CARE In Afghanistan
Dr. John Watson of CARE Canada has taken yet another swipe at the link between military operations and aid. This is part of an ongoing series of critiques, from Watson and others, of e.g. military CIMIC operations, the deployment of the DART and, now, CIDA’s emphasis on Kandahar.
Dr. Watson talks about the ”hard earned neutrality” of international aid agencies and suggests that they are unwilling to surrender that to move ”behind the wire” and cooperate with Canada’s 3D (defence, diplomacy, development) approach to delivering support to the people of Afghanistan.
In point of fact Dr. Watson is not engaged in promoting the independence of CARE Canada, or any other agency – no one is conscripting them. This is nothing more than a nasty little feud over money. For Dr. Watson and his fellow travelers every dollar spent on the military is a dollar which cannot be funnelled through CARE Canada and its bureaucracy.
Canada has decided on the 3D approach because Canadian officials are convinced that the best, most cost effective way to get Canadian aid to the neediest Afghans is by having the aid agencies work closely with the Canadian military – who have a long and honourable tradition of helping people wherever they find need. Nothing is stopping CARE Canada from raising money and spending it anywhere it wishes in Afghanistan or elsewhere on whatever projects it thinks are most beneficial.
In other words, CARE is still free to pursue its highly successful Widows Feeding Project but may have to do so with private funds raised by it's supporters. (Government Agencies such as the CF and DFAIT cannot raise funds in this manner.)
The Government of Canada has decided that government money will be more carefully focused – on 3D, in the Kandahar region. Those aid agencies who want to participate must cooperate and coordinate with the military which is, de facto the ‘lead’ agency in the region. Those who object to sacrificing their hard won neutrality need not ask for money. Seems simple enough.
The fact is that Kandahar is in need of all three aspects of the 3D approach. This requires a combined effort from numerous organizations, including the military, because of it's extensive experience in these areas.
CARE Canada is an estimable organization which has been a world leader in aid and development. To its credit it has not cut and run in the face of even the Taliban. Dr. Watson is on record as opposing military managed ”aid” because it might endanger the neutral civilian aid agencies by tying them, in the minds of locals, with foreign, ‘occupying’ military forces and making those neutral, civilian aid agencies targets for attack. That is a legitimate point of view and if he feels that CARE Canada people would be unnecessarily endangered then he should not deploy them to Kandahar.
On the other hand, we see considerable merit in Canada’s official 3D approach and we agree that Canadian government resources, especially money, should be directed to all organizations working in the 3D team.
Perhaps Canada is wrong, perhaps Dr. Watson is right and the military should be restricted to fighting and locally funded (self-funded) very local “aid” projects. If experience shows that then we hope the Government of Canada will adjust accordingly but Dr. Watson should wait until we have some experience. Right now, it appears to us, he is just whining because he and CARE Canada will not have unfettered access to a large pot of money.
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