes/responsibility-quotes.htm>.

The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. Fact Sheet: Power Africa. The White House. N.p., 30 June 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/30/fact-sheet-power-africa>.

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Final: If Only The Weakest Could Benefit

One of the intentions for this “Power Africa” is aiming at China’s rising influence in Africa. While the United States have been preoccupied with smaller issues and crisis in many different regions in the world, China has been building significant relationships with countries in Africa. In The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, John Mearsheimer analyzed and stated that If China’s per capita GNP is half of Japan’s; China’s overall GNP would then be roughly 2.5 times bigger than Americas. Also he added that China has the potential to be more powerful than the United States. In his offensive realistic point of view, China will be an aggressive state for achieving its regional hegemony (Mearsheimer). Considering China’s nature and circumstances, it is a rational move for Barack Obama’s investment in Africa. In the Eyes of Others emphasized that “Neutrality and impartiality…are essential ingredients of effective humanitarian action,” (In the Eyes of Others). Although the campaign’s hidden intentions are not fully neutral, the legitimacy and the promising outcomes will surpass the downsides and problems of typical humanitarian movements.  At this particular matter that takes place in a less serious crisis zones, “Power Africa” campaign will eventually benefit more people.

“Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans.” quoted by Barak Obama and he continued, “And our job is to be a partner in that process, and Tanzania’s been one of our best partners. We are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance.” Rather than claiming and promising to support Africa unconditionally, Obama used the term “Partner.” This is one of the most appealing ideas that I have heard lately: teaching them how to catch a fish, not just giving them a fish. Certainly the United States will have benefits by the “Power Africa” campaign including keeping China contained and acquiring more access to resources and the markets. In addition, Obama applauded China’s investment in Africa and quoted that he welcomes the attentions that Africa is receiving from China, Brazil, India, and Turkey (CNN). Obama welcomes the rivals. These countries also have intentions behind their investments and aids. At the end of the day, they all want something from Africa. This can be led to a competition, hopefully a good competition. In this particular matter, at least the aid will not go to the warlords or oppressors who use the money to kill more people. There will be a lot of corruption from local governmental officers and persons whom dealing with electricity power plants. At the atmosphere like this, I welcome a competition. If more African people can get benefits from the supports, and if more African people can bloom their potential fully by electricity, I truly think that the “Power Africa” campaign is worth it.

While Obama visited Tanzania few days ago, not everyone was excited about, especially for those who are struggling for their survival daily. “There are some people who will benefit from his visit but for us petty traders and ordinary residents, who struggle daily to make ends meet, we are the losers,” said Dennis Mwendwa, 31, a street vendor. “For some of us have been roughly treated and others ordered to move their business away (during Obama’s visit)” (USA Today). Naïvely yet sincerely speaking, I want this plan to be unconditionally helping another human being, but not considering Africa as a tool. If this “Power Africa” can make a struggling African street vendor’s life, I will be more than happy.

When I asked him, he told me that a bajaj(three-wheel taxi) driver makes about 10,000TSH($8) per day(before gas and vehicle rent). If only this driver could gain more economic power, "Power Africa" is a success.

When I asked him, he told me that a bajaj(three-wheel taxi) driver makes about 15,000TSH($9) per day(before gas and vehicle rent). If only this driver could gain support and more economic power through Obama’s new campaign, “Power Africa” is a success.

 References

“In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid.” In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/book/perceptions/.

Karimi, Faith. June 30, 2013. July 2, 2013. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa” http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/30/world/africa/south-africa-obama-pledge/

Mearsheimer, John. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. Print.

Mwanzi, Josephat. “Obama, Bush mark Tanzania U.S. Embassy bombing.” USA Today.  (July 2 2013): n. page. Web. 3 Jul. 2013. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/07/02/obama-tanzania-africa/2481771/>.

Linda Polman. “The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?” New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.

Office of the Press Secretary. July 3, 2013. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/30/fact-sheet-power-africa

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“Access to Electricity is Fundamental to Opportunity this Day in Age”

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President Obama’s recent “Power Africa” initiative is an effort to double access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa (Fact Sheet…). With more than 2/3 of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa living without electricity, “Power Africa” promises new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas, and the potential to develop clean geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy, just to name a few things (Fact Sheet…). The United States has proposed to give $7 billion over the next five years to this effort with the hopes of making an impact on the continent of Africa (Fact Sheet…). According to President Obama, “access to electricity is fundamental…it’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business…it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy (Karimi & Smith).”

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I certainly don’t disagree with these statements but I’m wondering how much emotion was put into this speech when these words were delivered? Is the reason for the United States huge monetary contribution to Africa because we want to provide light for these children and help Africa become more connected with the world on a global economy spectrum? Or are there other motives behind the U.S. response to the current situation in Africa? According to a report by CNN, China gave billions of dollars replacing the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner (Karimi & Smith). Shortly after this was made known, the U.S. decided to contribute a large sum of money. It almost seems to me that the U.S. is trying to compete with China, because they are no longer Africa’s largest trading partner. Is this decision to help another continent coming out of the goodness of America’s heart and its desire to actually help? Or is the U.S. trying to be seen in a better light by other countries? In my opinion, it would appear as though the U.S. is not wanting to help as much as it is wanting to regain its power as one of the leading providers of humanitarian aid and trade with Africa.

According to a report by Al Jazeera, one million Chinese workers have moved to Africa doing jobs such as working in the telecommunications and mining industries (Essa). It is also mentioned that these Chinese workers are doing jobs that could be filled by every day Africans who don’t have jobs (Essa). China’s intentions to “help,” or so it seems that’s what they were trying to do, has almost backfired on them. With the hopes of creating a positive image of their country in the eyes of Africans has quite possibly created somewhat of a negative image at the time these workers moved to Africa. Putting many Africans out of jobs doesn’t really seem like the “humanitarian” thing to do, but since they have extended their aid in regard to “Power Africa,” I think they have once again shown a positive light on China. The article also mentions that Chinese efforts may be the best chance of kickstarting Africa’s future (Essa). Down the line if this prediction comes true, China will be the ones who appear victorious to the rest of the world because they gave Africa the boost that they need. If this ends up being the case, will anyone care about Africa or continue to help? Or will China receive all the attention for being the ones who “helped” while Africa is put on the back burner? Is Africa even benefitting from all of this? It seems that more of the emphasis is put on America and China and that no one is caring as much as they say they do about Africa.

In a book that I have read titled In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid, the author mentions that “in Kenya and Uganda, nearly all the people questioned associated humanitarian aid with charity, and, consequently, a sort of divine intervention (Abu-Sada, 40).” According to this, people in these countries are associating the work of American humanitarian associations as being a positive thing for their country. They feel as though the motives behind our sending aid is because we want to help. If this were not the case with the “Power Africa” initiative then it would be a shame that other countries have had this perception, just to find out it isn’t true.

Another concern I have is the extremely large sum of money being sent over the next couple of years to Africa. Through my reading of another book titled War Games, I have learned that money sent to victims in need of humanitarian aid oftentimes does not reach the people in need. This money is intercepted in transit and therefore not actually helping anyone who needs it. How can you ensure that the $7 billion will go towards the “Power Africa” initiative and it will all be spent to help these efforts? $7 billion is a lot of money to keep track of and make sure it ends up in all the right places. I think Americans deserve to be promised that it will all go towards this effort, when this money could be used to help people in our own country.

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I know I have asked a lot of questions but it is because I am concerned about the true motivation behind the U.S. offering up all this money. I would like to know the answers to my questions because I think these answers would benefit everyone in our country if they knew the truth about “Power Africa.” In an article by BBC News, when President Obama was posed with a question about whether the U.S. had done enough to help the continent (Africa), he responded, “ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans (Obama backs ‘new model…’).” How can this happen if other countries keep intervening and not allowing Africa to do anything on its own? Ultimately what I think it should come down to is the motive behind wanting to help. If a country’s true intentions are to make them look better than “help” is not what they are doing. Actually caring about the well being of the people in another country, then providing aid as such would be helping.

References:

“FACT SHEET: Power Africa.” The White House. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/30/fact-sheet-power-africa>.
Karimi, Faith, and Laura Bernardini Contributed to This Report. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/30/world/africa/south-africa-obama-pledge/>.
Essa, Azad. “Measuring China’s Motivations in Africa.” – Features. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/07/20137110258606419.html>.
“Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-23133214>.
Abu-Sada, Caroline. In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. United States: MSF-USA, n.d. Print.
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The American Benefits of “Power Africa”

President Obama’s new initiative “Power Africa” plans to “double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa” (Fact Sheet…). With the United States as a financial initiator, President Obama hopes that private investors will follow his lead in donating to this project so that electrical power will be provided to all of sub-Saharan Africa. On the surface, this initiative seems like it will have a tremendous positive impact on the continent of Africa. However, upon further investigation, the true intent of this initiative comes into question. As countries in Africa are plagued by malnutrition, disease, and war, is electrical power really the most functional way to provide aid? If not, who is really benefiting from this $7 billion dollar project? President Obama seems more focused on the political relationship between Africa and America, American interest in African natural resources, and profit for American electrical companies than on the true needs of the African people. The focus of this project must be shifted back to the residents of Africa or the ethnocentric nature of this project will cause it to end in failure

According to Gayle Smith, Obama’s senior director for development and democracy, “more than two-thirds of people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity, including 85 percent of those living in rural areas” (Jeltsen). It would be foolish to say that providing electricity to these areas would not be beneficial to Africa. In Erika Johnsen’s analysis of the Power Africa initiative, she explains “it is impossible to match the level of economic productivity and living standards of the developed world when a huge chunk of your already meager cost of living goes toward energy” (Johnsen).  However, this project must be executed with the right focus and attitude to really help the citizens of Africa.

Currently, the set-up of “Power Africa” seems to mainly benefit the American people. African countries have become of major interests to developed nations with their promise of undiscovered natural resources. As President Obama forces Africans into dependency on American money and electrical companies, America gains a political alliance with many of these countries. While this may be crucial for American foreign policy, this idea seems like an almost backwards way to provide Africa with electrical energy. Instead of helping Africa to self-sufficiency, this project is prolonging their foreign dependence.

In the book War Games, Linda Polman explains how ulterior motives have lead to great corruption in providing aid. Polman cites the War on Terror as an example in which political influence has lead to the corruption of aid. In Afghanistan, aid workers of neutral organizations are viewed in the same respect as the United States military. Therefore, many aid workers go into hiding and are afraid to walk to streets in fear of being killed. Polman explains “if such military and political intentions lie behind the giving of aid, then surely it’s not far from unreasonable if aid is received with equally military and political intentions in mind” (Polman). Africans will not be blind to the political intent of this aid. Do warring countries in sub-Saharan Africa want American support? Will they see this aid as a threat to their own existence? Aid workers may find themselves in a similar situation to Afghanistan, hiding to preserve their own lives. This will greatly reduce the scope of electrical aid the project is able to provide, and many Africans will suffer as a result. However, from an American perspective, this project is still functional. It will still provide the political security President Obama is searching for regardless of how far-reaching the electrical power extends.

Interest in African natural resources also seems to be an important factor to the Power Africa initiative. The press release issued by the White House explains “although many countries have legal and regulatory structures in place governing the use of natural resources, these are often inadequate.  They fail to comply with international standards of good governance, or do not provide for the transparent and responsible financial management of these resources” (Fact Sheet…). Therefore, President Obama believes he should step in and monitor these natural resources, and will undoubtedly keep American interests in mind in the process. Johnsen argues that much of the money invested in this project will never be used to light the homes of rural Africa, but will instead be used “on the romanticized renewable ventures that are having trouble taking hold even in the economically developed United States and Europe without skyrocketing energy prices” (Johnsen).  Is America truly more qualified to monitor these resources? By whose standards? With control over these natural resources, will President Obama deny their use in Africa for American profit?  This kind of ethnocentric attitude will undeniably result in corruption of this aid project. In the book In the Eyes of Others, contributor Antonio Donini warns that all aid workers carry this kind of “political baggage” that greatly impacts the recipients of aid. Donini explains that the superior attitude displayed by western aid workers does not go unnoticed by the victims, as “many will wonder about the patronizing attitude of the outsiders who were here one day and gone the next” (Donini). Although America may think it knows what is best for Africa, many African residents may have a different opinion when their own natural resources are no longer in their control.

 

A large protest group rallies on the streets as they march to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Arfica, in protest of US President Barack Obama's visit to South Africa on June 28, 2013. UPI/Charlie Shoemaker

Citizens of South Africa protest Presidents Obama’s visit to their county.

Finally, profit for American companies seems to be an undeniable result of this project. Johnsen reports “General Electric will be perhaps the biggest beneficiary of that $7 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds that Obama says will underwrite Power Africa.” (Johnsen). Furthermore, federal financial support will “reduce G.E. financial risks in Africa and will help it compete better against Chinese companies, which have been falling over themselves to invest in Africa” (Johnsen). These kind of financial motives are obviously not in the interest of African residents. Teju Cole warns against this kind of self-motivated aid in his article “The White-Savior Industrial Complex”. Although the American public may see nothing wrong with finically helping our own country while providing a service to Africa, Cole states that there humanitarian aid is more than “ ‘making a difference.’ There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them” (Cole). Have sub-Saharan Africans been consulted on receiving electricity? Has anyone even asked if they want it? Have they been told about American control of their resources? Has anyone explained the long-term American political goals of this project? Sadly, the answer is no.

President Obama has focused the functionality of “Power Africa” on American gains. All major benefits of this project are in the interests of the American public. This project not only is advantage for American politics, but will also help President Obama when public support with this act of “charity”. However, this project does not have to function properly in Africa for America to see these benefits. It does not matter if every sub-Saharan African receives electricity, America will still gain political alliances, have control over natural resources, and allow its own companies to profit. This project has been set up to fail from the beginning. Who is keeping the United States accountable for their promise of Universal electricity to sub-Saharan Africa? Who is monitoring the use of aid money for this project? No one. And therefore, the people of Africa will suffer.

President Obama presents himself as an active global citizen, but then funds aid projects with ulterior political motives. To be a true global citizen, we must learn to separate aid projects from politics. Disguising political advancements as acts of charity is deceitful and unfair to the recipients of aid. Instead, we must keep the interests of aid recipients at the forefront of the project. This includes asking aid recipients about what they truly need and keeping them informed about the project. As Polman points out, “governments and private donors give money based on newspaper headlines, not the extent of urgency and human suffering” (Polman). Aid workers must also be kept accountable for their actions. Aid money needs to be monitored to ensure it is only being used for the sake of the aid project. If “Power Africa” is set up to meet these guidelines, I have no doubt about its success in Africa. However, if the project keeps the same political tactics, I will be sorry for the residents of sub-Saharan African who will suffer as a result.

Below is a graphic summarizing Africa’s energy use and natural resources:

graphic

Sources:

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 June 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/2/>.

Donini, Antonio. “Humanitarianism, Perceptions, Power.” In the Eyes of Others. Ed. Caroline Abu-Sada. Doctors Without Borders, 2012. Print.

“FACT SHEET: Power Africa.” The White House. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/30/fact-sheet-power-africa>.

Jeltsen, Melissa. “Obama To Announce New Power Initiative For Africa.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 June 2013. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/30/obama-africa_n_3524836.html>.

Johnsen, Erika. “Obama’s “Power Africa” Plan: What Happens When Good Intentions Meet Political-economic Reality?” HotAir.com. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://hotair.com/archives/2013/07/02/obamas-power-africa-plan-what-happens-when-good-intentions-meet-political-economic-reality/>.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

Pictures:

Protest: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2013/06/30/Obama-announces-Africa-electricity-initiative/UPI-18321372602554/

Graphic: http://awesome.good.is/transparency/web/1101/african-energy/flat.html

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Power Africa

President Obama recently visited the University of Cape Town in South Africa to talk about his new initiative in Africa that doubles the amount of power provided to the citizens of Sub-Saharan Africa, a part of Africa where electricity is extremely scarce. Often times governments will boast about the large chunks of money they give to third-world countries without much direction as to where the money is specifically going to. “Power Africa” is different from other development programs in the past in that it works to improve a certain aspect of life for the citizens. Obama is looking to work with the people of Africa rather than above them to help provide better assistance that will last more in the long run.

The use of electricity and the mass distribution of power was one of humanity’s turning points in history. Electricity allows humans to increase efficiency in a variety of different ways and is taken advantage of in today’s first-world society. “Modern energy sources provide people with […] services that are essential for reducing poverty, improving health and education, and increasing incomes” (Worldwatch Institute). Providing those less fortunate with electricity will improve their lives drastically and provide one huge step in leveling the global playing field with those who often take electricity for granted.

A great aspect of Power Africa is that organizations are looking to work with citizens in Africa to further their development. In his speech Obama says, “we are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance” (Aljazeera). In “War Games”, Linda Polman stressed many of the pitfalls of providing humanitarian aid supplies throughout third world countries. Many of the resources end up not reaching those who really need it. The spread of electrical power is a neutral source of development aid that will be able to help everyone much more equally than charity that aims to directly increase wealth.

Power Africa works to increase the overall standard of living for people throughout Africa to help bring them into a more relevant spot in the world. This means that Obama’s initiative isn’t completely selfless, it’s also meant to benefit America as well as other countries tied to Africa. Obama clearly states that “[electricity is] the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of this global economy” (Karimi & Smith). For this reason, it isn’t completely a humanitarian aid project, and shouldn’t be viewed as such. Humanitarian aid, from a Dunantist view implies independence and impartiality, neither of which America is conveying with Power Africa. From a functionalist’s point of view, the initiative is a global partnership intended to further development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many of its positive functions achieve similar goals to those made by initiatives centered on humanitarian aid. Because it isn’t completely humanitarian isn’t a bad thing though, it still helps to alleviate human suffering in ways other than what it accomplishes directly.

Energy poverty is a huge problem in today’s world, having a stable source of electricity is crucial to staying out of poverty. In his speech, Obama said that he wanted to move away from more traditional forms of international development, partnering with Africa instead of aiding them. “Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans” (BBC, Obama), and Power Africa does just that. By funding this new initiative, America help level the global playing field by providing power to those in need. It also helps to benefit the surrounding world by bringing Africa into a more important and beneficial part of the global economy.

 

Aljazeera. “Obama for New Model of Africa Development.” Aljazeera. 2 July 2013. Web.

BBC. “Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 1 July 2013. Web.

Karimi, Faith, and Laura Bernardini Contributed to This Report. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. Cable News Network, 30 June 2013. Web.

Office of the Press Secretary. “FACT SHEET: Power Africa.” The White House. 30 June 2013. Web.

Polman, Linda. War Games. London: Penguin, 2010. Print.

Worldwatch Institute. “Electricity Access Still Insufficient in Developing Countries | Common Dreams.” Common Dreams. 2 Feb. 2012. Web.

 

 

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Who Does “Power Africa” Really Empower?

The Obama administration has recently announced a 7 billion dollar endeavor to “double access to power in Africa.” President Obama has said that the “Power Africa” movement is necessary because, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.” (Karimi) At a time when the U.S. economy is still struggling however, is there an underlying ulterior motive to promoting such massive investment and involvement in Africa?

President Obama recently visited South Africa, where he announced his new initiative to spread electricity throughout Africa. But are U.S. intentions purely out of humanitarian goodwill or are there other factors at play?

President Obama recently visited South Africa, where he announced his new initiative to spread electricity throughout Africa. But are U.S. intentions purely out of humanitarian goodwill or are there other factors at play?

This sudden U.S. interest in Africa comes just as China has begun to exponentially increase its presence in the country, now replacing the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading power. (Karimi) These recent decisions to become involved more deeply in Africa clearly do not stem from humanitarian goodwill, but are instead two countries’ thinly veiled attempts to mask their fierce competition to establish control over the oil reserves of the continent.

U.S. domestic oil production peaked in 1970, and has steadily decreased ever since, being unable to meet the demands of the population, forcing the country to place a greater emphasis on oil importation. This has created a massive change in an otherwise laissez-faire U.S. foreign policy approach for example, in the oil-rich Middle East (only becoming involved when U.S. interests are threatened – such as supplying weapons to fend off Russian forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s), seen most prominently through the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, in order to establish a military presence that would open the flow of oil into America.

Paul O’Neill, Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush said in 2004 “Already by February 2001, the talk was mostly about logistics. Not the why [to invade Iraq], but the how and how quickly.” (Juhasz)

The plan worked because, as Antonia Juhasz of CNN reported in a 2013 article, “Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms.” (Juhasz)

However, opposition to the conflict is currently at its highest since the start of the decade-long conflict that left an estimated 1.2 million people dead as a result of what Teju Cole describes as, “a war of choice”, with 56 percent of Americans saying they oppose the military efforts in Iraq according to a 2013 CNN poll.  (CNN/ORC)

With troop withdrawals estimated to bring the last American soldier home from Iraq and Afghanistan by 2014, the U.S. must find a new area of alleged humanitarian interest to exploit, and it is clear they have found the perfect candidate in Africa.

China is also in desperate need of oil, requiring more of it every day in order to keep up with the massive economic boom it has seen in recent years.

On a trip I took this past January to China, our bus driver in Beijing relayed a joke he had heard a Peking University economics professor use to describe the huge increase in infrastructure projects and emerging middle class across the country, he said that China’s national bird “is the construction crane.” Looking at the skyline obscured almost entirely by these tall metal structures, it is easy to understand why a city like Beijing, with a population of twenty million and counting, would need a great deal of oil to sustain that level of growth.

This inability to keep up with their massive economic expansion, coupled with the U.S. claim on Iraq as an oil producer, has forced China to look to other countries as the solution to their energy shortage – namely, Africa.

Pan Rui, an international relations expert at Fudan University in Shanghai, says that, “Iraq changed the (Chinese) government’s thinking. The Middle East is China’s largest source of oil. America is now pursuing a grand strategy, the pursuit of American hegemony in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is the number one oil producer, and Iraq is number two [in terms of reserves]. Now, the United States has direct influence in both countries.” (Goodman)

The "Power Africa" movement hopes to spread electricity throughout the continent, but it comes at the same time that China has begun to establish itself in the region. Could political interests be at the forefront of this campaign rather than the best interests of Africa?

The “Power Africa” movement hopes to spread electricity throughout the continent, but it comes at the same time that China has begun to establish itself in the region. Could political interests be at the forefront of this campaign rather than the best interests of Africa?

It is clear that control of oil, as well as a mutual fear that the other superpower will dominate an area of influence as lucrative as Africa, have prompted this increase in humanitarian effort and foreign investment.

The “Power Africa” campaign treads in dangerous territory. Specifically because of the way it intends to supersede community involvement, and simply institute the creation of a viable energy industry on its own.  The White House fact sheet for the “Power Africa” movement says that, “Instead of taking years or even decades to create an enabling environment for energy sector investment, Power Africa takes a transaction-centered approach that provides incentives to host governments, the private sector, and donors.” (Office of the Press Secretary)

If “Power Africa” truly wanted to keep Africa’s best interests in mind, it would work with the community to help a self-sufficient system, rather than establishing one that is solely dependent on foreign aid, keeping all of the power with the donors themselves.

I ask of both the U.S. and Chinese government, why are you only now so deeply interested and concerned for Africa’s well being? Would you still care about expanding electricity throughout Africa if it were not such a politically powerful and hotly contested area? Where were these billion dollar efforts when the Rwandan genocide was killing 800,000 people, but intervention and saving lives served no tangible U.S. interests?

We would do well to remember one of the four fundamental principles of the International Committee of the Red Cross, that they hold essential to an ethical and responsible humanitarian effort, that principle is described as “Independence” or, “Being free from benefactors.” (Polman) The U.S. is very clearly a benefactor from the “Power Africa” movement, but it has yet to be seen whether Africa will benefit or suffer as a result of such heavy-handed foreign involvement.

I urge our government to take a more cooperative approach that focuses on empowering Africa to power itself, rather than promoting our own self-serving interests, under the guise of a humanitarian effort.

 

Works Cited:

Office of the Press Secretary. July 2, 2013. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/30/fact-sheet-power-africa

Juhasz, Antonia. “Why the War in Iraq was Fought for Big Oil” April 15, 2013. July 2, 2013. http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/opinion/iraq-war-oil-juhasz

CNN/ORC. “In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?” http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm.

Goodman, Peter. July 13, 2005. July 2, 2013. “Big Shift in China’s Oil Policy” https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/12/AR2005071201546.html

Karimi, Faith. June 30, 2013. July 2, 2013. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa” http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/30/world/africa/south-africa-obama-pledge/

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. March 2012. June 13, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/

Linda Polman. “The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?” New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.

 

 

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Individual research: A Logical Way to Understand North Korea

People know about North Korea as much as they care about. A lot of people know North Korea mostly because of their nuclear weapons. Prejudices and stereotypes have turned North Korea into an evil nation. As there are not many sources and information to simply conclude analyzing North Korea, an objective point of view on North Korea is necessary.

Despite of international society’s effort to stop, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on February 12t, 2013. It was not just a threat but it symbolizes few things. Rather than using plutonium, it is believed that high enriched uranium (HEC) was used. It is significant as North Korea has developed their nuclear weapons by miniaturization and weight reduction. According to Der Spiegel, U.S. Geological Service, and Korean metrological administration, seismic wave of nuclear test was between 4.9 Mb and 5.2 Mb. These numbers can be converted into TNT equivalent and they are over 10 kt. The minimum level for a country to be ackowleged as a nuclear power is 10 kt and technically North Korea has met the standard as of their last nuclear test. Nevertheless, international society will not recognize North Korea as a nuclear power in accordance with the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation (UN).

As a result of the nuclear test, North Korea has aggravated their relationships with South Korea and the United States. The tensions have arisen globally and people around the world were disappointing as North Korea’s new leadership of Kim Jung-un is not different from the old leadership of Kim Jong-il. It’s is important to understand North Korea’s nature and motivations to objectively comprehend eccentric behaviors of North Korea.

North Korea has few motivations behind their third nuclear test: 1) developing nuclear weapons and the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) so that international society would acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear power. 2) To overwhelm South Korea militarily. 3) The relationship between North Korea and South Korea should be a vertical relationship as South Korea supports North Korea unconditionally. 4) Getting more revenues from external but not internal. 5) Strengthening ‘internal framework’ as giving more rewards to more patriotic officers (KINU). Continuing in nuclear development is one of North Korea’s tools to satisfy their wants and needs.

Here’s an another perspective to understand North Korea unbiased way. Until 1980, North Korea’s ideology was based on Marx-Leninism. Kim il-sung adopted his new theory, based on idolization, called ‘Juche (self-reliance) ideology.’ This unique government system of North Korea has been a dilemma for new leader Kim Jong-un due to its hereditary dictatorship. Kim Jong-un must follow his father, Kim Jong-il’s will. It’s the only way to keep the legitimacy of hereditary dictatorship that has been ruling North Korea since the Korean War. In Kim Jong-il’s will, he emphasized keep developing nuclear weapons and missiles so that they can take advantages in international meetings. Also in his will, unification with South Korea is vital and the war against South Korea should be avoided. The most interesting part of his will is that he called South Korea as ‘potential partner’ and reminded that North Korea should be alert on China as well even China is the closest ally (Joongang).

Kim Jong-un has been doing what he has had to do for stabilization of public sentiment and successive regime to gain legitimacy through practicing the will of Kim Joing-il. He followed Kim Jong-il’s will to satisfy the elites and high officers of North Korea for its maintaining status purpose.

On July 1, 2013, North Korea criticized the 2005 agreement and the hostile policies of the United States toward North Korea in ASEAN regional forum. North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear tests on the 2005 agreement that had been broken. Although it’s hard to predict when will be the next North Korea-the United States meeting regarding nuclear, North Korea is believed to use several plans in a negotiation table with the United States. The offers may include, freezing its nuclear capability at the current level, proclaiming nonproliferation of nuclear technology and its material, suspending Yongbyon plutonium plants, and accepting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s inspections on nuclear facilities (Jeon).

Among the many reasons to answer where did North Korea go wrong, brainwashing and idolization can be influential factors. These characteristics have locked North Korea and the collapse of socialism and communism since late 1980s has put North Korea in a worse and more isolated position (Understanding North Korea 2013). At this time, North Korea decided to push through by brainwashing their citizens, to the point where ‘other ideas’ do not exist for the citizens. As a result North Korean citizens blindly believed their government and status quo when the status has long gone for North Korea.

References

Cho, Hyeonsook. “Kim Jong-il’s first 44 clauses.” . Joongang Ilbo(Joongang Broadcast), 29 Jan 2013. Web. <http://article.joins.com/news/article/article.asp?total_id=10539397&cloc=rss|news|politics>.

Jeon, Seongwhun. “North Korea’s Nuclear Policy after its Third Nuclear Test: Analysis and Forecast.” Center for North Korean Studies, KINU. (2013): n. page. Print.

Kim, Dongsung. “International Journals of Korean Unification Studies.” Korea Institute for National Unification. (2012): n. page. Print.

“The 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” The 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Department for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations, 27 May 2005. Web. http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2005/npttreaty.html.

“Understanding North Korea 2013.” Ministry of Unification. (2013): n. page. Web. 2 Jul. 2013. <http://www.unikorea.go.kr/CmsWeb/viewPage.req?idx=PG0000000353>.

 

 

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Escaping the Comfort Zone

Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins. — Old Indian Proverb  This quote, I believe, embodies the global citizen lifestyle.  At its core, the movement is about understanding and appreciating the differences and similarities between cultures.  People like Heidi, Ken and Andrew go out and get their hands dirty.  They coordinate joint operations between two massive aid machines, watch over human rights and heal neglected prisoners and through it learn themselves and others (Cain, Postlewait, Thompson).  They purposefully throw themselves out of their comfort zones, facing down bullets and bug bites to help others, all in the name of cultural connectedness.  While not all of us will battle warlords in Mogadishu, we can learn to appreciate and understand other cultures and through this make the world a better place.

A great way to understand and immerse yourself in a culture is through travel.  I was fortunate enough to be born into a family with both the means and the will to travel internationally, a lifestyle that not everyone has access to.  We spent weeks in places like Ecuador, Morocco and Belize.  The time I spent abroad has without a doubt enriched my life and given me new perspective.  Thomas Bernier writes that travel can be incredibly beneficial.  Aside from providing health benefits, travel “gives us a new perspective about life and especially our life, it can help us change some of our habits or even create new ones.” (Bernier)

 

Traveling exposes you to new cultures and customs that you may have never imagined.  The key is to immerse yourself in the area you are traveling.  Instead of going to the burger bar at the hotel, try to a local favorite.  My father spent 6 months in Damascus living and learning in a mosque.  He left the soft life of college behind to go out and experience something completely different than what he was raised on.  Just as Ken wanted to leave the fake and formulaic life of Harvard behind, my father put his education on hold to enrich himself culturally.  No university can offer that.

Yet universities often try to condense this cultural osmosis.  They set up month long service trips where students build schools and teach children.  And institutions of higher learning are not the only culprits.  Missionaries of all faiths descend on poor and rural communities, preaching salvation and God from their hotel rooms.  These groups are missing the point of travel, to lose yourself in a locale and culture.  If you are to take anything meaningful away from travel you must throw yourself out of your comfort zone.  Eat those fried crickets and visit the local place of worship.  Get out of your bubble. 

In my experience travel is not the only way to get out of your comfort zone.  Debate and discussion in their many forms are an incredible way to exchange ideas and vet said ideas against one another.  By arguing in a respectful way we can all bring our ideas to the table, often times surprising each other with perspectives that we may never have imagined.  A study by Joe Bellon found that debate can “arouse conceptual conflict, subjective feelings of uncertainty, and epistemic curiosity; increase accuracy of cognitive perspective-taking; promote transitions from one stage of cognitive and moral reasoning to another; increase the quality of problem solving; and increase creativity” (Bellon 6)  In short, debate helps us realize that not everything in life is black and white, the truth lies in the shades of grey.  Even if two parties can agree on the facts (a rare occurrence), their differing values can result in any number of interpretations.  What bothers me most is that as a society we in many ways shun productive debate.  We are far more scared of insulting one another than coming to meaningful understanding.  They say you should never talk about sex, God or politics with your friends lest you accidentally insult them.  I would contend that some of the best and most productive conversations hinge on these topics.  As a society we need to do a better job of getting out of our ideological comfort zones so that we can have these meaningful conversations.

Once again I find myself thankful for my upbringing.  I was raised without any kind of religion.  Instead I attended Jewish Bar Mitzvahs, Catholic mass and Buddhist ceremonies.  I went to a public school where a majority of students were Hispanic, African American, Albanian or Asian.  70% of the student body was on free or reduced lunches.  While my neighborhood friends attended private schools filled with people culturally similar to them, I was raised in a melting pot of 2,600 students.  I learned to appreciate differences in culture and I am better off for it.

Instilling a desire to explore and be comfortable outside of ones comfort zone is often difficult.  Adults are frequently set in their ways and can become angry and violent if pushed too far.  The best place to begin cultivating the precepts of global citizenry is at an early age.  “Education must be a priority. Global Citizenship is not an additional subject – it is an ethos. It can best be implemented through a whole-school approach, involving everyone with a stake in educating children, from the children themselves to those with teaching and non-teaching roles in the school, parents, governors/school board members, and the wider community.” (Teichert)  Furthermore,  “traveling abroad and having a wide range of experiences can open a young mind to all sorts of ideas and possibilities that will affect their thinking and understanding for the rest of their lives, even if they never again get the chance to travel.” (Banes)  This understanding is what we need to cultivate.  By breaking the negative cultural feedback loop so many people fall into we can create a new generation of global citizens.

Works Cited
Banes, Karen. “Educational Travel and the Benefits to Children.” Helium. Helium, 14 Apr. 2008. Web. 01 July 2013.
Bellon, Joe. “A RESEARCH-BASED JUSTIFICATION FOR DEBATE ACROSS THE CURRICULUM.” Argumentation & Advocacy, Winter 2000, Vol. 36 Issue 3, P161-175. 36.3 (n.d.): 161-75. Groups.wfu.edu/debate/MiscSites/…/dEBATEACROSSTHECIRC.doc‎. By: Joe Bellon, Georgia State University. Web. 1 July 2013.
Bernier, Thomas. “The Benefits of Traveling.” INeedMotivation.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 July 2013.
Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.
Teichert, C. “What Is Global Citizenship?” What Is Global Citizenship? N.p., 26 Nov. 2009. Web. 01 July 2013.
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Humanitarian Aid: Conflict Resolution

Humanitarian Aid functions as a way for governments and people all around the world to contribute to those in need.  “Humanitarian aid’ is aid and action designed to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity” and “is intended to be governed by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence” (GHA).  Violent conflicts produce some of the most abhorrent conditions that such aid aims to alleviate.  Children can become soldiers and casualties, entire ethnic groups may be targeted, and these are just a few of the many horrors that occur.  Aid in such situations needs to be held to a higher standard.  These aren’t education mission; lives are at stake.  Wasted time and money could otherwise save those caught in conflict.  However, not only does aid in its current form function inefficiently, its short-term mindset can also produce long-term problems.

 

Administering aid in conflict zones is a precarious ordeal; organizations have to deal with foreign governments, local leaders and hostile conditions.  This is not an excuse for poor performance, though.  We are in an age of smaller margins and greater efficiency, so there has to be a viable solution for delivering greater help, but first humanitarian organizations need to ensure that they aren’t doing more harm than good.  For example, if an organization desires to deliver aid to people suffering under an abusive group, then it most likely will have to negotiate with this group to be able to do so.  But, as Professor Keen of the London School of Economics points out, “providing aid in this way without drawing attention to human rights abuses tends to legitimize this underlying abusive process” (Keen).  So now, instead of helping those in need the agency has already given power to the abusers.

  1161438_stock-photo-poor-children-poverty-distribution-of-humanitarian-aid-food

This added legitimacy, combined with the power of controlling when, where and how much aid can be delivered, can actually fuel conflict.  An armed group persecuting civilians is a huge problem, but give this armed group access to clean food, water and medical attention and that problem skyrockets.  Not only can this directly benefit the abusers, but it can also serve as a source of power.  If locals need clean water or food, then they may have to go through the same group that is persecuting them.   Linda Polman in War Games asks “Should international non-governmental organizations carry on providing relief if warring factions use aid for their own benefit, thus prolonging the war?” (Polman)  Global Aid in 2011 was 15.1 billion dollars (US), isn’t it time we spent some of that money finding a better solution?

 

Humanitarian Aid groups rely on one thing to operate: donations.  This is their most important resource and many times the main influence for their direction.  This is in direct conflict with the goals of humanitarian aid.  If the goals are to save lives and alleviate suffering, shouldn’t that dictate where aid is given? Instead, organizations flock to the latest crisis instead of focusing on their current task.  Linda Polman describes this as “contract fever” (Polman).  This behavior shifts the focus from providing help to generating donors.  Another problem with this behavior is that it relies on the ‘trendy’ crisis, yet public attention is usually short-term and fairly fickle.  Everyone may be talking about the earthquake in Haiti today, but if a Tsunami strikes in Indonesia tomorrow then Haiti will be on the backburner.  Tiger Woods’s affair alone took attention completely away from many world events.  Another example of the pitfalls of operating in such a way is education. A UNESCO report found that “education accounts for just 2% of humanitarian aid, and only a small fraction of requests for humanitarian aid for education are met” (UNESCO).  Education is one of the building blocks for long-term, peaceful solutions.  Education helps those in need be better able to provide for and protect themselves. Education isn’t sexy, though.  Children reading in a new school doesn’t catch attention like refugees missing limbs or aid workers handing out boxes of food.

 warzone

The last major problem with humanitarian aid in conflict areas in that of politicized influences.  Neutrality is crucial to successfully delivering aid in both the short-term and long-term.  That abusive group won’t be as willing to let you into their territory if they think you are wing of the US military. Political relationships, just like public attention, can wax and wane.  An aid group from a particular country may be loved one day and despised the next completely because of unrelated actions by their government.  Referencing US aid work in Mali, William Moseley writes, “recipients sense that their welfare is not the real priority and fear political interference. Development aid for its own sake is the best way to maintain strong allies in the region and foster healthy, pluralistic societies” (Moseley).  Locals won’t be as willing to cooperate if they know that aid is just a tool for some greater goal.  The welfare of the people must be the ultimate goal.  Without trust these aid programs have a much larger chance of being unsuccessful.  Why would you wholeheartedly change your lifestyle if you thought those helping you were only using you for their own means?

 

Aid in conflict zones by its very nature is difficult, but we have to do better.  Those trapped in war torn areas need help and may have no other way of escaping the atrocities.  Aid organizations need to be smarter about how they spend their money.  If they were more efficient with their money they wouldn’t need as many donations to perform the same job, and maybe then the new disaster wouldn’t take precedent over the current one.

 

 

 

Beaumont, Peter. War zone aid ‘fuels more conflicts.’ The Guardian. January 13, 2007. Web. June 30, 2013.

Data and Guides. Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA). Web. June 30, 2013.

Keen, David. Aid and Development in the Context of Conflict. Food Insecurity in Protracted Crises. September 14, 2012. Web. June 30, 2013.

Moseley, William. Stop the Blanket Militarization of Humanitarian Aid. Foreign Policy. July 31, 2009. Web. July 1, 2013.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. 2010. Print.

Spang, Lyra. The Humanitarian Faction: The Politicization and Targeting of Aid Organizations in War Zones. International Affairs Review. Web. July 1, 2013.

World Humanitarian Data and Trends. OCHA. 2012. Web. June 30, 2013.

 

 

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