One of the books we are reading in class is The Crisis Caravan written by Linda Polman. In this book, she looks into the industry of Humanitarian Aid. She claims that these humanitarian aid organizations’ heart is generally in the right direction. However, there are some flaws that prevent them from being the saints as they claim to be. For this week, we had to read selected pages from chapter 3, all of chapter 5, and the afterword. In these sections she brings up some good points.
One point that struck me at first comes from chapter three. Here, Polman talks about religious MONGO’s. She says that these are the fastest growing kind of MONGO. They mainly get funding to go out to these places and try to help out. She criticizes them as more concerned about evangelicalism (giving them religious texts) rather than helping people by giving them relief (giving them food and water).
The fifth chapter of Polman’s book is called Aid as a Weapon of War. In this chapter, she explains that opposing factions in war take advantage of humanitarian aid. She means that faction sympathizers go in and get the supplies from these aid organizations to help fuel a faction. With the refueling, that faction can fight a little longer in the war that might be raging in an area. Since the war can be extended, these organizations will need to use more time and resources to give aid to the region.
Not all of these organizations are sometimes blindly helping the factions of war, they are guilty enough to make agreements with some of these enemies. They do this in order to get protection or to make money. Since these organizations have little regulation, they are free to make these deals and not release info to the public or other organizations.
In the afterword, Polman brings up a couple of questions. Her first one is, “Where does the balance lie, if we weigh up the positive effects of aid against its exploitation by warring parties?” I think that the balance should be that we find ways to give, but make sure we do background checks on where our aid is going to make sure that it is not going to a faction that extend the humanitarian crisis. The second one is, “At what point do humanitarian principles cease to be ethical?” I believe that when the organizations are more focused on paying themselves handsomely or “‘shaking hands with the devil’”, they turn away from being ethical. I also believe that they are more concerned about brushing up unethical practices under the carpet in order to maintain a great reputation. If there were more laws to create transparency, I believe people will find out the truth and low/stop donating. Since donations will be lower, the organization can redraw how they run themselves and go back to what they were originally founded to do and that was to help others in a time of need.
When Polman says that “Aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa”, she means that these organizations are around to make a profit. They can claim to varying degrees that they use monetary donations to give aid to people in need, but a portion of the money goes to executives. Some of these executives will make six or more figure salaries. In a way, they are more focused on making sure their workers are well paid rather than helping those who have nothing.
As an outsider of these organization, I believe that journalists, the public and governments need to do a better job of keeping these companies more accountable with their missions. By that, there needs to be more ways where these are transparent in the records that any external stakeholder can easily fact check. It allows people who are interested in wanting to help these organizations with money or time know what and where they are helping out. If someone has been blindly donating to any of these organizations, they will get to see where their resources are being used. If they think it is being used unwisely, they can stop the donations and maybe give it to another organization that can better use it.
Usually, when you hear of some of organizations, you always think that they are on a noble quest. However, there is some corruption in them that taint their reputation. I think that we the people should help out other humans in need no matter their background. Some of these organizations are good at doing that. As someone who doesn’t make a lot of money, I don’t usually to donate to them. When I get a job and make a decent paycheck, I will definitely want to donate to these companies. However, before I make a donation, I will do research and make sure that I think they are a good organization and will be using the financial contribution I give them wisely.