(Written by Drew Mack)
The Crisis Caravan
Within The Crisis Caravan, Linda Polman tells of the basic, fundamental issues of aid to dilapidated states. She claims that aid too often goes to those that least needed and that those in desperation are forgotten about. Political elite, dictators, and various devious groups use aid to further their mission. It’s of great ethical debate on what “humanitarian aid” qualifies as since we’re all humans, however, because we pledge allegiance to plots of land and people within artificial borders, “humanitarian aid” is much more like, “patriotic duty.”Too often in wars, for example, are tactics such as limiting food and water supply to the faction one is warring against – essentially working to end the lives of those you’re fighting, even non-combatants.
At the end of Polman’s The Crisis Caravan, she claims that, “Aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa” and the points she makes are valid. Claiming that many aid organizations are not sufficiently transparent or just, and for some reason we are not questioning this. We see when an organization claims to be giving aid and without a second thought we pat them on the back and fail to investigate the legitimacy of their claims. Though they try to be “saint-like” and “do good,” but the reality is many NGO’s and charitable organizations are working for some political or economic agenda unbeknownst to the benefactors of said organization or the ones receiving aid.
In order to make humanitarian aid more successful, it should be less government driven and more driven by regular citizens. But I believe patriotism is too high in many countries to care about what happens to anyone else outside of the borders of one’s homeland. One issue Polman brings up is that media organizations use the people in need in order to gain traction, or funding, for specific projects in areas outside what governments are willing to donate for. By projecting the stories to the public, the issues and people in need gain more national attention and likely more money but there’s always a middle-man. The cost of using people’s tragedies and devastation in order to gain a profit is not ethically responsible or appropriate in any way.
But what are the alternatives to aid? Sure, money and resources are often times being misused and can actually end up backfiring on us in the long run – but I think that the solution requires an international oversight not run by one specific leader. A group of leaders such as the UN needs to create a firm that has a sole function of aid redistribution. We need to funnel our resources into this organization then they can redistribute it DIRECTLY to those in need. That way, an outside organization isn’t stealing funds or resources from those willing to donate and instead those in need are getting the aid.
This reading has made me realize that giving aid is a lot trickier previously imagined. It turns out that acquiring resources isn’t the most difficult part of aid distribution but rather deciding who gets what and from whom.
Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid? New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.