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organisations part of the problem, says NGO report
July 10, 2007
DAKAR, 10 July
2007 (IRIN) - Inappropriate aid policies are partly responsible
for the Sahel region-s poverty according to a strongly-worded
report issued jointly by 10 international NGOs to be released on
Wednesday in London.
which is called 'Beyond
Any Drought', is supported by a network of high-profile international
NGOs including Oxfam, the British Red Cross, CARE International,
Save the Children and Action Against Hunger, breaks with the usual
positive image of the work of aid agencies to say donor-funded projects
in the region are often based on "shallow analyses"
that ignore common sense.
"[Aid projects in
the Sahel] are almost always driven by externally imposed ideas
for development" and the majority of aid organisations develop
their programmes "on the basis of their own priorities and
their own visions" the report says. When designing aid projects
the views of locals are usually ignored because they are "unpredictable".
Once projects are set up, aid agencies often manage them in "narrow
and inflexible ways" that are focused more on looking good
to donors than measuring real improvements to people-s lives.
"This report is
not just an appeal for more money, it is an appeal for more and
better aid," said Vanessa Rubin, Africa Hunger Adviser at
CARE International, one of the ten NGOs that backed the study.
The report is the latest
in a string of stinging critiques of established aid practices in
the Sahel in the last two years that come from within the NGO sector,
as well as from the World Bank and various UN agencies.
The report highlights
a disconnect between the fact that donors and aid agencies recognise
that the problems of the Sahel are long-term while most projects
are only funded for one or two years. Even when projects are extended
they are still "far too short to bring about the kind of changes
that the projects envisage," the report said. Donors require
results after every year, even if that is not realistic.
More specifically, the
report says that donor pressure means aid agencies focus too much
on measuring the production of heavy, nutrient-scarce staples like
millet and sorghum while ignoring basic economic issues such as
whether people can afford to buy them. "Food security is too
easily seen as a set of technical questions, but is in fact based
on profoundly political issues... related to power and interest."
For over 15 years UNICEF
has stressed the importance of nutrition in children-s survival
yet that too is often ignored in the design of aid projects, the
The American government-s
aid agency USAID is singled out for specific criticism. It undertakes
what the report calls "risky" policies including the
dumping of thousands of tonnes of American surplus food stocks on
the continent. The report says that CARE, another of the NGOs behind
the report, is going to stop accepting USAID food on "ideological
and practical" grounds.
The report also wades
into the long-running policy debate over whether the Sahel region's
extremely high malnutrition levels mean it should be treated as
an emergency or just "under-developed", a distinction
that has important implications for donors as to what types of agencies
and projects they are willing to fund.
Emergency agencies who
rushed to Niger in 2005 after a flood of publicity about child malnutrition
there have complained that they are now being used in the country
as "fire-fighters for under-development" because emergency-level
rates of child malnutrition, child deaths, and ill health, are the
norm, not the exception.
agencies have argued that national development is the real emergency
and accuse gung-ho emergency relief organisations of jeopardising
their long-term relationships with governments in the regions.
The NGOs- report
says there is a "shocking" antagonism between development
and humanitarian workers in Niger and that the divide is a barrier
to successful development initiatives.
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