Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Guns and aid don't mix

Canadian Doctor James Orbinski is a former president of Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the subject of a new documentary called Triage opening in Toronto. He's featured in the Toronto Star:

Canada confusing political, aid relief goals in Afghanistan, MD says

April 22 - [...] He says the "war on terror" has allowed governments to sell the public on warfare as a life-saving operation. ...

Despite many near-death experiences over more than a decade in conflict zones, Orbinski rejects Ottawa's argument that the military can help to create a safe space for humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

"This is part of a dangerous confusion of humanitarian action with the political stakes that are at play in a war," he says. "Humanitarian relief is focused on relief of suffering. That's what it does. It's not rebuilding, reconciliation or gender equity. It's not a political project."

He adds, "when that clear, limited goal is obscured with other objectives, what suffers the most is the people who need assistance. They don't get it."

The best thing that Ottawa could do for Afghanistan is to "decouple" humanitarian programs from military objectives, he insists. "That would dramatically affect the lives of Afghans." ...

[T]he rules of war – the Geneva Conventions created to protect human rights – have been undermined by the U.S.-led "war on terror," he says.

"Distinctions between combatants and non-combatants, proportionality of military response, respecting people's right to humanitarian assistance, and the obligations of occupying armies to allow for (aid) to flow freely, those have been lost in a post 9/11 world." ... (link)
ACBAR, an umbrella agency dealing with Afghan aid efforts says in a report:
... PRTs have often overshadowed and in some cases assumed the responsibilities of local government. Thus, they have slowed the emergence and development of state institutions at local level ...
Writing in Guardian, a British writer with experience in international aid says "Six years into the occupation, it is clear that the PRT strategy has failed."

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