May 25, 2017

Aid dollars as evidence of Darfur advocacy success?

Okay, here we go with Q#2. Again, feel free to bite off just one segment of it and/or comment on better ways to construct the question:

A graph in Fighting for Darfur shows that between 2005-2008, Darfur – just one region of Sudan – received tenfold more funding from the U.S. Congress than the entirety of D.R. Congo, despite the latter having a significantly larger displaced population. What conclusion do you draw from the funding difference? Is this evidence of the effectiveness of a mass movement approach? What other factors could account for the disparity? To the extent you do attribute the disparity to the mass movement, do you have ethical concerns about applying the mass movement model to some situations and not others?

Comments

  1. Rebecca Hamilton says:

    Sorry to be the first to respond (!) but in Fighting for Darfur I argue that more funding for humanitarian aid translated into lives saved, based on a great 2010 Lancet study, and related to the fact that after 2005 most of the deaths in Darfur were not due to direct violence but due to malnutrition and disease. But a reader has suggested I raise the question, in the teaching guide, whether more funding can ever be assumed to translate into better outcomes on the ground. Perhaps the additional question to add into the Q2 set is: Are there other situations you can think of where an influx of donor funding has generated perverse consequences?

  2. If it’s evidence of anything, it may only be evidence that a handful of influential legislators cared enough to shift the dollars for Darfur. There is no reason, if that was your goal, that a mass movement would be necessary to accomplish that. It could be done with very specific, very targeted lobbying to key decision makers, avoiding all the frills surrounding rallies, mobilization, celebrities, etc. If you want to make the argument that the mass movement caused the reallocation of Congressional funding, you would need a more complete understanding of that chain of causation; or at least follow the money more closely.

    Plus, the conflict in DRC has been going on since 1996, so I’m not sure it’s comparable at all to Darfur, which peaked and receded in about a four year span. Just because they are both African countries with histories of great violence does not entail that they can be compared on any other grounds.

    The efficacy of foreign aid money in humanitarian crisis seems to be a separate issue altogether.

  3. Having worked and lived in Africa for many years (and been caught up in 3 civil wars) I can safely say that mass migrations resulting from conflict zone atrocities in Africa happen so frequently that the public has likely grown numb to such events in general. It seems rather evident to me that any ‘success’ attributed to the high percentage of US Aid dollars in Darfur is most likely merely a factor of PR generated by the high relatively number of documentary films and investigative reports produced on the conflict and the relatively high number of celebrities that have become involved in publicizing the Darfur situation.

    Is this disparity ethical? No, of course not. Is it to be expected? Given the propensity for apathy for such events displayed by the average citizen in the developed world up to now, I would say that the minority activists who are aware and concerned about such events should expect to have to continue working very hard to overcome the apathetic default setting that exists in most human beings.

  4. Having worked and lived in Africa for many years (and been caught up in 3 civil wars) I can safely say that mass migrations resulting from conflict zone atrocities in Africa happen so frequently that the public has likely grown numb to such events in general. It seems rather evident to me that any ‘success’ attributed to the high percentage of US Aid dollars in Darfur is most likely merely a factor of PR generated by the relatively high number of documentary films and investigative reports produced on the conflict and the numerous celebrities that have become involved in publicizing the Darfur situation.

    Is this disparity ethical? No, of course not. Is it to be expected? Given the propensity for apathy for such events displayed by the average citizen in the developed world up to now, I would say that the minority activists who are aware and concerned about such events should expect to have to continue working very hard to overcome the apathetic default setting that exists in most human beings.

  5. Terry Nickelson says:

    I don’t think questions of ethics need be raised about the disproportionate funding available to Darfur and DRC. In eastern Congo many more people were displaced than in Darfur as you have pointed out. But there are also dozens of rebel organizations and non-Congolese armies still contesting the outcome in the struggle for the east. Sorting through those competing groups has baffled many a diplomat and UN delegation.

    Given that the low level genocide in Darfur has not been perceived as having similar complications as DRC it may have attracted more aid because donors could have rightfully thought that said aid would have more impact than in the intractable Kivus.

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