Q&A: ASI program head speaks out on Syria aid scandal

A view of Aleppo, Syria. Photo by: Sebastien Dechamps / CC BY-NC-ND

LONDON  — One of the United Kingdom government’s main aid contractors, Adam Smith International, is under fire again.

This week, investigative TV show BBC Panorama aired a documentary accusing the implementer of failing to tackle corruption in an aid program it runs in Syria, and alleging that a small portion of funds had reached the hands of a terrorist group, Nour al-Din al-Zenki, after being extracted from the Free Syria Police — an unarmed civilian police force that the program supports. Panorama also claims that FSP officers cooperated with courts involved in human rights abuses, and that two of their officers were present when two women were stoned to death.

UK-Syria aid scandal prompts questions about risk in conflict zones

As a BBC investigation accuses a United Kingdom-managed aid program in northern Syria of allowing funds to end up in the hands of terrorist organizations, Devex looks at what the outlet's attention means for the way aid organizations engage with risk in conflict zones.

ASI, which implements the Access to Justice and Community Security, or AJACS, program on behalf of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, denies the allegations, claiming the journalists behind the documentary took events out of context and misrepresented the risks faced by aid organizations working in complex environments such as northern Syria. It says the stoning incident took place just five weeks after it started running the project and that the two officers in question were not normally linked to the scheme.

Donors to the program, including the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany suspended the program on Monday while they investigate the claims.

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About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.