Archive for the ‘International Development’ Category

12
Nov
Children peek out from their makeshift shelter in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan tore through eastern and central Philippines on November 10th

Children peek out from their makeshift shelter in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan tore through eastern and central Philippines on November 10th

Weather forecasters had given warning before Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines that the storm was extraordinarily powerful. That it was extraordinarily destructive became clear to all when the typhoon landed on the east coast November 8th. Three days later it has become apparent that the storm was also extraordinarily deadly; the survivors will require an colossal relief effort just to stay alive.

Before the typhoon landed, meteorologists had detected wind speeds of 313kph (194mph) near the centre, gusting up to 378kph, making it one of the strongest storms ever recorded. It whipped up giant waves that crashed ashore. Between them, the wind and waves ploughed through coastal communities, crushing buildings as if they were cardboard, tossing boats and cars around like toys and sweeping people to their deaths. The storm charged across the middle of country from east to west, drenching everything in its path with driving rain. Homes and crops that the wind failed to destroy were left at the mercy of flooding and landslides brought on by the rain.

A picture of the amount of death and destruction caused began to emerge only after the storm had swept out over the South China Sea, heading towards Vietnam. Witnesses spoke of corpses littering the wrecked city of Tacloban, on the east coast, which felt the full force of the storm. They spoke of dazed survivors wandering streets strewn with debris, begging for help. “From the shore and moving a kilometre inland, there are no structures standing. It was like a tsunami,” said the interior secretary, Manuel Roxas, after inspecting the destruction from a helicopter. “I don’t know how to describe what I saw.”

The responsible authorities were powerless to find out the extent of the disaster, let alone bring relief. In Tacloban and elsewhere, the electricity supply, the water supply and telephone communications were among the first casualties. The local authorities were unable to help survivors as public servants were unable to report for duty. Fallen trees and power lines had blocked roads and floods had swept away bridges. More out-of-the-way places were beyond help. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on November 11, 2013.

 

6
Nov

By Peter Tan Keo

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Foreign aid has a long track record. The biggest upside appears to be the injection of large sums of money into developing countries otherwise gripped by poverty, war and conflict. For better or worse, that money should, in theory, improve lives and raise people out of poverty, leading to sustainable growth and development. The unfortunate truth, however, is that foreign aid has often presented more challenges than opportunities to aid recipients. In the sixty-plus years aid has been mandated by government – versus relying solely on private donations – we’ve seen small improvements across the globe, from reducing poverty to slowing population growth to curing and preventing diseases. Progress that otherwise would have been absent without an outpouring of foreign support.

However, the impact from aid has not been proportionate to the amount of money donated. Foreign aid’s biggest downside is that no clear, effective system has been put in place to hold aid recipients and their governments accountable for resources illegally taken from public sector coffers – a long-standing, and still very present, trend from Asia to Africa to Latin America/Caribbean to Europe. Unfortunately, the absence of that system reinforces social inequities and perpetuates cycles of political abuse that has led to a sophisticated new form of authoritarianism – one that empowers the elite few, while keeping a majority of people in abject poverty.

Discussions about foreign aid remind me of James Bovard’s nominal 1986 article, “The Continuing Failure of Foreign Aid.” Analyzing world events over a period of more than 40 years, Bovard argues convincingly that the success of foreign aid is often measured by intentions, not results. Using the U.S. as one example, Bovard writes, “[F]oreign aid has routinely failed to benefit the foreign poor…the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] has dotted the countryside with “white elephants”…the biggest…of them all – a growing phalanx of corrupt, meddling, and overpaid bureaucrats.”

This trend is apparent in countries like Cambodia.

Sophal Ear, an assistant professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, is among a handful of scholars to write persuasively about the dark underbelly of foreign aid in Cambodia. His argument, clearly presented in Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, is this: “[E]ven though aid is meant to encourage development, aid dependence results in bad governance, stunting development.” Two pages later, he goes on to note, “I am convinced that, on balance, the long-term effects of aid dependence have made it difficult, if not impossible, for Cambodia to take ownership of its own development.” Read more…

As published by The Diplomat on November 5, 2013.

24
Sep

By Faezeh Samanian

Gender discrimination is still an issue, especially in high office, but progress is being made.

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Nearly 35 years after the Islamic Revolution, gender discrimination is still a challenging issue for Iran. On the one hand, the situation for Iranian women has improved considerably in many respects under the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). On the other, there is a clear and seemingly impregnable ceiling for women in administrative and government positions.

Iranian Women Under the Islamic Republic

In some ways, women have enjoyed significant gains under the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowhere is this more true than in education. In 1976, on the eve of the Revolution, the female literacy rate was a mere 35 percent. Despite the turmoil of the revolution and the imposed war with Iraq, by 1986 this rate had risen to 52 percent. Today, Iranian girls between the ages of 15 and 24 enjoy near universal literacy.

These gains are also reflected in education levels, which have greatly improved as part of the IRI’s commitment to providing universal education. For example, the female enrollment rate for primary education institutions is actually higher than it is for males. Women also graduate from their primary education programs at the same rate as their male counterparts. And despite new restrictions on what they can study, Iranian women are also strong participants in secondary education, with the female general enrollment rate in secondary education about 86 percent of the male rate.

In many ways, the high female education rate also extends to employment, especially since 1992 when the High Council of the Cultural Revolution adopted a new set of employment policies for women. Although women are unemployed at a rate of roughly twice that of men, one-third of doctors, 60 percent of civil servants, and 80 percent of teachers in Iran are women, according to the British historian Michael Axworthy.

One area where Iranian women continue to face clear obstacles is in the upper reaches of the Iranian government. For example, around 30 women signed up to run for president earlier this year, but the Guardian Council – Iran’s constitutional watchdog – rejected their candidacies based solely on gender. As Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdii, a conservative cleric and member of the Guardian Council explained at the time, the “law does not approve” of women running for president. Read more…

As published by The Diplomat on September 22, 2013.

18
Sep

The struggle to find a diplomatic solution on Syria within the Security Council exposed the need for a new global decision-making body.

By Jim Arkedis

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In March of 2011 and just hours before the United Nations Security Council vote, Libyan dictator Muammar Ghaddafi promised citizens of Benghazi–his own countrymen–that he was “coming tonight” and that would show them “no mercy and no pity.” Gaddafi’s brazen statement telegraphed an impending attack with a high possibility massive civilian casualties.

In the Security Council immediately following Gaddafi’s threats, Russia and China–two permanent members with noted authoritarian governments themselves–abstained from voting on resolution 1973, which authorized “all necessary measures to protect civilians… including Benghazi.” (Germany, Brazil, and India, then-rotating members of the Security Council, abstained as well for their own reasons.)

In hindsight, Russia seems to have regretted its abstention. In January 2012, speaking about the growing civil war in Syria, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Australian TV that “the international community unfortunately did take sides in Libya and we would never allow the Security Council to authorize anything similar to what happened in Libya” in Syria.

That seems odd, because “what happened in Libya” was, on balance, a good thing: A sustained NATO air campaign unquestionably protected many more innocent civilians than it harmed and weakened Gaddafi’s forces en route to his downfall. What’s more, the Libya operation served as validation for those supporting the “responsibility to protect,” a 2006 Security Council mandate that called on parties involved in armed conflict to bear primary responsibility to protect civilians, approved by a unanimous 15-0 vote.

NATO’s mission in Libya seems to have fundamentally changed Moscow’s calculus. Russia’s firm opposition to any resolution authorizing military action against its client-state derailed American, French, and British hopes of a “legal” intervention. Russian President Vladimir Putin went a step farther, pointing out the illegality of military action without a UN mandate:

Under international law the only body that can authorize using weapons against a sovereign state is the UN Security Council. Any other reasons and methods to justify the use of force against an independent and sovereign state are unacceptable and they can be seen as nothing but aggression.

This is, of course, a rich statement from the man who invaded the Republic of Georgia in 2008 with 9,000 troops and 350 tanks and nary a Security Council vote in sight. But if Putin’s calculation is that standing for the sanctity of the Security Council is the best way to protect Russia against anything hinting of intervention, it’s clearly his best trump card. Read more…

Jim Arkedis is a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and was a DOD counter-terrorism analyst.

As published by The Atlantic on September 17, 2013.

9
Sep

By Bill Keller

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The United States has just spent thousands of American lives in a distant land for a victory that now seems hollow, if indeed it can be called a victory at all. Our own country, moreover, is emerging from a recession, dispirited and self-absorbed, worried about the fragility of the recovery and the state of our democracy. Idealism is in short supply. So, as another far-off war worsens, Americans are loath to take sides, even against a merciless dictator, even to the extent of sending weapons. The voices opposed to getting involved range from the pacifist left to the populist right. The president, fearful that foreign conflict will undermine his domestic agenda, vacillates.

This is the United States in 1940. Sound a little familiar?

I’ve been reading two engrossing new histories of that time — “Those Angry Days” by Lynne Olson and “1940” by Susan Dunn — both focused on the ferocious and now largely forgotten resistance Franklin D. Roosevelt had to navigate in order to stand with our allies against Hitler.

Of course, 2013 is not 1940. The Middle East is not Europe. President Obama is not F.D.R. But America is again in a deep isolationist mood. As a wary Congress returns from its summer recess to debate Syria, as President Obama prepares to address the nation, it is instructive to throw the two periods up on the screen and examine them for lessons. How does a president sell foreign engagement to a public that wants none of it?

The cliché of the season is that Americans are war-weary from our long slogs in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is true, but not the whole story. To be sure, nothing has done more to discredit an activist foreign policy than the blind missionary arrogance of the Bush administration. But the isolationist temper is not just about the legacy of Iraq. Economic troubles and political dysfunction have contributed to a loss of confidence. Add to the mix a surge of xenophobia, with its calls for higher fences and big-brotherly attention to the danger within. (These anxieties also helped give rise to the expanding surveillance state, just as nativism in that earlier period gave license to J. Edgar Hoover’s obsessive eavesdropping.)

Isolationism is strong in the Tea Party, where mistrust of executive power is profound and where being able to see Russia from your front yard counts as mastery of international affairs. But sophisticated readers of The New York Times are not immune, or so it seems from the comments that arrive when I write in defense of a more assertive foreign policy. (In recent columns I’ve advocated calibrated intervention to shift the balance in Syria’s civil war and using foreign aid to encourage democracy in Egypt.) Not our problems, many readers tell me. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on September 8, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appears in print on September 9, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Our New Isolationism).