11.02.2004 - Artículo
Scrutinizing Aid: Workshop series with Mary Anderson
It is quite clear that no damage should be caused in providing aid. However, what reason prescribes is not always something easy implemented in practice. The goals targeted by international aid delivery in third countries and the concrete effects brought about, often do not coincide.
It was Mary Anderson who first conducted a systematic analysis of the dangers related to heedless or erroneously conceived aid delivery. Her 1999 book "Do No Harm" has been elevated to the status
of an often-quoted development classic. The SDC has been fortunate in engaging this terrain-seasoned author for a series of workshops and similar events. In 2004 and 2005 the Conflict Prevention
Division of SDC is organizing in cooperation with Mary Anderson a total of sixteen workshops and four meetings for SDC members and partner organizations. The aim is to deepen institutional reflection
on the peace-promoting and peace-impeding effects of development cooperation and humanitarian aid.
Can aid prevent or contain conflicts?
Mary Anderson: Wars are political. Aid neither stops wars nor causes wars. It simply happens in the midst of wars so that aid workers need to hold themselves accountable for the impacts that aid is having on conflict. The message of "Do No Harm" is that you cannot have a neutral impact. The way in which aid is given always has impacts on war. And you need to be smart to get the impacts you intend.
How to give aid in a smart way?
MA: By giving assistance in ways that reduce the things that divide people and reinforce the things that connect them.
In Bosnia, Somalia and Sudan international aid has been accused of prolonging rather than containing civil war.
MA: Many humanitarian workers who have worked in Southern Sudan have indeed made that point. They were all confused by the fact that the resources injected by the international aid effort were allowing the parties to continue warfare longer than they could have done without these resources. But they were also aware that they helped to alleviate quite a lot of suffering and many people would have died if they had not been there.
What would you advise in cases like Sudan: continue with aid and the risk to support the war or stop the aid altogether?
MA: I think "either/or" arguments are seldom accurate. It seems to me to be a logical fallacy to think that by staying out of a conflict one is maintaining some kind of purity or neutrality. A decision not to go into a conflict also allows other things to go unchallenged. The issue is, again, how one gives aid. Aid can be given in a way that reinforces the domination of some power or it can serve as the international eyes and ears challenging that power. There are many different ways to deliver assistance and one can always find a way to deliver aid without doing harm.
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