World's Aid Agencies Stretched To Their Limits By Simultaneous Crises

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

For the first time, the United Nations is handling four major humanitarian crises at once: refugee crises in Syria and Iraq as well as civil wars in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, where millions are at risk of famine. Meanwhile, West Africa is experience a devastating Ebola outbreak.

The world's aid agencies are stretched to their limits. Leading the U.S. response to these crises is the U.S. Agency for International Development, whose assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, Nancy Lindborg, spoke with Morning Edition.

"We are probably at a near-historic level of humanitarian need right now," Lindborg says. "We have, for the first time in the history of USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, four disaster assistance response teams deployed ... to high-tempo, big crises around the world at the same time. And this is in addition to ... ongoing needs that are being met in Nigeria, Gaza, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the emerging crisis in Ukraine."

Lindborg noted a striking contrast between addressing all the current crises and the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last November and December. "It was up and over in about a month," she says. "However, what we have now...are really complex, difficult crises that are fundamentally the result of non-democratic governments." In the Philippines, "Nobody was shooting anyone. And so, for humanitarian workers to be able to go in after there was a clear beginning and move progressively toward a better outcome, there's something very satisfying about that in contrast with the kind of crises we're seeing."

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Comments [1]

JessieHenshaw from Way Uptown

It appears that the present unusual wave of humanitarian disasters, pushing the limits of the world humanitarian response system, have resulted from "undemocratic governments" (and societies) producing social havoc. That’s a great place to start looking at the real causes, but only a start.

There are also a host of good reasons why how our business community tries to generate ever growing profits (from a suffering world) both helps produce undemocratic governments and societies. Making choices to maximize growing profit in a suffering world also drains economic resources from the world community’s humanitarian response, as it successively weakens all but the high achieving economic societies and communities, wherever they are. I have lots of good information on this systemic problem.

There are also some fairly direct ways social networks could organize to change the world business climate, with only a fairly simple understanding of how the whole system works. A social network could succeed in simply restoring the original common law meaning of "fiduciary duty", for example. Over the last 200 years the meaning as used in business (but not elsewhere) drifted to become what it effectively means today, "take as much money as you can". The original and only sensible meaning for all professionals, not just business, to “seek to make decisions for clients in their best interests”.

It’s not "good business" to invest in and support “bad business” is the simple fact. So it is unlikely to be in the true interests of a business’s investor to be profiting from supporting socially incompetent governments, OR others who do.

The simple restoration of the original meaning of “fiduciary” would give business a mandate to be socially conscious. It's quite a complex question, of course, but so are many other investment decisions. Once it’s again the legal duty for professionals to do business in our real interests they’ll figure it out, working though the “conversations and crowd sourced guidance of the markets”.

Aug. 19 2014 09:06 AM

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