News from Amsterdam

To the front page

11/1 Jurists want to stay in Oudemanhuispoort

8/2 Mayor’s portrait

8/2 Websites for social cohesion

7/2 Spreading tourism proceeds with difficulty

7/2 GroenLinks on districts: Be a man

6/2 Zuideramstel opens new office on Sabbath

5/2 The truth about integration

4/2 Wilders has little support on Amsterdam

3/2 Elite involved in neighbourhood

2/2 Johnnie Walker avoids taxes in Amsterdam

1/2 Rotterdam to tinker with district councils as well

31/1 Wooden rowing boats to disappear from Amstel

31/1 ZeeburgTV launched

27/1 Privacy activists to mess up loyalty card system

27/1 A few were still coughing, but that was an act

27/1 Chrisis in de Baarsjes

26/1 Youth have positive view of districts

24/1 Action groups call for Carmel and Jaffa boycott

24/1 PvdA members dismiss plan for districts

23/1 KLM takes on crisis with new uniform

23/1 District office not squatted

21/1 Merge districts

20/1 Closing squat bar Vrankrijk not necessary

20/1 Cleaners welcome new Schiphol director

18/1 Palestine at the Jewish Historical Museum

18/1 What is the right size for a district?

17/1 PvdA Oost against fewer districts

16/1 Committee: 7 districts by 2010

15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

14/1 Youth for Christ to republish vacancies

13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

13/1 New Youth for Christ contoversy

11/1 Social cohesion initiative raises eyebrows

10/1 Fewer districts in 2010

10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

9/1 Supermarket coupon fraud thwarted

9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

8/1 Use term Apartheid in every discussion

8/1 No city kiosk in Amsterdam yet

7/1 Snow

7/1 Fatima Elatik to run Zeeburg

7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


2008 Archive

2007 Archive

2006 Archive

2005 Archive





Failed debate on aid industry

10 October 2008 - Aid organisations inadvertently perpetuate humanitarian disasters, argued journalist Linda Polman in a packed Felix Meritis last night. However, the ensuing debate with the aid industry fell flat.

Polman, who published a book on UN missions and who yesterday presented her new book De Crisiskaravaan (The Crisis Caravan), argued that violence and starving babies attract foreign aid. She also said that aid agencies are forced to accept that dictators and warlords confiscate some of the aid to feed soldiers and buy weapons.

For example, the people who had been responsible for the Rwanda genocide would have been all but in charge of the refugee camps set up to help the victims of that genocide. The millions raised by pop singer Bob Geldof's Live Aid concerts would have been used to fund a murderous resettlement programme in Ethiopia (incidentally, Médecins Sans Frontières was one of the foremost critics of the aid to Ethiopia).

A Sierra Leone warlord once told Polman that parties had escalated the conflict and gone as far as cutting arms and legs off people in a deliberate attempt to attract aid. While this claim may or may not be true, the mere fact that people can conceive of such strategies was a reason to write her new book, Polman said.

Just about the entire Dutch aid industry had been invited to respond to Polman's criticism yesterday night. Guests included representatives of Oxfam Novib, Cordaid (an aid organisation with Catholic roots), the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières.

All of them said they applauded that Polman has taken a critical look at the aid industry. While they did not really dispute the facts she had raised, but they were sorry to say that her views are over-simplified and fail to do justice to the good intentions and the critical attitude of aid workers.

The role of aid organisations is to help people, they argued. It is not their task to change power structures or to decide who is a crook and should not receive aid. Withholding aid to starving people would be immoral. In short, aid organisations were willing to take responsibility for the people they help but not for any negative consequences aid might have.

Polman herself took the sting out of the debate by saying that she 'of course' was not arguing to end aid and that she only thought it should be organised in a better way. Her main suggestion was to make the estimated 37,000 aid organisations collaborate more.

This was going moderator Thijs Berman too far. The organisational problem was about the least interesting issue she had raised in her lecture, he said: 'let's talk about how aid is being used to perpetuate wars'. However, his cris de coeur failed to revive the debate.

Image: Rwandan refugee camp in then Zaire. Photo US Gove


Want to receive News from Amsterdam? Click here

rnment / Wikipedia

This is the old website. Please find new content here