Aid to nowhere

Delivering aid effectively is no easier than finding the money to fund it. From a damning report published on the USAID website we find that ‘little progress’ has been made in a development programme funded by the US and running in FATA since 2008. Only $15.5 million has been spent out of a programme budget of $46 million; and given that we are now 22 months into a 36-month programme the chances of spending the whole of the budget seem remote indeed. The project was designed to somehow blunt the appeal of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but appears to have failed to get much past the start line. There is confusion about which agency is to deliver the project as it was conceived under the Bush administration and is being delivered under the Obama – which has different views on project delivery, preferring to direct aid money through Pakistani institutions rather than US aid contractors.

If the faltering FATA project is anything to go by, the future of aid-project delivery is looking bleak. We are to receive $7.5 billion in humanitarian assistance from the US over the next five years, with a significant proportion of that being targeted at areas which are currently unstable or in a state of limited warfare. It is axiomatic of effective aid and development work that it can only be successful in a post-conflict environment, and that there is little point in trying to deliver on development goals in the middle of a war zone. Relief – as in serving IDPs – is very different to development. Development work requires a different skill-set and institutional infrastructure to that of relief, with one of the essentials being development professionals on the ground to deliver the programme effectively. Most of NWFP is a no-go area for anybody other than our own development professionals and most foreign workers have now withdrawn. It is difficult to see how foreign-funded programmes are to be implemented let alone monitored. Our systems for the delivery of development programmes are corrupt, often poorly managed by political appointees who have little knowledge or understanding of development processes and are unable to offer continuity as they change with the political weather. The failure of the USAID programme in FATA should serve as a warning, though whether it will be heeded even if heard must be a very moot point.

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