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«The former UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, has deemed the situation in northern Uganda as one of the greatest ...»

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This inevitably becomes the favor of the nation as a whole as greater equality continues to discourage corruption, which in turn leads to overall economic development.

Although they could be criticized for using a potentially biased instrumental variable in their study, the logic behind You and Khagram’s argument is sound.

As the wealthy are faced with greater motivation to engage in corruption, the poor are simultaneously left more vulnerable to extortion and less capable of monitoring and holding the rich accountable, which then creates an even greater incentive to engage in corrupt activities. The greater extent to which corruption becomes the norm, the less fear actors will have of the consequences. They also pointed out that while some would suggest that an individual’s tolerance of corruption is a reflection of their religious values, this is not always the case.

There are times in which people are forced to accept and even participate in corrupt activities due to its prevalence around them.

The testimony of a native of Kampala, Uganda attests to this last suggestion. A pastor of a Protestant church in the capital city had recently taken on the responsibility of starting an AIDS orphan outreach program. This school and orphanage had over five-hundred students in attendance, with over 250 of them living on campus. The school was fortunate enough to have had a private donor send the finances for a well, at which the pastor promptly began the construction process. The well was ready to be dug when the water company put a stop to the entire process, saying that they needed to receive a separate permit in order to proceed with construction that would cost an additional $600.

This process was repeated multiple times until the cost to build the well had gone up by thirty percent simply due to extra fees created by the offices within the Journal of Political Inquiry 2 (2009) bureaucracy. Though the pastor was clearly troubled by the requested bribes, both for financial and moral reasons, he felt he had no choice but to comply. He was emphatic that the fees were illegitimate and that they were only going into these officials’ pockets, yet he gave them exactly what was required because the children needed the well. As the authors suggest, this is only one example in which the non-rich comply with corrupt practices.

While “A Comparative Study of Inequality and Corruption” helps to explain the overall culture surrounding these displacement camps in the North, “Domestic Political Constraints and the Implementation of the World Bank Programs” best addresses the question why these funds are not being delivered to those for which it was intended. Athough Winters’ suggestion may be valid for many impoverished groups in the world, it is not applicable for the internally displaced. In order for this formula and game to be relevant, the group must have some chance at successful contestation. As it stands, the internally displaced people in northern Uganda do not have this. If they were to take up signs and protest, their shouts would only be heard by the soldiers sent to guard them. If they were to boycott goods, they would only be cutting off their life supply from those who are trying to help them through what little aid they receive.

Similarly, they offer no electoral or legislative threat as well. In the camps above Gulu, citizens currently are not given the freedom to participate in elections, therefore government officials have no accountability for their actions.

Despite the apparent cause for dismay among the poor people of northern Uganda, another source of hope can be found along the same lines of this suggested political empowerment. By once again calling upon the NGOs of the world, the people of northern Uganda could be given a voice. Although the cries of internal refugees may not carry much weight, the voice of the public at large does. Many advocacy groups have already begun to speak up and are gathering support around the world. One such organization is Invisible Children. Invisible Children was created by three young men who stumbled across the plight of the night commuters of Uganda, children who would walk miles every night from their villages to public verandas in an effort to seek protection from rape, murder, or abduction by the LRA. As these men spread the story of the children living in the midst of terror, alarmed citizens of the world began to stand up and protest on behalf of the people of Uganda. Since the movement began in 2004, drastic changes have been made. Over 100,000 people around the world have gathered in the name of this movement in various contestations, sleeping in the streets as a statement on behalf of the night commuters, and writing letters to Congressmen in the US pressuring the government to get involved in the peace talks. The United States has recently appointed Tim Shortley as special advisor to the State Department to ensure that peace is reached in northern Uganda. In fact, as a result of the work of NGOs in spreading the word to others around the world, the United States government has done more to end the war in northern Uganda in the past six months than they have in the past twenty years of fighting.

Just as others have been able to apply the principles of Matthew Winters’ theory on behalf of a country in war, there is evidence that suggests that the same Journal of Political Inquiry 2 (2009) results are achievable in ensuring that the people within these camps are given the aid that is intended for them.





Although these examples offer much hope, the realist would point out that these cases are the exception to the rule and not the norm. It is not every day that a cause is able to inspire so many to action. This very well could be only an example of a rare set of circumstances in which a certain cause was paired with the media capabilities and the charisma of leaders behind it to stir a movement on behalf of the less fortunate. Not only that, but this form of empowerment does not actually do much empowering of the people at all; it only leaves them further dependent on outsiders for help and intervention. It would be futile if the power were to remain outside of the camps; according to Winters’ theory of Aid Targeting and Capture, activism must come from political groups within the aidreceiving country. As such, this formulation may simply require an outside actor to help organize the people in these camps so that their voices may be heard.

The first three out of five mandatory issues to be discussed have been agreed upon in peace talks between the government and leaders of the LRA. If these final stages are resolved, the people will return to their homes where they will attempt to restore their former lives. It is here as they return to freedom that the role of NGOs would be to transition from a role of advocacy to a separate technique referred to as participatory evaluation. This form of aid is one in which the focus is placed on the people to whom aid is delivered rather than the people

or specific means by which it is being administered.30 In Whose Reality Counts:

Putting the First Last, Robert Chambers describes it as a methodology that reverses the roles, placing NGO workers as facilitators, listeners, and learners while empowering the local people to be the ones to set the agenda, determine the most effective methods of addressing an issue, and carry out subsequent forms of political action in ways that they understand and can continue. It would be according to these means that the internally displaced people would have their greatest chance at organizing politically in order to be fully empowered.

IV. A Critical Look at the Role of the NGOs

In light of recent literature and current circumstances, this paper has argued that the most feasible means of increasing the effective monitoring of funds and empowering the people of northern Uganda is to redirect foreign aid through NGOs rather than the central government of Uganda. However, in order to present a balanced and sound argument, it must be acknowledged that humanitarianism as carried out by NGOs is deeply flawed as well. In fact, David Rieff has even gone so far as to declare this form of humanitarianism as in a state of crisis.31 A crisis is defined as “an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending; especially one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome,” reads Webster’s Dictionary.

30 UNDP, Office of Evaluation and Strategic Planning, (1997).

31 Rieff, David. (2003). A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in a State of Crisis. Simon and Schuster.

Journal of Political Inquiry 2 (2009) Typically when people think of humanitarianism as it relates to a crisis, the natural flow of logic would be to consider the humanitarian’s response to dire need. But what happens when it is humanitarianism itself that is experiencing the crisis? When examining this possible dilemma, it is apparent that there is far more to the mantra of humanitarianism than simply working for the good of mankind.

The questions NGOs are constantly asking themselves are exponentially more complex: Where should aid be directed first? What could be an effective venue through which it can be ensured that efforts will produce lasting improvement and not just temporary alleviation? What kind of financing will it take to accomplish these goals and from whence will it come? As NGO workers attempt to tackle these demands, there are three main formidable obstacles that stand their way, challenges great enough to throw even this most noble of ideals into a potential state of crisis. The three issues that rise to the forefront are the daunting breadth of expectations, a lack of essential trust and support among key players, and the effects of inevitable dependency on donors for financial support.

These are the primary catalysts of the question, “is humanitarianism in crisis?” and it is these three issues which must be explored.

IV.1. Expectations In The Charity of Nations, Ian Smillie summarizes the idea of humanitarianism in the conviction that, “in the context of natural and man-made disasters, every person on the globe has a right to life-saving assistance and to protection of their basic human rights.”32 While he describes this portrayal as elegantly simplistic, such an endeavor opens the door to a world of responsibility which can appear to have no end. Since the end of the Cold War, NGOs have taken on a whole new face, fulfilling more and more roles in a trauma-stricken world. In “Humanitarianism Transformed,” Michael Barnett points out that at one point in time humanitarianism may have been limited to providing immediate relief to those suffering the effects of disasters. However, it now extends far beyond that into the realm of “human rights, access to medicines, development, democracy promotion and even building responsible states.”33 In “Beyond the Continuum,” Joanna MacRae describes the understood link between relief and development; the two have become a pair, one being expected to produce the other in order to be considered truly effective.34 “The Non-Governmental Order” 32 Smillie, Ian and Larry Minear (2004). The Charity of Nations: Humanitarian Action in a Calculating World. Kumarian Press.

33 Barnett, Michael. (2005, December). “Humanitarianism Transformed,” Perspectives on Politics: Vol. 3 No. 4.

34 MacRae, Joanna and Adele Harmer. (2004, July). “Beyond the Continuum: The Changing Role of Aid Policy in Protracted Crises,” HPG Report #18.

Journal of Political Inquiry 2 (2009) depicts the influence that NGOs have earned even in international policymaking.35 In 2001, the United Nations unanimously decided on eight Millennium Development Goals aimed at fighting poverty and improving quality of life around the globe. In Aid: Understanding International Development Cooperation, John Degnbol-Martinussen elaborates on the efforts made in several of these areas and criticizes some of the strategies used thus far. While the Development Goals are good aims in and of themselves, the expectations of meeting such lofty ambitions place an added degree of pressure on the efforts of NGOs, thus inadvertently creating a harsh gauge of success.36 When the missions of a few of the primary humanitarian organizations are examined more closely in Going Global, it is apparent that practically each organization is responding to that pressure with efforts to excel in every area possible.37 Many of the world’s most noteworthy NGOs are currently administering services in each of the fields described above by Michael Barnett. Not only are they attempting to conquer every type of battle (figuratively speaking), but they also face overwhelming pressure to appear on every prominent scene of disaster, stretching them beyond their means. As outlined in The Charity of Nations, this pressure to do too much often forces NGOs to draw valuable energy and resources away from the places that need it most, hindering them from achieving the results that could be possible if efforts were allowed to be more focused.

IV.2. Trust

Perhaps some of this pressure could be lifted from the shoulders of these humanitarian organizations if they could help share the burden among themselves, but there seems to exist a strong element of distrust in this world of idealists. In fact, this lack of trust seems to drape over the entire realm of humanitarianism today, touching relationships between fellow NGOs, governments, the public and donors. Because so many organizations are attempting to accomplish similar goals, there is a sense of stiff competition among them as to who can get to the scene first, who will gain the most attention, and who will be able to instill the most effective programs. It is becoming increasingly difficult for NGOs to administer the aid and development programs they desire in many countries as the governments within them become more and more suspicious of their motives. The lines have become quite convoluted between aid organizations and the governments behind them despite the neutrality that is so highly valued according to the fundamental philosophy of 35 “The Non-Governmental Order: Will NGOs Democratise, or Merely Disrupt, Global Governance?” (1999, December 9). The Economist.

36 Degnbol-Martinussen, John and Engberg-Pedersen, Poul. (1999). Aid: Understanding International Development Cooperation, Zed Books.

37 Lindenberg, Marc and Coralie Bryant. (2001). Going Global: Transforming Relief and Development NGOs, Kumarian Press.



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