Pakistan Floods: The Politics of Aid

Why has the international community been so slow to help Pakistan?  There is no doubt that that there is a genuine disaster underway.   Some 20 million people have now been affected and reports suggest somewhere between 1600 and 2000 people have lost their lives.

Predictably, a scout around online forums finds some people ranting that ‘our lack of response’ is an ‘anti-Muslim’ thing.  “There would be a far bigger deal if we didn’t lump Pakistan in with terrorists”.  Equally predictably in forums, we find people with the opposite world view advocating that we not help precisely because “Pakistan is Harbouring Bin Laden”, “Pakistan can still afford a nuclear program”, “Pakistanis play both ways in the War-On-Terror”, etc.   You find a strange mish-mash of some truths, some half-truths, some falsehoods and some outright racism.  And that is before you add in the obligatory “We have enough problems of our own at home and a financial crisis” to the mix.

So, is Britain either consciously or sub-consciously doing less than it should to help Pakistan?  A look at the figures would suggest not.  The stark fact is only one other country on planet Earth has thus far done more to provide aid for the disaster –

Q. Who is this mega donor?

A. The supposedly ‘Muslim Hating’ United States.

As at 17th August 2010 the US has provided approaching $100m which is 38% of all relief money.  The UK is at number two having provided 16% of all money (circa $40 million).  You can see the full list here.

What is very curious when you look at this list is the absence of any co-ordinated response from fellow Muslim countries.  On the face of it you would think these countries are beyond any ‘anti-Muslim’ charge.  It is true that there have been gestures by both Kuwait and the UAE but neither registers in the top ten.  Islamic States such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Jordan and Libya do not even register on the donor list despite many having breathtaking petro-wealth.   This does beg a question as to why?   What has Pakistan done to so alienate itself from its brethren?   – theories I’ve heard knocking around are:

  • The Pakistani President swanning round Europe at the start of the disaster sent a message that the disaster wasn’t that bad
  • Ironically, a sense by some Muslim States that Pakistani government has sided too much with the US and become a stooge.  (Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!)
  • No sense of scale/drama.  Circa 2000 dead wouldn’t yet put the disaster in the ‘Top 10’ disasters for the last decade if you measure these things only by fatalities.  There is an element of compassion fatigue.
  • A knowing lack of faith that in a corrupt state any aid donated will reach the intended recipients
  • Some subconscious or conscious racism by Gulf States?  Pakistanis may be Muslim but they are not Arab.  Likewise with Sunni/Shia divisions….

I’m not going to pretend to know the answer or how much store to put into any of the above.   I’m also going to knock on the head the idea that the above should be used as some kind of perverse evidence for making the case the UK has already done too much.  What I do want to get across is that  we should be proud that we are leading the world in getting this tragedy on the global agenda rather than have some weird guilt-dripping angst that we’re part of a grand conspiracy to keep these people in misery.

Nick Clegg was right yesterday when he described the international response as pitiful.  He is absolutely correct to try and shame nations to matching our response.  We in Britain can and should stand tall for our doing the right thing when the innocent suffer.

As always it is also enhancing for us as individuals to help and not rely just on Governments to do the right thing.  With that in mind if you want to help the situation in Pakistan then this appeal is one of the charities where you can have a high level of confidence that your money will reach the needy.  The situation is bad.  Please give generously:  CLICK HERE TO MAKE UNICEF DONATION

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    2 Comments

    Filed under Indulgent, Politics, UK Politics

    2 responses to “Pakistan Floods: The Politics of Aid

    1. Dmitri

      Interesting to see from your link that Afghanistan has pledged $1m. Clearly, Pakistan is the key neighbour for Afghanistan, but should a country receiving billions in aid from the international community then give out aid itself? I don’t suppose that it really matters in so far as $1m is not very much.

      Another factor to consider is the amount of aid Pakistan already receives from the US. According to a website cited by Wikipedia, Pakistan received $4.2bn in military aid from the US in the three years following 9/11. Presumably Pakistan is still receiving such large sums. Would it not be reasonable to divert some of this to the aid effort?

    2. It seems to be the same issue when you consider Egypt, Jordan and their non (or lack of) aid to the Palestinian people. Though our economy might be weak at this moment in time, it is a testament to our and American values that we will help those in a bad situation. If China does succeed in becoming the dominant superpower will they also offer aid such as this.

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