The weekend’s press on the Pakistan flooding has changed track. Whilst the scale of the disaster has continued to be a main feature of news items, the secondary story, that of a government seen to be incompetent or even neglectful of the crisis, has been somewhat replaced by a new line. This discussion is whether or not the amount of money that has been donated by governments and individuals has been generous enough given the scale of the disaster.
The usual suggestion (often heard when there is a perception that funding has not been fast or high enough) has been that there is donor fatigue has once more infected both nation-state and individual giving. People saw Haiti and they gave and if even if there is more money left to give there is a belief that enough has been given globally at this point in time. After all there is only so much to go around. This disaster occurred at the wrong time; late October, a good 8 months after February might have been better.
More interesting, yet also confusing and contradictory have been the multitude of reasons as to why Pakistan has been seen as somehow less worthy of aid after this flooding than other countries after severe disasters, especially Haiti after the January earthquake.
The argument that Pakistan has been particularly negligent or incompetent in delivering aid to its own citizens, has now been stretched into a general debate over corruption. Articles have surfaced this week that some of the funds destined for the Kashmir earthquake affected areas did not reach them. So now it’s not just that Pakistan doesn’t know how to deal with aid money it actually diverts aid money. Yet according to Transparency International, people in Port Au Prince believe their country to be more corrupt than the people in Islamabad do theirs.
Perhaps we should not give to Pakistan anyway. They can’t deal with their own poor and they waste colossal amounts of money on the military. Why should humanitarian aid be given to a country that can afford nuclear weapons?
Militancy and terrorism come next. Do people consider Pakistan a state with too many links to Islamic terror groups? And has the repeated suggestion that donations to Pakistan might stem the advance of Islamic militant groups actually had the inverse affect of putting donors off giving at all? Or has the argument should we give money to Pakistan because it is actually a strategic country, not because there are actually people in need, lead us to make a decision that humanitarian aid to the country is not our priority?
Humanitarianism is guided by the principles of neutrality, independence, impartiality and should be given solely on the basis of need. None of these reasons for giving or not giving are actually to do with humanitarian need. It seems quite simple: people are suffering, the government of Pakistan cannot meet their needs, so others should help.
Post-Script: Our data does show much more generosity for other disasters. To date US$251 million has been provided for the Pakistan floods whilst at the same point after the Haiti earthquake, funding had already reached US$637.