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Five Prognoses on Aid to Haiti – by Alexander Glück

Posted Jan 20 2010 8:40am

Following the catastrophe in Haiti, many donations have been made over for organisations that work with emergency aid, from Care International by way of the German Red Cross to the Alliance Action German Aid. Our guest blogger Alexander Glück takes a critical look at this topic. Of course, probably not everyone on the betterplace team shares his five theses, but we find it important to take a look at this particular perspective on emergency aid and we are excited to hear your responses as well:

The moment one has written a critical book about the donation market, the next moment next large donation campaigns are confirming the social giving mechanics that I have described in “The Marketed Responsibility” (Essen: Stiftung & Sponsoring, 2009). If the claims in that book hold true, then one will also have to allow the following prognoses regarding coming developments:

1. There will be new records in giving. But that won’t initially provide emergency relief.

The media tells daily of the overwhelming donation response that has surpassed all expectations, while simultaneously flashing on the screen the donation account numbers, together with strong visual images of suffering. Public heads such as Anne Will, Thomas Gottschalk and — as a columnist for the Bild newspaper — Angela Merkel, apply pressure to the already-existing call for ever-more donations — donations with as few strings attached as possible so as to ensure the most efficient application.

The problems with earthquake areas, however, are more logistical and technical in nature, as the needed resources are already in large part available. The media’s suggestions notwithstanding, a financial payment of any amount does not save a single child buried under the rubble.

2. Haiti is facing a profound structural change

The funds acquired won’t finance immediate aid, but will rather go toward initiatives for long-term reconstruction projects. Which is all well and good, except that it will never be discussed. Distribution and allocation conflicts will be the result, and without a functioning structure, unjust allocations and benefits will inevitably occur. Add to this the substantial roll of Haiti’s oligarchy, which before the catastrophe lived at the expense of the majority population, and which will in the future further attempt to allocate the funds according to such a structure. The coming changes can breakdown old structures of exploitations in order to build new ones in its place.

3. Initiatives not engaged in Haiti will see a slump

Whoever is donating to Haiti is not going to donate to another initiative. Donations for long-term aid in Haiti are now so important that, in the in the current donation frenzy, they threaten to overshadow many other equally-urgent projects; such projects will consequently see a clear decline in giving toward their causes, since after giving generously to Haiti, many donors won’t make the decision to give toward yet another project.

4. Incompetent initiatives will propagate the Haiti issue

We saw it during the Tsunami catastrophe of 2004. Fundraisers and advertising agencies crowded in to adopt the cause in order to increase their own donation profits. This will happen again, though most of these initiatives are incompetently prepared to engage this realm of aid, therefore eventually risking a considerable loss of prestige to their organisations.

5. Haiti will come more firmly under U.S. control

For the time being, the United States’ military presence in Haiti is ensuring the necessary structures to quickly and effectively distribute needed relief. The almost invasion-like arrival of the U.S. soldiers in Haiti will in all probability last for two decades and after awhile, won’t have anything to do anymore with aid to the earthquake victims.

Alexander Glück

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