Wednesday, December 14, 2005
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The good news about tsunami aid
With the one-year anniversary of the Asian tsunami upon us, it's worth following up on the outpouring of aid that took place. All too often the topline numbers look impressive, but the follow-through is weak -- money is either misallocated or not spent at all.
So how has the tsunami aid worked out? Surprisingly well, as it turns out. The OECD's Development Assistance Committee has tracked oficial aid flows, and reports that the aid got to where it was supposed to go:
Two-thirds of the aid which the European Commission and the 22 member governments of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee pledged to countries hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami has been spent or ear-marked for specific projects, according to statistics gathered by the OECD....Click here for a glance at the country-specific tables.
Has the money done any good? Over at Foreign Policy's web site, Karl F. Inderfurth, David Fabrycky, and Stephen P. Cohen say yes:
[T]he danger existed that the tsunami relief story would play out like too many others: Aid pledges are made following the disaster, only to go unfulfilled as interest and attention wane. But tsunami relief has been sustained. Donors are keeping their pledges, NGOs have billions in the bank to spend on projects, and survivors continue to be cared for relatively well. Substantial government aid packages have been complemented by an astonishing level of private giving. For example, the U.S. government has pledged a total of $857 million, and U.S. private and corporate donations total at least $1.48 billion....When too much money is a problem, it's safe to say the aid effort has been remarkably successful.
Alas, as these charts demonstrate, the outpouring of aid for the tsunami has not been matched in other disasters. Whereas more than 80% of funding requirements for the tsunami have been met, aid levels for the victims of the South Asian quake have at only 30% of needed levels.posted by Dan on 12.14.05 at 12:32 AM
just read your interview, you gave at netzeitung. i agree on most of your arguments. overhere (switzerland) though, we are still quite far away of bloggers having an influence on opinion leaders...posted by: Polissilop on 12.14.05 at 12:32 AM [permalink]
just read the interview, you gave at netzeitung. i agree on most of your arguments. overhere (switzerland) though, we are still quite far away of bloggers having an influence on opinion leaders...posted by: Polissilop on 12.14.05 at 12:32 AM [permalink]
Yes - lots of aid flow, but the real problem is not a lack of funds but a lack of coordination:posted by: S.R. on 12.14.05 at 12:32 AM [permalink]
The relative effectiveness of Tsunami aid speaks to the relatively effective civil societies and national governments of the countries hardest hit. Given the parlous state of both in most of these countries within my own somewhat brief lifespan (think: India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka--good government? yes, really) this is heartening news.
Now if we ask why such stingy aid for equally devastated, equally suffering earthquake victims, I think we have to note quite a few factors. First, this one failed to capture the imagination of the fashionable media. Where were the celebrity telethons? The full page ads with well organized fund-raising campaigns? The front-page stories about how aid is not getting where it should (and how President Bush is to blame)?
Nor is it not surprising that people had a "what, again?" mentally given the rapid succession of terrible events of the past year and, more importantly, the fact that the earthquake happened within weeks of Katrina.
But above all, the association of Pakistan with terrorists is too closely linked in Americans' minds for the kind of generosity that was lavished elsewhere to be repeated there. Whereas Bush the candidate could be mocked for not knowing Musharraf's name, now everyone seems to know who he is and they suspect he is not a man to be trusted.
Americans are always portrayed as rubes who can't find their hometown on a world map. But perhaps the WOT has heightened their understanding of who can and can't be trusted with their tax deductible donations, and this is a semi-rational decision on their part.posted by: Kelli on 12.14.05 at 12:32 AM [permalink]
Color me unconvinced. That is, I don't think the differential responses to the tsunami and the earthquake are attributable to a lack of trust in President Musharraf.
Although the WOT may have made Americans somewhat more familiar w/ various parts of the world, I think most U.S. citizens would still be hard pressed to locate Sri Lanka or Indonesia on a map.
The more likely explanation, it seems to me, is "compassion fatigue," a result of the closeness in time of the earthquake and Hurricane Katrina. Another contributor, perhaps, is the absence of Westerners in the disaster zone and the related contrast between the expectation of a leisurely vacation on a sandy beach and the shock of the tsunami. Also, related to timing is the fact that the tsunami occurred during what is, for most Westerners, Christmas vacation, whereas the earthquake occurred in the midst of what was, at least in the U.S., a very busy news period.posted by: JRG on 12.14.05 at 12:32 AM [permalink]
It is healthy, I shall come on your site more often, thank.posted by: Heel on 12.14.05 at 12:32 AM [permalink]
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