Pacific Rim Solutions

Pacific Rim Solutions


In this final solutions presentation we
are going to be talking about disaster relief. In some ways, we’ve really
completed a lot of the solutions because we’ve talked about a whole bunch of
different types of development out there. But disaster relief, which sort of falls
outside of the spectrum of trying to improve conditions, is a really important
kind of international aid and development that, of course, is pretty
well-wedded to the particular region theme that we’re doing right now, which
is of course natural hazards. Now, of course, disaster relief is
probably the form of aid with which we’re most familiar when we typically
think of aid. We think about organizations that step in when there
are big natural disasters and the types of organizations that do this include
NGOs, UN agencies, national governments, and the Red Cross. I’m going to talk about each, in turn. UN agencies are, of course, very
important in providing international aid and relief and one of the reasons why
the UN exists. We talked about a couple of organizations that do international
aid and relief in the time of disasters including the United Nations High
Commission on refugees or the UNHCR. We also talked about the World Health
Organization a bit, as well the World Food Programme might have come up very briefly in the Latin America region. UNICEF, which is the Children’s Fund, is
another organization that does international disaster relief for the UN.
A lot of UN disaster relief is handled through a central fund called the
Central Emergency Response Fund or CERF that countries can donate funds to,
including not just countries, but also private donors, especially big
foundations donate money to this. Now the u.s. is not a major contributor
to the CERF it only donates something like four to ten million dollars per
year, and that’s a lot less than other developed countries in the world, but
it’s in part because the USAID and other forms of US aid are significant
bigger than the sorts of aid that we funnel via the United Nations. So let’s
talk a little bit about national governments. Most national governments
around the world provide some sort of disaster relief. Of course the amount
that they provide is really based on how big their economy and how big their
budget is, so the U.S. provides a great deal to different parts of the world. A
significant amount of this comes through the USAID – it has an international
disaster assistance fund. In the last year of President Obama’s administration,
that fund had about two billion dollars in it. In the Trump administration, it is
unclear exactly how much will be in there but it’s probably going to be less
than that two billion fund. It’s also worth noting though that, in addition to
official international disaster assistance, the Department of Defense
also provides disaster relief. This tends to be more discretionary funding, but a
number of American military organizations within the armed services
provide disaster relief at different times and different ways and it can be a
hefty amount of money, but it’s very difficult to disaggregate it from the
overall Department of Defense budget so I’m just going to leave it at a
discretionary number that changes from year to year, depending on conditions. Now the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation
of Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations is another organization
that provides international disaster relief. It’s really an NGO, a
non-governmental organization, it’s really many NGOs. The International
Committee of the Red Cross is the international NGO and then each country
has its own Red Cross or Red Crescent, like the American Red Cross, that belongs
to the Federation. Each of these organizations, they’re literally nearly 200 of them, all provide disaster relief and aid in times of
crisis. Now what’s unique about the Red Cross is that it is the one organization
that is recognized as a relief organization under the Geneva Convention. It has very specific wartime mission that includes not only providing
aid to wounded and aid and protection to citizens, but also is responsible for
delivering messages and packages to prisoners of war and other combatants.
It’s a special NGO compared to the other NGOs, but it has a peacetime
mission, in addition to the wartime mission. That peacetime mission is
much more like the other NGOs, and there are lots of NGOs that do different types
of international aid and relief. I can’t go into all of them, but I have
just a couple of examples up here: Probably one of the most famous is an
organization called Doctors Without Borders or medicins sans frontiere which
is known for providing not just medical care but other forms of disaster relief
in very I’m crisis ridden situations. In fact, Doctors Without Borders goes into
places that other organizations won’t because it is too unsafe for those
organizations. Another organization that’s well known in the West Coast the
United States is Mercy Corps it’s based in Portland.
It does disaster relief as well some development work. Shelter Box you might
have heard of, particularly if you have some association with Rotary, maybe those
of you who went on rotary exchanges have heard of Shelter Box before. They
actually provide boxes that have in them tents, and tools, and water purification
systems, and things like that that are delivered in times of natural disaster
to people who need to immediately have someplace to sleep. It’s a
very interesting organization and if you are able to fund an entire box, you can
actually track its progress as it moves to a disaster zone, which is pretty
interesting. In addition to these organizations, and many many others, there are lots of different faith-based organizations that do disaster relief.
I’m not going to have time to go into all of these. Just a couple of last notes
to make about disaster relief – one thing is that we shouldn’t forget
this issue of effectiveness, we should make sure that we know the
organizations we’re giving to that do disaster relief do what they’re supposed
to do, and the money is going where it’s supposed to go,
just as we did with other organizations. That’s something to think about,
especially if you consider donating in the time of crisis. One thing to know
about crisis situations is that they get pretty complicated and it is not
uncommon, especially in the case of the Red Cross, which is so large that
sometimes money is misappropriated – sometimes it’s lost in the chaos that
takes place during a major disaster or during an armed conflict, and that’s
something that is definitely problematic and needs to be reduced as much as
possible. But to some extent is inevitable as well. And then, just the
final thing I wanted to say about international disaster relief is that
there’s an increasing move in the disaster relief community to encourage
people to transfer cash to people who need help. There’s often a desire to do
things like send clothes or food to parts of the world that need this sort
of aid, but the reality is that these are extremely expensive and extremely
ineffective ways to deliver aid. One of the most important things that you can
do is just give people cash and once you give them cash they can not only buy the
stuff they need but they can start rebuilding local economies that have
often been devastated in the time of natural disaster. So these are all some
things to consider and think about as you think about the issue of disaster
relief.

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