When studying for my degree in International Relations I spent a lot of time looking at international aid. Where it comes from, where it goes, why it goes where it goes, why it doesn’t go where it is meant to go, and why it goes where we want it to go rather than where the people who need it would rather it went.
One argument, which we explored in great detail (Emma, Chloe and Zoe!), suggested that the business of aid was too bureaucratic. Take the UN; it’s an umbrella organisation, providing funding to projects which are aligned to its aims, and coordinating funding to make sure it reaches its intended destination. It takes a lot of time to get things done because it has to prove its accountability to its donor governments. Everything has to be approved, somewhat politically neutral and in-line with international law.
Despite this, in certain situations there is an overlap of results, meaning time, resources and money are wasted as, for example, identical research is collected by multiple organisations. This is not just within the UN system itself. Taking it further, and looking at the work of the UN alongside human rights organisations, civil society movements, university students and academics, economists, NGOs, INGOs and state governments, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the world of international aid is in somewhat of a mess.
The worst case scenario sees people slipping through the net completely, and being missed by humanitarian organisations. This situation can be seen in part as a ‘governance gap.’ At uni, we suggested that avoiding governance gaps required greater coordination between donor governments, NGOs, the UN, local organisations and civil society movements. It seemed straightforward.
Now I’m a research intern, in Palestine, with an international government-based research organisation. I was talking to a colleague and I asked if we had any collaboration with the leading human rights organisation in Palestine. I had noticed that some of their research was similar to ours, and wondered if we had used the same sources. She seemed surprised at the question;
‘Welcome to the Aid Industry!’