Saturday, December 18, 2010

From the front row in Kabul

This is a letter from a friend who is working in Kabul. She has an extraordinary view from where she sits.

Dear Glo,

Every year we spend billions of dollars working to restore a nation’s dignity, yet with that noble purpose we often fail to separate the needs of a people from the cultural wants of the west. With neither side receiving what it needs or what it wants. In turn we have created almost a vicious cycle of abusive giving that is comparable to force feeding a diabetic sugar or giving a bottle of vodka to an alcoholic. Our nation for its greatness is missing the point and the Afghan people who are dear to my heart continue to suffer because of it and the western need for instant gratification and the notion that money solves all problems continnues to fail.

This is not the fault of the men and women in uniform, the average Afghan going about their daily lives or even many of those involved in legitimate aid endeavors. Often it comes from pressure from large companies who use donor money to put their employees up in $20,000 dollar a month poppy-palaces with a security firm that carries an even larger price tag. Security people who tell everybody the sky is falling in order to keep their contracts and thus their jobs. These companies receive money that they must ‘burn’ in order to keep their contract. In many cases are talking about millions of dollars a day total.

Case in point the Afghan Supreme Court has a budget this year if I remember correctly of eight million United States Dollars it has only been able to burn nearly 800 thousand of that. One international donor wants to commit to 300 million over the next three years. Seriously, the court because of lack of capacity brought on by a thirty-year interruption in the education system does not have the capacity to absorb that amount much less burn it at the donors desired rate. If that 300 million was to be committed over the next thirty years that may be a more appropriate amount of time to allow the proper roll out and evolution of the judicial process. It would also give time for the educational system to catch and capacity to be slowly built. With this in mind using the current burn rate the west is trying to purchase three hundred years of judicial tradition in three years, to me that does not seem logical.

Western donors fail to look at their own history to guide them in the financial process of nation building. 200 years ago the United States was an even younger nation and it had its own set of issues that it has been trying even to this day resolve. The French and the Spanish at that time did not come in and try to retro fit and purchase our system. They for the most part left us alone to build our nation giving appropriate aid when needed and a cadre of well qualified and committed expertise. We need to stop trying the instant soup approach and realize that money builds roads, schools and utilities, but only the hard work and determination of people against advisories great and small truly build a nation.

We The People are frustrated and the Afghan people are frustrated. In order to help bring justice to the people of Afghanistan we must take a cold hard look at how we distribute aid. We must demand a break in the status quo of the apparatus of the major international donors first by looking at our own foreign aid distributer USAID and its underlying, unjust, and abusive funding and reporting polices. More small projects need our support where the Afghan people are involved and not subjugated to the agenda of large ‘ for profit aid organizations’ who are nothing but a front of the corporate machine. Paying off people only creates socio-economic disparities, humiliates the ones who have not and fuels insurgencies.

The aid must be long term because YES the people of Afghanistan need it but they need it for the next thirty years and in more careful and just amounts. Our role as a nations should be that of a steward and not of a company trying to hush the situation by throwing money at it.

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