Relief Agency Calls for More Needs-based Aid Allocation

A U.S. Army soldier distributes bags of flour to local Musahi villagers in Afghanistan as part of a humanitarian aid mission. Oxfam International says donor governments are increasingly spending their humanitarian and development aid budgets on regions and countries they consider militarily and strategically important while neglecting other equally needy and impoverished areas.

A growing trend among donors to use aid for military and security interests has led to wasteful and often ineffective projects and, in some cases, put the lives of aid workers and beneficiaries at risk, an international relief agency says in a new report.

Donors should allocate their aid based on need instead of short-term military or political gains to avoid undermining their commitments to providing effective, lifesaving assistance, Oxfam International says.

In its report entitled “Whose Aid is it Anyway?” Oxfam says donor governments are increasingly spending their humanitarian and development aid budgets on regions and countries they consider militarily and strategically important while neglecting other equally needy and impoverished areas.

“Since 2002 one-third of all development aid to the 48 states labeled ‘fragile’ by the OECD has gone to just three countries: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the report states. “During this period aid to Iraq and Afghanistan alone has accounted for over two-fifths of the entire USD178 billion global increase in aid provided by wealthy countries.”

Aid directed toward short-term military and political objectives does not reach the poorest people and fails to build long-term security in fragile countries, according to Mike Lewis, author of the report.

The report also notes that the number of aid workers killed or attacked rose from 85 in 2002 to 225 in 2010, partly because of the rising number of workers operating in violent places and an increase in the number of politically motivated attacks.

“Poorly conceived projects tend to alienate the very people whose ‘hearts and minds’ donors want to win. And blurring the role between civilian aid workers and the military can turn aid workers and, more importantly, the communities where they work into targets,” Lewis says.

To prevent the situation from worsening, Oxfam says donors need to ensure that all aid in all countries is focused on reducing poverty and development needs, that it respects and responds to the needs of beneficiaries and does not contribute to the violation of humanitarian laws and human rights. The groups also call for better coordination between development and defense agencies in donor governments.

Aid organizations should also ensure that their activities do not support or provide resources for conflict, the organization says. 

Read more development aid news.

About the author

  • Ivy mungcal 400x400

    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.