Food Security and Aid Skepticism
June 28, 2012 § 3 Comments
After reading an article in Foreign Policy, entitled ‘Please Don’t Send Food‘, I began to think a lot about misappropriated food aid and its impact on conflict. I’m going to explore this for the next few days and see what we can rustle up to the surface – I think misappropriated aid is probably, for me, the key issue in private sector/aid integration that needs to be addressed. The private sector has a bottom line, and if huge percentages of investment/capital (the aid itself, or the services provided by aid) are exacerbating the problem or being squandered, then aid will continue to be a poor choice for investment.
To the point of conflict exacerbation:
“Looking at a sample of developing countries between 1972 and 2006, economists Nancy Qian of Yale University and Nathan Nunn of Harvard University found a direct correlation between U.S. food aid and civil conflict. For every 10 percent increase in the amount of food aid delivered, they discovered, the likelihood of violent civil conflict rises by 1.14 percentage points.”
How aid comes to act in favor of violent civil conflict:
The qualitative evidence points to aid stealing as an important mechanism. Humanitarian aid is particularly easy for armed factions and opposition groups to appropriate since it is physically transported over long distances, often through territories only weakly controlled by the recipient government. Reports indicate that up to eighty percent of aid can be stolen en route (Polman and Waters, 2010, p. 121). Even when aid reaches its intended recipients, it can still be appropriated or “taxed” by armed groups, against whom the recipients are typically powerless. This misappropriated aid is then used to fund conﬂict. (Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian)
So the obvious counterpoint to this article is what can be done in place of food aid? Anything? or is the ability to help and feed some worth the cost? Reforms are obviously needed, as many have pointed out, but with the logistical struggle of aid in the first place and the decreasing financial ability of donor countries to provide funding for better transport and security for the aid, the problem seems likely to get worse before it gets better.