Cover Image
close this bookThe Courier N 152 - July - August 1995 - Dossier: NGO's - Country Reports: Belize, Malawi (EC Courier, 1995, 104 p.)
close this folderDeveloping world
View the documentAid under fire: what policy ?
View the documentEstablishing links between relief and development
View the documentDrugs in West Africa
View the documentThe chicken and the egg

Aid under fire: what policy ?

The statistics are indeed horrifying in this the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. From only five complex emergences in 1985 involving some 8 million refugees, the international community is today dealing with an average of 28 such emergencies annually involving more than 25 million ret fugees. Projected to the year 2045 and taking into consideration the rapid growth in the world's population, there would be 140 complex emergencies annually and more than 55m displaced people thoughout the world. At the moment some 70 countries are hosting refugees. The cost to the international community has been enormous and it is escalating: from $5 billion in 1980 to $30bn in 1994. By the end of this decade these expenses are expected to rise to $40bn annually, according to UN sources. The costs to development are even more alarming as large proportions of development budgets continue to be spent on relief and peacekeeping operations.

The changing nature of conflicts

Brian Atwood of the United States Agency for International Development wrote recently that the world spent more on peace-keeping operations in 1993 than it did in the previous 48 years combined and that in the same year, investment in development declined by 8%. The share of official development assistance (ODA) allocated by OECD countries to relief rose from less than $500m in 1980 to $3.5bn in 1993, and this at a time when overall ODA is declining. Last year over one billion dollars were raised for the Rwandan crisis alone, more than the amount received in development assistance by the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.

This situation has led to renewed interest in the linkages between relief and development and has provoked a debate on their validity in conflict-related emergencies. Following natural disasters, relief operations are aimed primarily at ensuring the survival of the afflicted population and restoring their means of livelihood as far as is practicable. Experience has shown that this process is as lengthy and expensive as development itself. However, the concept of a 'relief/development continuum' in conflict-related emergencies is problematic, given the absence of peace. Hitherto, relief and development strategies have both tended to rely on the existence of state structures. Today, donors are increasingly being confronted with a credibility problem, whether in their relationship with partners whose legitimacy and accountability are questionable, or with relief agencies whose conduct in complex political and military situations is unpredictable. The number of 'failed' states, particularly in Africa, is growing.

Although there has been an expansion of 'the democratic zone' recently, the pattern of modern warfare has also changed. The inter-state conflicts of the past have been superceded by internal struggles. Liberation wars have given way to power struggles between warlords unencumbered by ideological motives. Arms are now freely available to criminal groups and violence is no longer the monopoly of states. Drug trafficking in conflict zones is on the increase. Humanitarian assistance on the other hand is increasingly coming up against issues of good governance and human rights.

With only a few exceptions, donor countries have not redefined their policies to take account of the current situation. On the contrary, they appear to be in disarray. Indeed, the impression is of a gradual withdrawal with an increasing tendency to subcontract humanitarian aid to private and voluntary bodies. As a result, we have seen a proliferation of relief agencies and NGOs working in the field, sometimes in an uncoordinated fashion.

Defining a policy

Against this background of near anarchy and in order to arrive at a greater understanding of the issues, a common analysis of the problem and a definition of policy, a seminar was held at Wilton Park, Sussex, in the United Kingdom, from 7-9 April. The title of the seminar was Aid Under Fire: redefining relief and development assistance in unstable situations. Organised in association with the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs, the Overseas Development Institute and Actionaid, it was attended by senior and middle-ranking officials from multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, NGOs and academics from across Europe, North America and East Asia, as well as aid recipients from the developing world.

A key question, among the many posed by the organisers, was whether conflict-related emergencies were still primarily a matter for relief agencies given their proliferation in recent times and the greatly increased costs involved. In other words, is the aid system the appropriate mechanism to deal with the political and military dimensions of conflicts, and is it sensible to link relief with development, in the light of the fact that the conflicts are assuming an increasingly 'permanent' character.

The seminar naturally took stock of the politico-economic context in which these emergencies are taking place, notably with the ending of the Cold War and the breakdown of old alliances. This has changed the dynamics of relations between donors and recipients (the former had promoted the economic growth of states and provided support to leaders of questionable character and legitimacy). It has also resulted in greater availability on the black market of large quantities of arms from the former Communist bloc, an increase in arms trafficking to unstable regions of the world, enormous strains on aid budgets, political and economic pressures on governments in donor countries, and economic failures leading to a massive increase in poverty in some parts of the developing world.

Concern was expressed that the international community had not mobilised sufficiently to halt arms trafficking, especially when information is available on their routes, and that it has not done enough to monitor and fight human rights violations. The result is that a culture of impunity has developed with relief assistance often deliberately disrupted and manipulated. Humanitarian assistance, some participants warned, risks becoming a camouflage for inaction-diverting attention from tackling the fundamental problems. Compassion, they said, is no substitute to taking up the challenge. There is a need for the international community to reappraise its understanding of the nature of conflicts and of peace. Poverty, injustice, environmental changes and population pressures are not the only causes of civil conflicts. Historical animosity and memories of such animosity, as Bosnia and Rwanda have shown, are also important factors.

As preventive measures begin to prove effective in dealing with natural disasters, some participants pointed out, a similar 'insurance policy' against manmade ones needs to be taken out, especially when it is possible to forecast where and when they will occur. Some practical measures can be taken. These include a commitment to fight illegal arms trafficking, a ban on the production of mines, promotion of good governance, the development of a free press and encouragement of press freedom, strengthening of indigenous capacity to manage and resolve conflicts within society and, where necessary, support to those local, national, regional and international organisations that are best placed to resolve conflicts using a multi-track approach.

Significantly, there were few voices advocating the advancement of democracy, even though aid is now often linked to it as a matter of policy. Democracy, especially in multi-ethnic societies, is proving a risky undertaking as the experience of Rwanda and Burundi shows.

The conference agreed that although information is available, there is often a lack of understanding of the root causes of conflicts and a lack of understanding of the local culture. This highlights the need to strengthen national crisis management capacity. Indeed many were of the opinion that the international community should assist more in conflict management than in resolution, 'because some conflicts are cyclical and unresolvable.' Rwanda and Burundi, they said, have enjoyed periods of peace and stability only because their leaders were able to manage the crisis during those periods.

The growing shortage of funds did not escape the attentions of the participants. While there was regret over the increasing costs of relief and the dwindling funds available for development, the conference agreed that there is an enormous amount of waste, as was clearly illustrated at the height of the Rwandan crisis. Although efforts are being made at the United Nations to find ways of raising funds, the current situation calls for a more rational use of resources. A suggestion by one speaker which attracted widespread support was that a proportion of the huge funds normally generated internationally during large-scale disasters of the type suffered by the Rwandans and the Iraqi Kurds, when public sympathy translates into substantial donations, should be set aside for long term humanitarian aid and development.

Inherent link between relief and development

In discussion groups, opinions were divided as to how far relief agencies should be involved in conflict management. There were those who felt they should adhere to the principle of 'nonintervention', restricting themselves to saving lives and creating 'a human space', on the basis that they have neither the skills nor the capacity to mediate. Others believed they should be part and parcel of the multi-track approach to conflict resolution. In either situation, there was a general recognition of the danger of donors indirectly increasing tensions, legitimising otherwise criminal groups, influencing the dynamics of the conflict and compromising their neutrality. The uncomfortable relations between relief organisations and military authorities in recent conflict situations, with the former obliged to negotiate with the latter to gain access, as exemplified in Bosnia, Sudan and Angola, was emphasised as being a negative aspect. The majority of participants, however, agreed with the idea of agencies being involved in prevention and for an international body to be responsible for gathering and disseminating information in an early warning capacity.

On the fundamental question as to whether there is an inherent relationship between relief and development, the seminar concluded that there was. It noted the failure of policies in this post Cold War period where the tendency is to separate relief from development. The idea behind this is that civil conflicts are temporary interruptions to normal development processes. But today we are witnessing conflicts of very long duration and of great intensity and destructivenesss. Those that do end leave little or no infrastructure as a basis for the resumption of production and development. The seminar deplored the lack of planning at the relief stage which meant that the development aspects are ignored. Relief in the current global context, must have a clear 'window' on development. There must, in short, be an interface between the two, and institutions should devise their relief and development policies accordingly.

Establishing links between relief and development

by Debarati Guha Sapir

Wilton Park conferences 'have gained a reputation in the UK as a useful forum for high-level participants wishing to engage in a free exchange of views on foreign policy issues. The Courier was privileged to attend the recent conference on 'Aid under fire' with permission to report in genera/ terms on the key elements of the discussion (see previous article). Below, we supplement this with an abridged extract of one of the conference presentations kindly supplied to us by Debarati Guha Sapir who is a Professor at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium! In a world where humanitarian crises are now more likely to result from human conflicts than natural disasters, Professor Sapir argues that the international community needs to rethink its approach end come up with a new global policy in the field of relief and development activity.

The developmental and long-term implications of disasters and relief have been an international concern since the famines of the early 1970s. A small but persistent group within international and national agencies have pushed for disaster preparednesss and prevention. Their activities implicitly included development issues. However, their focus remained largely on natural disasters, with some awareness of the complexity of causes in the case of famine. By the 1980s, conflicts had taken centre stage in relief programmes, and discussion shifted to the complexities involved in this area. The militarisation of these crises, with the emergence of humanitarian interventions involving armed forces, has resulted in an increase in the number of key players in the decision-making structures of national and international agencies. Responsibilities have become divided between various government ministries (defence, development, foreign affairs), and international agency departments. This is a situation which is conducive, overall, to increased ideological polarisation between non-militarists and militarists, and between pragmatic developmentalists and action-oriented relief practitioners. As in most cases, all sides have valid arguments. The problem now is to find the right mix of arguments, sad transform these into a concrete and applicable policy.

That relief is increasingly being provided at the cost of development is undeniable. Arguments include the one that humanitarian aid offers a 'way round' finding difficult political solutions to thorny problems, or that relief is quicker, easier and much more visually appealing than development programmes. Today, the main actors in the international community concur, to a greater or lesser degree, on some of the parameters of the current humanitarian situation. Notwithstanding this, they have had difficulties in coming up with a response, especially in terms of programme planning, budget allocations and overall policy. Many practical problems confront field agencies as a result of ambiguities at the donor level and contradictions in this context.

The difficulties in introducing any long-term perspectives in relief arise chiefly from two factors:

-the very hard-to-change traditional views of relief as defined by the historical 'fire-brigade' approach, namely a short, sharp input to save lives (an approach which has long-dominated the relief scene), and;
-the rigidity of existing administrative structures within and among many donor institutions.

Responsibilities are sharply divided between those involved in development cooperation, and those operating in the field of emergency relief. As a result, all activities that ensure the transition between emergency and development action fall between two stools. Field-level ambiguities resulting from the current situation are readily illustrated in the Somali context. Was the reconstruction of the Mogadishu sewerage system an emergency action or part of the development programme ? Dithering over such mundane questions led to a delay in funding and resulted in a cholera epidemic. Serious consequences, both human and financial followed the mistakes made in efforts to disarm and demobilise the population. Emergency programmes began demobilisation in Somalia without the necessary concurrent investment in providing alternative means of livelihood or education. The result was that a costly effort failed lamentably; within days of handing over their arms, nearly everybody had succeeded in regaining them.

Of the many questions and lessons emerging from these examples, I would like to point out what is, in my opinion, the key underlying issue. Given our awareness of the magnitude of current crises, and agreement that strategic planning, (which includes developmental/technical as well as political aspects) is the key to successful international response, do we not need to explore where and how we should establish structural and institutional links between relief and development? Should disaster preparedness fall under development cooperation or emergency assistance ? Should the policies be rethought in the post Cold-War period where the nature of humanitarian crises changed ?

A global policy, spelling out institutional links between development programmes and relief operations in the light of new realities, needs to be devised. Inter-agency (or service) coordination, while critical, is rarely useful in the absence of policy or long-term strategic plans. More often than not, emphasis on coordination only becomes an alibi for inaction. Countries such as Liberia, Angola, Somalia, Sudan, Cambodia and Myanmar demonstrate the difficulties facing development and relief workers in deciding which 'hat to wear' when asking for funds.

In conclusion, international agenCies involved in countries with protracted emergencies or chronic unstable conditions need urgently to review their strategies both for relief and development.

Drugs in West Africa

by Alain Labrousse

At the beginning of the 1990s, the International Narcotics Control Board (lNCB) issued a report in which it said: 'The situation regarding the abuse of and traffic in narcotics has continued to deteriorate in Africa over the past few years. If effective action is not taken (these phenomena) will be added to the poverty, violence, corruption and instability of the communities concerned.' Several years later, this pessimistic forecast has been largely confirmed.

Cannabis production

Though cannabis has been known in East and Central Africa since the 14th century, it was not introduced to West Africa until after the Second World War, by Ghanaian and Nigerian soldiers who had fought in Burma with the British.

At first, the marijuana trade in rural areas was relatively limited and controlled, but in the last decade, following the drop in the prices of raw materials such as cotton, ground nuts, coffee and cocoa beans, farmers have started to cultivate the cannabis plant more extensively. Their activity ranges from just a few patches, hidden among subsistence and market garden crops, to relatively large areas covering several acres and belonging to a single owner. There are also indications that, here and there, experiments in the cultivation of poppies and coca trees are being carried out.

It would appear, however, that far from being a survival strategy, the cultivation of such crops in Ghana and Nigeria has been seen from the outset as an attractive way of making money. Ghanaian and Nigerian traffickers have started to 'export' their form of production to other regions of West Africa, in particular Senegal and Southern Gambia. The islands of the Saloum Delta and the Gambia and Casamance rivers (the main areas of production in the region owing to a favourable climate and relative isolation) are home to peasant farmers with relatively large areas under cultivation. Across the region, Nigerian and Ghanaian traffickers offer seeds to farmers, paying them in advance for the harvest which they come to collect when it has been taken in. The system involves paying CFAF 300 000 for the cannabis harvested from 10 m², which must be delivered within three months. The farmer who does not meet this commitment must then supply double the quantity stipulated.

The Nigerians have also started to extend their activities to Benin, where cannabis is known locally as gue. It is found in each of the six provinces of that country. And the Ghanaians are extending their activities to Burkina Faso. There are significant areas of cultivation in the central and western region along the Sissili and Nahouris rivers to the north of the frontier with Ghana. These are effectively under the control of Ghanaians, as the same ethnic groups live on both sides of the frontier. A significant proportion of the crop produced is reputed to be for export.

In Cot'lvoire, cultivation seems to have developed hand in hand with implementation of the first structural adjustment programme between 1984 and 1988. It developed more rapidly when world cocoa (and coffee) prices collapsed in 1988/89. This period also saw a restructuring of the cocoa marketing and distribution system, and the dissolution of credit networks in an area where farmers had been forced into producing nothing but cocoa. The price paid to the producer for a kilo of cocoa beans fell from CFAF 400 to CFAF 200. In some cocoa growing regions of the south west, 'ganja' has been established for a number of years now among young cocoa plantations (two or three years old). It is also found in plots of land used for subsistence farming, among rice below the normal ground level and in cassava fields. It is even possible to see areas of up to three hectares devoted solely to the cultivation of cannabis.

Sub-Saharan Africa: a market crossroads for traffickers

Alongside this development, Africa has, since the 1980s, become a significant air and sea transit route for heroin from Asia, destined for the USA and Europe, and for cocaine heading for Europe from America. At the start of this decade, heroin intended for Europe and the USA began passing through Nigeria. Initially, it was so-called 'brown sugar' (heroin no. 3) imported directly from the Indian subcontinent. In South East Asia, traffickers also dealt in 'Chinese' heroin (heroin no. 4) and the routes were later diversified to pass through East and Central Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya and Zaire). The African networks, meanwhile, extended to cover more countries. By 1994, it was estimated that 30% of heroin consumed in the USA had been introduced there by Nigerian networks.

The through traffic of cocaine from South America also affects most of the large countries of West Africa, in particular Senegal and Cot'lvoire. It has recently begun to have an impact on South Africa as well. As for heroin, large-scale trafficking is accompanied by the activities of the 'small fry', made up of thousands of small-scale couriers of all nationalities who take chugs to the various European nations with which their countries have historical and linguistic links.

The increase in the number of production areas and trafficking networks has had an overspill effect on local populations. But there are other crucial influences-the economic crisis, the flight from the countryside, the effects of structural adjustment on unemployment, and the destruction of family life as parents seek a livelihood leaving the children to their own devices. Psychotropic drugs such as amphetamines, barbiturates, and tranquilisers can be found on sale everywhere and are in widespread use, especially among the street children of the urban areas. In the Sahel countries, (Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger), farmers are poisoning themselves without realising it by using amphetamines provided by pedlars, in order to cope with hard manual labour during the short rainy season.

The most worrying factor is the advance of cocaine and heroin. These were the preserve of the privileged classes a few years ago but usage is now growing among the common people in all the big cities. The fact that heroin and cocaine are the only two imported products not to have increased in price (CFAF 15 000 per gram) in the poor areas of Lomnd Abidjan, following the devaluation of the CFA franc, indicates that traffickers have targeted their activities on these local markets.

The chicken and the egg

What comes first, development or education ? This was a question posed by Unesco in the February 1995 issue of its magazine 'Sources'. Their conclusions, which we reprint below, make interesting reading. Looking at indicators such as population growth, health and per capita income, Unesco revealed that the two elements actually go hand in hand. In other words, education gets better as countries develop, and development picks up speed as the level of education rises. Their conclusion is that for governments everywhere, education remains a sound investment.


Average number of children per woman

Fewer, healthier children

Raising the level of female literacy facilitates women's access to information on contraception and planned parenthood. They also become more aware of hygiene and nutrition, which means their children live longer and are generally healthier: evidence indicates that each additional year of a mother's schooling translates into a 5-10% drop in child mortality.

This changes the way women think about child bearing and motherhood and, as the graph on the left show's, usually leads to a significant drop in fertility.

The trend is especially apparent in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Asia and the Pacific. In Brazil, for example, illiterate women have an average 6.5 children while those with a secondary education have only 2.5

Longer lives

Statistics also reveal a direct correlation between literacy levels and life expectancy: the more literate the population and the more years of schooling, the longer the life span.

As mentioned above, people who have reamed to read and write are more attentive to hygiene and health care. They tend to be less fatalistic and, in the event of illness, are more likely to turn to a doctor. Of course, literacy is not the only factor that affects life expectancy. Access to medical treatment, the family's financial circumstances, and the social environment are also crucial factors.


Adult literacy rates

Richer populations

Does an increase in per capita income cause the level of education to rise, or is it, on the contrary, education that enables the economic situation to improve ? No doubt it is a two-way process.

National income is, of course, governed by the rate of production. But it is also contingent on factors such as natural resources or population growth: the more mouths to feed, the more thinly spread the benefits of increased production.

Nonetheless, the statistics show that, generally, better educated populations are also richer ones.

And yet...

As the last graph shows, there is no great difference between the number of years spent in school and rates of activity. This may reflect on the quality of education. The difficulty of finding a paid job that matches the aspirations nurtured in school and/or university, and the inability to create a paying activity by and for oneself, despite all the training one has received, could mean that the content and standards of education are not relevant enough.

It may also reflect the inroads that modern technology continues to make into the workplace; technology that certainly allows for growth in production, but which replaces rather than creates jobs.