If you only read one thing this week…


More aid for Afghanistan, and smarter? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
August 19, 2009, 7:47 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Oxfam is running a fairly scathing article on both the quantity of assistance to Afghanistan, saying that while the US alone spends $100 million a day on security in the country, all donors combined spend only $7 million a day on aid. In addition to that imbalance, the aid that is arriving is not having the impact it should, leaving a third of the population at risk of hunger and the country the ‘worst place in the world to give birth’, with a woman dying in childbirth every 30 seconds.

Read the article here.



(Too) Great Expectations? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
August 17, 2009, 2:22 pm
Filed under: conflict, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins, Uncategorized

When sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn coined the term “youth bulge” during the 1990s, he provided definition of a dual-sided phenomena that has repeatedly emerged throughout history.  Countries or regions which see population booms in younger demographics (such as the Middle East where 65% of the population is now under thirty), are privy to mass labor forces useful for fueling economies. However, if not properly supported the youth bulge can turn dangerous as in Kenya, a country which expanded from only just under 3 million people less than a century ago to nearly 37 million people as of 2008, with the average age around eighteen. Without sufficient opportunities, the concern is that many of these “idle youths” will turn to violent or extremist groups leading to outbreaks of instability and violence.

A recent article by the International Rescue Committee points out that 12 of the 15 countries with the largest youth bulge are also home to violent conflict and/or large displaced populations. It identifies the fact that a large youth bulge, coupled with lack of opportunity creates a high risk for destabilization. Furthermore, the fact that 50% of all aid education in the last ten years has gone to basic education is now creating huge pressure on post-primary education options as expectations are created through the education channels for continuing education and/or employment that are not necessarily being met.

The article has some interesting facts and examples (and makes policy recommendations) on the challenges of creating opportunities for young people at the same time as raising education levels.

To help mitigate circumstances and better infrastructure to better support this youth bulge, the IRC calls for both governments and NGOs to reevaluate their approach and aid for education. Whereas many education programs may be put up in response to emergencies, often the support and benefits are only short-term. In response the IRC calls for aid givers and providers should better align policy and foresight with humanitarian and development plans. Additionally, as the education system is improved, the economy must be strengthened to match and support its educated workforce. Thirdly, the education program in any given country must be accessible and relevant to the youth and the opportunities that await them.



Surveying the literature on violence against humanitarian workers by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
August 11, 2009, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Articles, If you have 30 mins

The Humanitarian Policy Group’s Policy Brief 34 ‘Providing aid in insecure environments‘ came out in April 2009, updating their previous 2006 report of the same name with new data and analysis. It seemed like a good opportunity to review the (rather scant) and sometimes confusing literature on this topic. If you only read one of these papers, HPG34 is the one – it’s the most recent, and their dataset covers security incidents from 1997-2008. The data is drawn from reports from participating aid agencies including the UN, Red Cross and most of the major NGOs. Their findings are a little complex though – Continue reading



Faith-based Organizations: Questions and Sources of Identity by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
August 10, 2009, 10:56 am
Filed under: Development theory, If you have 30 mins, Uncategorized

A few recent articles in Praxis, a journal published by The International NGO Training and Research Center (“What is Distinctive about FBOs: How European FBOs define and operationalise their faith”, “Faith-based Organisational Development (OD) with Churches in Malawi,” and “Capacity Building and Islamic FBOs: Insights from Malawi,” ) highlight various issues that FBOs (faith-based organizations) face in defining their organizations. As NGOs and other humanitarian organizations confront questions about their field as a whole, FBOs additionally juggle their religious identity. Stirring the fire for these FBOs are issues concerning donors and funding, both private and institutional. Both Christian and Islamic FBOs have built-in communities of donors.  How this affects FBOs is illustrated through their means of receiving funds and their choice of partnerships. As noted in “Capacity Building and Islamic FBOs,” the zakat donation is often intended for Muslim beneficiaries, and because Islamic FBOs often receive fewer public grants, these organizations may face parameters on who they provide assistance to.  Some organizations have addressed this tension by dividing donations into zakat and non-zakat funding.
Similarly Christian FBOs can also impose restrictions on their funding sources and partnerships as they may choose to work with or for organizations or groups that share their same belief set or practices. For faith-driven donors, this move may reassert the FBO’s commitment to their belief system. As Rick James points out in “What is Distinctive about FBOs,” many donors “are asking agencies to clarify their values,” and organizations that fail to provide a clear definition may lose support. As such, the choice of partnerships and areas of focus may say more about the identity of the FBO than its methods.
However, this can be difficult as secular aid organizations and governments have increased efforts to engage and partner and fund FBOs in the past decade in recognition of the important role they play in humanitarian work. Two trends seem to have emerged in the past decade: the resurgence of faith in shaping aid and animating traditional donor institutions (e.g. DFID), along with global intra-faith partnerships that serve to combat extremism and promote global accord. Post 9/11, many prominent organizations have made efforts to engage FBOs and include matters of spirituality into the concept of aid-giving. While organizations such as the World Bank promote an active incorporation with faith-based groups through increased funding and partnerships, this heightened attention doesn’t come without issue or cost. Paradoxically, FBOs may downplay their religious affiliation to secure both legitimacy and funding outside of their donor-base, a cyclical problem. This returns FBOs to the question of balancing internal donors and religious identity and coherent mission with beneficial external partnerships and funding.



Capacity Building and the Humanitarian Enterprise by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
August 6, 2009, 10:34 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of my favorite books on the cluster of issues around local / international organizational relationships and capacity building ‘Patronage or Partnership?’ is now available free on-line. It is a series of essays and case studies focusing on building capacity of civil society organizations in the aftermath of emergencies, edited by Ian Smillie for the Tufts Humanitarianism and War Project. Get the book here, either as html chapters, or as one big pdf.

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2008 Democracy Index Published – Implications for INGOs by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
August 3, 2009, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Results from the second edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, first published in 2006, confirm that the decades-long global trend in democratization has slowed considerably. Comparing the results for 2008 with those from 2006 shows that the dominant pattern in the past two years has been stagnation with few instances of significant improvement. The analysis also warns that the global financial crisis could threaten democracy in some parts of the world.

The Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the current state of democracy worldwide every two years in September for 165 independent states and two territories. It is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Countries are placed within one of four types of regimes: full democracies; flawed democracies; hybrid regimes; and authoritarian regimes.  Since the index tracks different variables than the UNDP Human Development Index, it is a useful tool for comparing governance and development factors when planning programming and anticipating issues that will impact future programs.  http://graphics.eiu.com/PDF/Democracy%20Index%202008.pdf