Science - March 30, 2010

Aid donors follow western governments

International aid organizations were selective in the emergency aid they offered the population of Angola during the civil war between 1995 and 2005. It was not the needs of the population but the political considerations of western governments that determined what aid was given.

This conclusion was drawn by Thea Hilhorst, professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction, and her PhD student Maliana Serrano, in an article in the April issue of the journal Disasters.
Following Angola's independence in 1975, a civil war unfolded that grew steadily grimmer. Until 1990, no western aid organizations were present in Angola, even though there were many refugees and food shortages. But during a two-year ceasefire, the international community set up emergency funds and aid organizations establish themselves in the country. But they left as quickly as they had come after the advent of peace and the elections of 2005, when the new Angolan government rejected the IMF's economic reforms. This meant that reconstruction programmes did not get off the ground. It is striking, say Serrano and Hilhorst, that the aid organizations used exactly the same conceptual framework as western governments. In decisions about the allocation and withdrawal of emergency aid, the needs of the population played a secondary role.
In the first phase of the civil war it was mainly Cuban aid organizations that tried to keep food supplies and healthcare going, with local departments of the Red Cross, church organizations and privatized agricultural extension services playing an important role as well. After the advent of peace, these national aid organizations managed to obtain development funding from the government and the private sector.

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