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Foreign Aid to Afghanistan
Some definitions of foreign aid provide a distorted vision of its purpose. This in turn drives citizens, government officials and donors away from supporting it. An accurate definition of foreign aid is one country helping to improve a recipient country’s standard of living through economic, military and various other services. Donors provide this type of support after war or natural disaster. The recent withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is slowly concluding more than 40 years of conflict. However, foreign aid to Afghanistan remains necessary.

Afghanistan’s Violent Past

More than half of the population in Afghanistan lives on $1.90 a day. In headlines, history books and news stories, many do not see Afghanistan beyond the label of an economically developing country. This label often comes from a place of unfair judgment.

The longevity of the Afghan crisis is why aid is vital in transforming the country to work toward a better quality of life and future for the younger generations. The detrimental relationship between the state and citizens has damaged every part of what is necessary for a society to flourish. For example, the top-down monopoly with profiteers and warlords on top formed to control economic markets producing bottom-up violence is a significant barrier in the country flourishing. Understanding the nature of the conflict that has created a dystopian climate throughout the country is vital in producing foreign aid to Afghanistan because planning for the long term is what will produce change.

Antony Blinken’s Push for Reform

The U.S. is the world’s largest provider of foreign aid, but reform is necessary for providing quality aid for the future. During secretary of state Antony Blinken’s visit to Afghanistan on April 15, 2021, he spoke on several areas of reform to ensure the foreign aid sector continues to progress and attend to the needs of Afghanistan.

The U.S. is studying previous aid distribution models and methods to ensure that country receives the maximum amount of help. This also promotes other governments to continue the change. The U.S. plans on holding the Afghanistan government accountable to the pledge of acknowledging the basic human rights of their citizens. For example, traveling outside of the country has been nearly impossible for Afghan citizens. The U.S. will also hold the Taliban accountable for using Afghanistan as a base for formulating attacks on other countries. Neutralizing any form of threat prevents damage to other countries that would ultimately produce the need for more foreign aid and will push away allies.

The U.S. will ensure even aid distribution throughout the country. It will have clear communication with the Taliban in the coming years. The Taliban must allow aid groups to work on uninterrupted terms. Overall, the U.S. is enforcing long-term change through rectifying the relationship between the state and citizens that has been upholding the unlivable climate.

The Future of Foreign Aid to Afghanistan

The narrative of putting a stop to the current war or any war in the future is an unreachable goal. Foreign aid will not go towards a single issue. Instead, it will focus on changing the systemic problems that continue to produce wars. The U.S. often uses a militant approach, however, with the updated forms of foreign aid, it will not be using violence to overcome it. This includes $64 million in new humanitarian assistance which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will distribute. This new surge of funding will provide a large range of assistance including shelter, essential health care, sanitation, food aid, hygiene services and more. These are forms of aid that will contribute to the overall building of a better livelihood for Afghan citizens.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which U.S. Congress introduced in 2004 is an agency separate from the State Department and USAID. It continues to abide by its mission statement of reducing poverty through economic growth by providing aid to countries like Afghanistan. The U.S. has also developed a range of grants and programs to assist Afghan women who the civil upheaval greatly impacted. USAID continues to provide grants in helping Afghan women gain access to universities through the Women’s Scholarship Endowment.

The US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM)

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) funds several programs for Afghan women refugees and internally displaced persons. The programs include literacy training, gender-based violence prevention and mother-child health care. PRM works with various partners to ensure change including the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In large groups, varying interests can prevent the proper allocation of funds to aid. However, the government and donors continue to work closely together. The impact that aid has extends beyond providing food and emergency medical assistance. It has the potential to provide a hopeful future for those who have only known living in a war zone. It reconciles individual relationships within the society. As aid strategies are revised to adhere to current needs the long-term quality of life for Afghan citizens will improve.

– Maggie Forte
Photo: Flickr

Casa PintadaMany communities in Colombia have been decimated after more than 50 years of conflict. Despite the signing of a peace deal between the Colombian Government and rebel groups in 2016, violence persists in many parts of the country. Rural communities have been disproportionally impacted as government services are almost non-existent in these areas. Many programs have been initiated to assist victims of the conflict, one of them being the Casa Pintada project. This project involves members of shattered communities coming together to rebuild and repaint buildings that have been destroyed. It seeks to re-establish the sense of community that has been lost in the conflict.

Overview of the Colombian Conflict

The Colombian conflict began in the 1960s with the formation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). These two far-left militant groups embarked on a violent campaign against the Colombian state for more than 50 years. Kidnappings, assassinations and drug trafficking were commonplace during this time and at least 220,000 people have been killed.

The signing of a peace deal in 2016 was lauded around the world and then-president, Juan Manuel Santos, even won a Nobel Peace Prize. However, violence has continued as many of the promises made by the Colombian government have not been kept. Rural areas still are not receiving basic assistance and this has convinced many militants to resume fighting.

The Casa Pintada Project

Blumont undertakes the Casa Pintada project, an organization that provides developmental programs around the world. In the Casa Pintada or painted house project, people restore and repaint damaged buildings in various communities throughout Colombia. Focusing specifically on the Caquetá, Cauca and Córdoba states, it seeks to help the residents of these areas restore the sense of community among themselves by rebuilding their communities from the ground up.

At least 740 families have benefited from Casa Pintada and these benefits have gone far beyond rebuilding damaged infrastructure. The project also provides psychological assistance to those who have experienced years of violence and displacement. The act of repainting homes as a community breaks down barriers that have gone up over the years by instilling a sense of pride among residents of these areas. This helps to reestablish connections between neighbors, which in turn, goes a long way in healing the trauma caused by decades of conflict.

The Closing Gaps Program

Casa Pintada is a part of Blumont’s larger Closing Emergency Gaps to Aid Displaced People program. Called the Closing Gaps program for short, it is funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. This program seeks to aid victims of displacement in Colombia by strengthening the local government’s ability to care for refugees while providing for their basic needs and representation. Furthermore, as demonstrated by the Casa Pintada project, Closing Gaps is also concerned with treating the psychological impacts of displacement.

The Casa Pintada project reflects the multifaceted issues that arise from violent civil conflicts. The Colombian conflict lasted for more than five decades and left an indelible impact on much of the population, especially in rural areas. While the physical toll the Colombian people have suffered received much attention, Casa Pintada aims to address the psychological effects of the conflict. By having people repaint and refurbish damaged buildings in their neighborhoods, it helps heal the trauma they have endured by instilling a sense of community among them.

– Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

The United States Can Help Refugees
The world has seen an incessant cycle of violent conflict, famine and environmental catastrophes in recent years. These events have caused an increase in refugees and displaced people to a number that human history has not seen before. To date, a record 70 million people worldwide are displaced. A significant question is how the United States can help refugees.

The United States has not only the resources but an obligation to remedy this ever-growing humanitarian crisis. Through humanitarian assistance, the United States has the ability to curb global instability for national security purposes. It is important to first understand how the United States can help refugees before looking at how to improve the current system.

U.S. refugee policy has historically set the standard for the rest of the world. However, modern policy has not evolved to meet the growing crisis at hand. It is crucial to continue the search for an adequate policy to end the push factors causing the refugee crisis and improve the quality of life for displaced people. The United States can accomplish this goal in two ways: by expanding upon existing humanitarian assistance and restructuring the United States’ current humanitarian system.

How the United States Helps Refugees and Displaced People

The United States has implemented a number of programs to improve the lives of refugees around the world. One such program is the Julia Taft fund. This program supports projects aimed at assisting refugees or refugee returnees to become self-sufficient in ways that are beneficial to their host communities. The fund provides financial assistance to local NGOs, community-based and faith-based organizations that seek to ameliorate the lives of refugees by improving economic conditions in their host communities.

With the support of the Julia Taft fund, the U.S. embassy in Chad helped open a salon in collaboration with a local NGO. The salon opened in April 2019, aims to reduce sexual violence against refugee women in urban areas. The 12 women selected for the project participated in an apprenticeship at a local salon and now have the skill set necessary to run their own business. This example demonstrates that the United States can use the fund to increase the self-sufficiency of displaced people while bringing value to the economy of the local host communities.

The implementation of programs, such as the Julia Taft Fund, demonstrates how the United States can help refugees. This fund provides refugees with the tools to be self-sufficient while also benefitting local economies. In order to continue and expand programs such as this, the U.S. must increase funding and the efficiency of its humanitarian aid delivery system. The United States sets the standard for humanitarian assistance to refugees. The United States must modernize this system for the benefit of global stability and national security.

How the United States Can Better Help Refugees and Displaced People

Increasing the capabilities of the United States humanitarian aid delivery system is crucial to managing the growing number of refugee crises. It is important to ask how the United States can help refugees and what the U.S. can do better to address this issue. The U.S. needs to empower its humanitarian organizations with increased funding and a sound organizational structure in order to address the changing needs of displaced people around the world.

In order to achieve a more efficient and influential U.S. humanitarian system, it is important to maintain and gradually increase funding to the State Department and USAID. The Trump administration is proposing cuts to both of these state entities. The proposed cuts would reduce funding by nearly one-third, from $8.7 billion to $6.3 billion. This potential decrease in funding would cripple the United States’ ability to effectively address the causes and mitigate the effects of refugee crises.

A well funded and autonomous USAID would be better equipped to implement humanitarian response programming for displaced people and their host communities. The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration would simultaneously remain an independent entity focusing on policy and diplomatic responses to refugee crises. This structure would act to create a cohesive diplomatic and humanitarian response to the growing number of crises that impact people around the world.

– Peter Trousdale
Photo: Flickr