Last week I wrote about the Three Cups controversy. The Pakistani NGO leader I mentioned wrote to me in response, and I want to share with you his thoughts. He currently works in Afghanistan for a large international aid agency.
Yes, I have 3 Cups of Tea. Its a good book, which tells the story of an individual’s help that can be like a drop in the ocean, but the right step to make difference in the lives of poor and marginalized people. However, keeping in view the scenario of aid effectiveness in the developing world, many raise the point that aid and help comes either with conditions or it comes with political agenda. In both cases people’s right to life with dignity is ignored.
The Afghanistan context in terms of aid effectiveness is complex. Rights based organization have raised their concern about US & NATO support. They are estimating that US is spending $3.5 million a day in Afghanistan, however more than 90% goes back to them in terms of the extremely high cost of technical assistance, salaries, food and other benefits to the major USAID contractors and security companies such as Black Water (now named EX). In Kabul, the large stores are full of American and European goods, which is supplied by major US and European corporations from Europe and US. Therefore, one can see no difference in the lives of the poor Afghans. Similarly, many of the international humanitarian organizations have ignored the humanitarian principles of aid and help by negotiating with warlords and shadow commanders only to keep their programs running in the country, instead of benefiting larger communities.
In my opinion, the aid from individual, government, and international donor communities needs to focus on creating an environment where aid is seen as tool for empowering communities, not promoting “modern slavery.”