Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Working from the ground on down"

'Nepal isn't Haiti' aid organizations are urging donors to believe.

They have good reason to be insistent...a vulgar amount of money is at stake--billions...


The aid industry is even bullying the media to not report on misdeeds, that is, to not compare Nepal's aid paradigm to Haiti's fiasco--lest potential donors become justifiably wary and pull back. Aid entrepreneurs seem to be fitfully concerned about losing 'their' money and losing a chance at a financial jackpot wrought by a horrific tragedy.

And with a game-changing amount, then perhaps Nepal might become so disfigured as to be rendered unrecognizable--sunk forever if the wrong people receive as much power and leverage as a pornographic windfall would afford the ruling establishment--ever more leverage and more sway over a long-disenfranchised, impoverished citizenry.

"Nepal is not Haiti" supposed to reassure potential donors...

Actually, the aid scene in general in Nepal is likely worse than Haiti, and for that matter, perhaps worse than anywhere in the world. Are aid entrepreneurs willing to truly see the suffering behind mounds of expensive paperwork, reams of photo bear witness to the appalling fashion show behind the clutter and faux-scenery of a donor darling playground? For anyone with eyes to see, suffering is palpable in Nepal and deathly. Most donors and aid workers do not see it, pretend not to see it or worst of all, blindly believe that they are championing the very people being oppressed by the establishment, an establishment that aid helps to endow.

Therefore, I kindly request evidence-based reassurances that the aid business is on track and on task. After six decades and billions of dollars and endless schemes, can the aid industry please present evidence in their own defense worthy of six decades of otherwise lost time, effort and money? For example, in flagrante delicto many hydro projects have been funded (profanely funded) without materializing...that money didn't just disappear into thin air...the people should track and chase down and prosecute every last accomplice for stripping them of years and years and years of prosperity and the pox of poverty that took its place. Poverty and its effects include hunger, illness, educational failings and much more up to death associated with it and its lost opportunities.

For once, will the aid industry at least consider that they might be doing some harm (rather than curiously proclaiming that they are not Haiti)? This question is not unreasonable, especially when tens of millions of people are suffering every day and have been suffering for decades upon decades for want of progress, health and opportunity. Will the aid industry ever consider it might be doing some harm? Should not that be the first question of all before an aid entrepreneur packs his/her bags to effect change in a distant foreign land?

Until then, until we see clear, transparent, and objective proof worthy of billions of dollars and years and years of critical time wasted--lost time and lost opportunity borne by an impoverished people--people without a defender, without an advocate, without a champion, without representation--then, I will continue to believe the aid industry is generally misguided in Nepal and beyond. Hopefully, I might, even if in the smallest way, be part of a growing voice for overdue change in aid to Nepal...otherwise, taken as a whole, aid tends to support the very people keeping Nepal undeveloped and paralyzed in failed folly. In sum, aid, taken as a whole (from my anecdotal viewpoint), probably could not have done more harm to Nepal had that been its aim.

It tends to subsidize the entitlement gang, political establishment and government functionaries and does so for the worst. Together they generally have drowned the hopes of millions of Nepalis day after day, year after year, decade after decade and so on. Foreign agents tend to align with precisely the wrong gang, prolonging and perpetuating deathly problems. I would love with all my heart for the sake of Nepal and Nepali people to be proved wrong about aid...until then I will fumble along as I speak out against it (and hopefully speak up for Nepal and Nepali people) as much as I can.

And what now is most needed post-quake? In terms of rebuilding in rural areas, structures in the hills collapsed, and mostly homes need to be rebuilt--and many have been already.

This rebuilding is something local people are adept at as a community without much outside support. Many have already accomplished this rebuilding of their own homes through their own and community-wide efforts. This is something they have done since time immemorial without a single rupee or nod from any outside source or consultation. 

Still, pleas for schools pull at donors' heartstrings. What human with red blood can withstand a plea for a school--ultimately for kids, for education and opportunity...Schools have become the target as they are the most likely to reach a soft spot in potential donors' judgment.

But what exactly will be rebuilt here with regards to schools..will they become the same as they were pre-quake...many empty shells where education was desired but not often delivered for want of teachers, staff, salaries, supplies and for want of material, administrative and economic support necessary for a school to function. Basically, will it just be a building with the name of 'school' on the outside?

What I mean to point out is, what of these schools after they are built? Who will staff them, supply salaries and instructional materials and a decent curriculum? Material support was a major issue in most schools pre-quake. Who will follow up once the newly erected structures are in place? Or, is the structure the only goal and education an assumed side-effect that has been greatly missing all along in many rural areas? Is this overlooked or do aid workers believe education will materialize on its own after a basic framework is established (and after hefty salaries and photo opportunities are collected by I/NGO entrepreneurs and administrators)?

Certainly, outside funds might make re-building, education, and nearly everything else easier if they truly hit the target in a transparent way and have proper, unbiased oversight and rigorous follow-up and most importantly community support, too. And that is precisely what is suspicious about the aid paradigm up to infrequently they have hit targets (do most of them even know their targets if not the local language and cultures they are affecting?) and can provide concrete stories of success.

Moreover, at this point, it is not going to kill anyone to not receive more outside funds, whereas, on the other hand, a vast amount of money that helps subsidize and endow a dysfunctional system could potentially do vast harm as it continues to oppress the majority of vulnerable people in a way that results in illness, suffering and yes, even outrageously tragic example, over thirty Nepalis are coming home in body bags a month after perishing abroad in hideous work mostly in Malaysia and the Gulf for lack of opportunity at home--a direct outcome of the flawed establishment that is greatly enabled and endowed by the aid industry. Knowingly and most often unknowingly aid is helping to keep a dysfunctional system in place.

No, now is not the time to defend Nepal's aid paradigm as 'not Haiti' --if that is the best claim and the catchphrase the aid business chooses to put forth right now. They already have 100,000-plus spokespeople on salaries in favor of aid (i.e., Nepal has over 100,000 I/NGOs and therefore, that many CEOs of I/NGOs). Given the tide in favor of a dubious industry, that industry might very well benefit from a few more critics.

In fact, focusing on the rare few in the aid industry doing things right does a disservice to the Nepali people at a time when billions are at stake and more oversight and care is most needed, not less. Overlooking the faults is not the answer if it means overlooking the suffering, the backbreaking suffering that aid has been a party to for the foreseeable past.

Now is the time to #FreeNepal and demand of I/NGOs at the very least transparency (in amounts received, amounts spent and on what and substantial proof of it including amounts of salaries of all members in said aid organization), accountability, oversight...or better yet, free Nepal of foreign intervention altogether by throwing a malnourished, abused baby out with the bathwater and pull the plug on a dysfunctional status quo rather than inoculating the zombies with billions...billions...

Lack of money is likely not the root of problems, nor are funds the likely solution. Will more money lead to any resolution and progress and if so, can the aid industry provide substantial proof of that?  

Until evidence arrives, more funding seems to have had the opposite effect...which leaves me to ponder the earnestness in proclaiming that 'Nepal is not Haiti'

"The [aid industry] doth protest too much, methinks" -- paraphrase of Hamlet, Shakespeare

"There are good deeds and good intentions and the distance between them is as far as heaven and hell...and you're working your way from the ground on down." --Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals

Live from Mars, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
"There are good deeds and good intentions and the distance between them is a far as heaven and hell."

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