The current model of international humanitarian aid from the West is not only ineffective but may be aggravating problems in the fragile states it aims to help, according to a new report.
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The report, entitled “Escaping the fragility trap,” from the London School of Economics and Political Science’s International Growth Center (IGC), says the aid community needs to radically rethink its approach to foreign assistance.
Fragile states are defined in part as politically unstable states “blighted by conflict and corruption” that “condemn people to poverty” and “drive mass migration.” They are also the root of some of the biggest problems in the world, including terrorism and human trafficking, according to the report which is published by the IGC-sponsored London School of Economics-Oxford Commission on State Fragility, Growth and Development. It says international assistance programs aimed at these countries have largely failed.
“Indeed, some of the things developed countries, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and donors have done have arguably made matters worse,” says the report, which draws on academic research and 20 commissioned case studies. “After decades of aid, many of these countries are as poor as they ever were – some even poorer.”
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Rather than continuing to follow the current three-pronged model of assistance – fast humanitarian emergency aid, treating fragility as if it has only one root cause, imposing Western democratic systems – the report calls for addressing widespread issues of “fragility” at a domestic level.
International assistance, aid and economic development should aim to remedy what the report calls, the “syndrome of fragility.” Agencies instead should accept that fragile states cannot be fixed instantly with the magic wand of emergency aid and should make domestic security a priority.
“Homegrown solutions and locally negotiated coalitions of governments, businesses and civil society are the things that will make well-designed international support more likely to be effective,” according to the report. “Donor countries, aid agencies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations (UN), development finance institutions, security forces, and NGOs … must stop setting out long lists of unachievable objectives and unrealistic timetables, and start working with governments rather than around governments.”
Assessing ‘Escaping the fragility trap’
• Paint a fair and accurate portrayal of global aid and assistance programs and their effectiveness?
• Ignore important factors that contribute to the difficulty of implementing foreign assistance programs?
• Ignore “success stories” of foreign assistance programs that follow current models?
• Base its conclusions on a broad enough array of studies and data?
• Repeat criticisms familiar to those in the humanitarian community?
• Offer solutions with a reasonable probability of success?
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