Report Calls for Dramatic Change to Rebuild Societies in Conflict Amid Refugee Crisis

Report Calls for Dramatic Change to Rebuild Societies in Conflict Amid Refugee Crisis

The millions of people forced from their homes in the midst of the Middle East’s violent conflicts should be seen for the potential economic benefit they can bring, if the international community is to more effectively address the current crisis in the years to come, according to a report released today by a working group led by the U.S. Institute of Peace as part of an Atlantic Council-led task force.

The report, “Rebuilding Societies: Strategies for Resilience and Recovery in Times of Conflict” (Arabic-language executive summary), is the result of discussion in one of five working groups in the Middle East Strategy Task Force. The task force is an Atlantic Council initiative co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley, who is chairman of USIP’s board of directors.

Manal Omar, USIP’s associate vice president for the Middle East and Africa, and Elie Abouaoun, USIP’s Middle East director, co-convened the working group, which also includes other USIP and Atlantic Council staff among the U.S.-based experts as well as civil society leaders from the region who have successfully guided local-level negotiations to avert further violence.

The report proposes a shift away from the sequencing in crisis response characterized by a “day after” approach to a more innovative, sustainable and efficient effort to rebuild society “fromday one.”  The “day one” approach asks what can be done now to plant the seeds for full recovery and social cohesion in societies that are in the midst of protracted conflict, and it provides more sustainable, coherent, and substantive answers to the refugee crisis.

“Radically changing the way in which the international community has been supporting millions of Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan, Yemenis and Palestinians is not only a matter of humanity,” Omar said. “It is good politics.”

The report, written with lead author Béatrice Pouligny, an independent consultant, identifies and provides examples of five key imperatives for the international community, including better responses across borders and supporting people on the ground to direct their own revitalization efforts.

“Helping people move beyond their day-to-day struggle for survival requires a long-term commitment on the part of the international community,” says Omar. “There will be no reconstruction and no development tomorrow if we don’t start investing in people’s resilience now.”

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I have to be suspicious of these revolutionary, "radically changing"initiatives to help the populations of war torn countries. What do they think happened in Iraq? People were cheering American soldiers when Baghdad fell. But what we discovered was a nation in dire distress from a decade of Hussein's abuses and mismanaged power and abuse evidenced in the torture and murder of nearly 450,000 of his own citizens. The country's infrastructure was desperate. It reminded me of what American aid workers found in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch which tore through the country but what many people might have thought was damage from the storm was truly just the on going decay of a society locked into poverty that was accepting only two options, a continued rule by aristocrats or Revolution, NAFTA hardly made a dent.
Possibly the best eye opener to an argument not to trust the good intentions of international relief organizations is "Doorway to Hell" which revealed the billions wasted to build UN compounds that served little or no purpose during Somalian operations.
All we heard from the liberals in regard to Iraq and Afghanistan was how wasteful American assistance is used. American aid became synonymous with Halliburton. Millions of dollars on pallets would arrive and the service members working Sheikhs would dole it out and the Sheikhs would distribute the dollars conforming with traditional tribal values. This does not make for progress.
In Afghanistan the NGOs spent so much on their compounds one Carnegie Fellowship writer derisively noted it offended poor Afghans who did not have clean water and the NGO power generators burned all night with the only electricity in the village.
This week Stars and Stripes carried an article " by Philip Walter Wellman,SIGAR: US fed conditions for corruption". citing the 2015 survey by the Asian Foundation Afghan confidence in government is the lowest in a decade. That is since the critics of Bush and Halliburton;s wastage took office and have held the reins.
Am I cynical or realistic? I have met global planners living on mountaintops in the middle of nowhere designing models for how to collect and most efficiently distribute food. But they still have no idea how to get food from point A to its starving intended recipients. Half the plans end up in elaborate wastage or just never happens.
I am reminded of the big enthusiasm of "We are the World" that raised 100 million dollars with one concert and a decade later not 1/10th of the money had been used successfully to distribute food to those intended to benefit from it. They simply did not have the foresight to actually deliver the goods.
So my question always is with dreamers is how are they going to deliver the goods and what's it going to cost and what is acceptable wastage.
A friends wife drove a food truck decades ago for a Christian charity it stopped at the border and then waited in convoy. She worried if the bribe to get across the border to deliver the food would be enough or if they might be betrayed. Is that corruption or the cost of doing business?
Anyone who has been to the Kabul Intl airport knows you rate the level of corruption by the government by how many extra charges you pay on your way to the taxis.