African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".


  • African Press International Daily Online News Channel

  • * * API on Facebook

  • October 2011
    M T W T F S S
    « Sep   Nov »
     12
    3456789
    10111213141516
    17181920212223
    24252627282930
    31  
  • Total Visitors

    • 5,358,104 HITS
  • Flag tracker

    web counter
  • RSS BBC News – Africa

    • Reeva Steenkamp shot in 'rapid fire' April 16, 2014
      A forensics expert contradicts police ballistics testimony by telling the trial of Oscar Pistorius that his girlfriend was shot in quick succession.
    • Remittance fees 'hurt Africans' April 16, 2014
      Communities in sub-Saharan Africa are being "hurt" by high fees charged by money transfer operators, charity Comic Relief says.
    • Fate of Nigeria kidnap girls unclear April 17, 2014
      Mystery surrounds the fate of more than 100 teenage girls abducted from a school in the remote north-east of Nigeria by suspected Islamist militants.
    • Head of oldest African park shot April 16, 2014
      The Belgian director of Africa's oldest national park - Virunga in the Democratic Republic of Congo - is shot and wounded in an ambush.
    • UN mulls medal for peacekeepers April 16, 2014
      The UN Security Council hears a proposal to create a medal for bravery in UN peacekeeping, to be named after a Senegalese soldier who saved lives during the Rwandan genocide.
    • 'Last' Chadian soldier leaves CAR April 16, 2014
      Chad has withdrawn all its peacekeepers from the Central African Republic, an official confirms, after accusations they sided with Muslim rebels.
    • South Sudan rebels 'seize' oil hub April 15, 2014
      Rebel forces in South Sudan say they have recaptured the oil hub of Bentiu and want oil companies to halt operations.
    • Elite marathon runner misses flight April 15, 2014
      A London Marathon runner from Sierra Leone is missing after she disappeared and failed to catch a flight home.
    • Jordanian envoy kidnapped in Libya April 15, 2014
      Masked gunmen kidnap Jordan's ambassador to Libya in the capital, Tripoli, in an attack that left his driver wounded, officials say.
    • More than 70 killed in Nigeria blast April 14, 2014
      More than 70 people are killed in a powerful explosion at a crowded bus station near Nigeria's capital, Abuja, officials say.
    • Rwandan musician and journalist held April 14, 2014
      One of Rwanda's best-known musicians and a leading journalist are arrested over their alleged links to an opposition group and rebels.
    • Video link trial for Gaddafi's son April 14, 2014
      A Libyan court rules that the late Colonel Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, and other Gaddafi officials being held outside Tripoli, can be tried via video-link.
    • VIDEO: Hunt for 100 abducted girls in Nigeria April 16, 2014
      Security forces in Borno State in Nigeria are searching for dozens of teenage girls abducted by suspected members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
    • VIDEO: Pistorius trial day 23 - in 60 secs April 16, 2014
      The girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius was shot in quick succession as she fell down, a forensics expert has told the South African athlete's murder trial.
    • AUDIO: 'Killing books' in Libya April 15, 2014
      Libyan author Mansour Bushnaf says Libya does not have much of reading culture because under Col Muammar Gaddafi, people were afraid of books.
    • VIDEO: At site of Nigeria bus station blast April 14, 2014
      A powerful bomb blast has ripped through a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, killing at least 71 people.
    • VIDEO: Cleaning up Cairo's waste system April 14, 2014
      The Egyptian government is turning to its traditional rubbish collectors - the Zabaleen - to revolutionise Cario's waste disposal industry.
    • VIDEO: Pistorius trial day 21 - in 60 secs April 14, 2014
      The prosecutor at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial suggests the South African athlete is using his emotions "as an escape".
    • VIDEO: Ghana's 'waste to wealth' initiative April 12, 2014
      Suzanne Vanhooymissen reports on the large and smaller-scale enterprises set up to segregate waste and encourage recycling in Ghana.
    • VIDEO: Stalemate for SA's platinum miners April 12, 2014
      Lerato Mbele reports on the impact of the platinum workers' strike in South Africa, which has so far lasted for almost three months.
  • RSS BBC News – Home

    • Search for S Korea ferry passengers April 17, 2014
      Ships and divers continue to search for nearly 300 people unaccounted for, a day after a ferry carrying more than 470 sank off South Korea.
    • Deadly clashes at Ukraine port base April 17, 2014
      Three people are killed in a raid on a base in eastern Ukraine, the country's interior minister says, as the US, Russia, the EU and Ukraine hold crisis talks in Geneva.
    • Lamb takeaways 'often another meat' April 16, 2014
      Takeaway owners are to face a new testing programme, after a watchdog found nearly a third of lamb takeaways it checked contained a different meat.
    • Busy roads warning ahead of Easter April 17, 2014
      Motorists are braced for what is set to be the busiest day of the year on the roads so far, with up to 16m cars expected to be used over Easter.
    • Hospital infections 'still too high' April 17, 2014
      Doctors and nurses should do more to stop hospital patients developing infections, an NHS watchdog says.
    • Catholic Church refuses poll request April 17, 2014
      The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales turns down a request by members for the results of a sexual ethics survey to be made public.
    • Argentina girl kept years in garage April 17, 2014
      Police in Argentina say they have rescued a teenage girl who had been starved, beaten and kept in a garage for nine years by her foster parents.
    • Royals vow return visit to Australia April 17, 2014
      The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge pledge to return to Australia's famous Blue Mountains, after visiting the area as part of a 10-day tour of the country.
    • Mini-sub performs full MH370 search April 17, 2014
      A mini-sub searching for the missing Malaysian plane completes a full mission at its third attempt, after technical issues cut the first two short.
    • India votes on biggest polling day April 17, 2014
      Indians are voting in the biggest day of the general election, pitting the ruling Congress party against the main opposition BJP.
    • Don't axe 2021 census, MPs advise April 17, 2014
      It is "too soon" to decide whether to scrap the national census, and the 2021 survey should go ahead, MPs advise.
    • 10,000 new drivers 'lost licences' April 17, 2014
      About 10,000 new drivers had their licences revoked after receiving six or more penalty points in 2012, Newsbeat finds through a Freedom of Information request.
    • Cancer hopes and ferry disaster - papers April 17, 2014
      The prospects for the latest clinical trials of cancer drugs make some front pages, while many feature photographs of a ferry sinking off South Korea.
    • VIDEO: Bristol boy's club battle over Banksy April 16, 2014
      A row has broken out over the ownership of a work of art by "guerrilla artist" Banksy after it was taken from a Bristol street
    • Cathedral hosts Royal Maundy service April 17, 2014
      The Queen will bring the Easter tradition of handing out Maundy money to Blackburn Cathedral later.
    • Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland April 16, 2014
      Manchester City's Premier League title hopes are dealt a blow after they are held to a draw by bottom side Sunderland.
    • Bale winner sees Real lift Copa del Rey April 16, 2014
      Gareth Bale scores a brilliant late goal as Real Madrid defeat Barcelona 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final in Valencia.
    • Everton 2-3 Crystal Palace April 16, 2014
      Everton hand the initiative back to Arsenal in the race for fourth as they suffer a surprise 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace.
    • Ebdon misses out on Crucible spot April 16, 2014
      Peter Ebdon fails to qualify for the World Championship for the first time since turning professional.
    • World Cup goal drives resting Carter April 16, 2014
      New Zealand legend Dan Carter hopes a sabbatical will keep him fresh to sort out some unfinished World Cup business
  • RSS Reuters: Politics

    • California Governor Brown wants rainy-day fund in constitution April 17, 2014
      SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday stepped up his efforts to enshrine a rainy day fund in the state's constitution, stealing some thunder from Republicans backing a similar measure as he seeks an unprecedented fourth term.
    • Detroit pension deal approved by one retirement system April 17, 2014
      (Reuters) - The board of Detroit's General Retirement System on Wednesday approved economic terms of a settlement with the city that include cuts to pension benefits, putting in place another key component of Detroit's effort to exit bankruptcy by October.
    • U.S. calls for more investment-friendly Indian government April 17, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday urged the Indian government that emerges from ongoing elections to follow economic policies that encourage investment, saying Washington would like to see bilateral trade grow to $500 billion a year.
    • Obama, Republicans openly feud over immigration legislation April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Partisan bickering over immigration reform legislation intensified on Wednesday as President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Republicans accused each other of standing in the way of progress one year after bipartisan Senate legislation was introduced.
    • Two incompatible gun ballot measures lead in Washington state April 16, 2014
      OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - Two incompatible ballot measures on background checks for gun buyers in Washington state enjoy majority support in a poll released on Tuesday, but the one advancing stricter gun controls is more popular.
    • Detroit pension deal approved by one retirement system April 16, 2014
      (Reuters) - The board of Detroit's General Retirement System on Wednesday approved economic terms of a settlement with the city that include cuts to pension benefits, putting in place another key component of Detroit's effort to exit bankruptcy by October.
    • Wisconsin passes law to curb private custody transfers of children April 16, 2014
      NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wisconsin has adopted a law to limit private custody transfers of children, the first law of its kind in the United States, responding to a Reuters investigation that exposed the dangers of the unregulated practice.
    • Obama, Biden visit Pennsylvania to promote job-training plan April 16, 2014
      OAKDALE, Penn. (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took a trip to a Pennsylvania community college on Wednesday to promote a plan to train workers for skills they need for hard-to-fill jobs.
    • Former New York Mayor Bloomberg to spend $50 million on gun control April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ramped up his efforts to fight gun violence on Wednesday with a plan to spend $50 million on a grassroots network to organize voters on gun control.
    • Obama looks to salvage Asia 'pivot' as allies fret about China April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON/MANILA (Reuters) - When a Philippine government ship evaded a Chinese blockade in disputed waters of the South China Sea last month, a U.S. Navy plane swooped in to witness the dramatic encounter.
    • Obama's departing health chief mulls U.S. Senate run: report April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Departing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who took withering criticism over the botched rollout of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
    • F-35 fighter jet to make first trans-Atlantic flight in July April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department has approved the first trans-Atlantic flight of Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jet in July to take part in two international air shows near London, U.S. and British officials said Wednesday.
    • HUD's Donovan says U.S. Senate housing bill is best chance of reform April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's top housing official on Wednesday said a proposed Senate bill provides the best chance to overhaul the mortgage finance system this decade, but more debate over down payment requirements for government-backed loans is needed.
    • Paul, Rubio lead potential Republican 2016 contenders in spending April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Groups supporting Senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio lead the pack of potential Republican presidential candidates in spending money and investing in possible campaigns this year, more than 20 months before the first votes are cast in 2016.
    • Ex-con, ex-governor Edwards raises $33,000 in Louisiana run for Congress April 16, 2014
      (Reuters) - Former Louisiana Governor, Edwin Edwards, a convicted felon now running for the U.S. Congress, has raised nearly $33,000 in donations since launching his campaign last month, according to a contribution report.
    • Michigan, White House discuss federal money for bankrupt Detroit: report April 16, 2014
      (Reuters) - Michigan officials and President Barack Obama's Administration are discussing a plan to free up $100 million in federal money to aid Detroit's retired city workers, the Detroit Free Press reported on Tuesday.
    • Bill signed allowing surprise inspections of Arizona abortion clinics April 16, 2014
      PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Tuesday signed into a law a bill allowing state health authorities to conduct surprise inspections of abortion clinics without first obtaining a warrant, handing another victory to abortion foes.
    • Two incompatible gun ballot measures lead in Washington state April 16, 2014
      OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - Two incompatible ballot measures on background checks for gun buyers in Washington state enjoy majority support in a poll released on Tuesday, but the one advancing stricter gun controls is more popular.
    • Pentagon says automatic budget cuts would hit F-35, other weapons April 16, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Tuesday detailed $48.3 billion in cuts to major weapons programs like Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jet that would kick in from fiscal 2016 to 2019 if Congress does not reverse automatic budget cuts that are to resume in 2016.
    • Senators press Delphi for answers on recalled GM cars April 15, 2014
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawmakers probing how General Motors used faulty ignition switches in many vehicles are turning their scrutiny to the supplier of the part, Delphi Automotive.
  • RSS CNN.com – Africa

    • Luxury shoes made in Ghana April 15, 2014
      Fred Deegbe was standing outside a shop window five years ago, marveling at the shiny pair of wing-tip Oxfords he'd just bought, when he started wondering whether such beautiful designer shoes could ever be produced in his country, Ghana.
    • Meet Nigeria's 'Mark Zuckerberg' April 3, 2014
      At 23, many people around the world are still at university -- at that age, Gossy Ukanwoke had already started one.
    • Why we need more geek girls April 3, 2014
      "It was like taking a big leap of faith."
    • 'Uncle Ebo' revives Ghanaian theater April 15, 2014
      African Voices meets James Ebo Whyte a passionate storyteller with a series of successful plays to his credit.
    • How medics saved lives at Westgate April 9, 2014
      When gunmen stormed into Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, Abbas Gullet was one of the first emergency responders on the scene. As head of Kenya's Red Cross, he was in charge of coordinating services for people in need.
    • Embracing Ghana's natural beauty April 1, 2014
      She started her business with just £100, lugging her beauty bag from door to door, but some 25 years later Grace Amey-Obeng has built a multi-million dollar cosmetics empire that's helping change the perception of beauty for many.
    • Secrets of 'gorilla whisperer' March 25, 2014
      Zain Verjee visits Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park -- the home of half of the world's endangered mountain gorilla population.
    • Savannah from the sky March 13, 2014
      It's almost impossible for a photographer to find fresh visual perspectives these days. Brooklyn-based Zack Seckler had to travel to a different continent and strap into an ultra-light aircraft to find one. His Botswana series presents the country from between 50 and 500 feet, providing a unique and captivating view of the savannah.
    • Holy water at baptism festival March 25, 2014
      France has Lourdes, but Ethiopia has Gondar -- with thousands of pilgrims swimming in its holy waters to celebrate the baptism of Jesus.
    • Rating Pistorius's defense April 16, 2014
      After five days of intense cross-examination, has Olympian Oscar Pistorius helped or harmed his defense that he did not intentionally kill his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkam?
    • Pop art condoms saving lives April 15, 2014
      The Center for African Family Studies in Nairobi has teamed up with Kenyan artist Michael Soi to create eye-catching condom wrappers to promote safe sex and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among young people.
    • Africa's most endangered April 16, 2014
      Africa is home to much unique wildlife, but many of its iconic species are threatened. Find out more about its most endangered animals.
    • Ebola: A swift and bloody killer April 16, 2014
      It took only moments to feel the impact of what was happening here.
    • 'I lost my fingers, made new ones' April 14, 2014
      A South African carpenter lost his fingers in an accident -- now he's making mechanical fingers and hands for others.
    • Kenya double in London Marathon April 13, 2014
      World record-holder Wilson Kipsang completed a Kenyan double at the London Marathon Sunday as home hope Mo Farah disappointed on his debut over the 42km distance.
    • Pistorius at mercy of 'bull dog?' April 11, 2014
      He's known as the "bull dog" in South Africa's legal circles, and just two days in to Gerrie Nel's merciless cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius, it's easy to see why.
    • 'Now is the time for Afro-realism' April 11, 2014
      Over the last 20 years, the narrative on the African continent has shifted from Afro-pessimism to Afro-optimism. The truth lies somewhere in between. Now is the time for Afro-realism: for sound policies based on honest data, aimed at delivering results.
    • Africa's tastiest street food April 11, 2014
      Here are your photos of the tastiest -- and most unusual -- African street food.
    • Most stylish tribe in Africa? April 10, 2014
      A South African designer is making sure that when Xhosa boys come of age, they're dressed to the nines.
    • Egypt's sex pest epidemic? April 9, 2014
      A university student cowers in a pharmacy as a mob outside threatens her with sexual violence. A law student is groped by her classmates, the dean cites her "inappropriate attire." Frightening allegations but advocates say this is an everyday reality for women in Cairo.
  • Country Stats

    free counters

Somalia has been a call to action for many Islamic donors

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2011

by api

Somalia has been a call to action for many Islamic donors

KUWAIT CITY/DUBAI,  – Among the aid agencies that poured into Somalia after famine was declared in July were organizations such as the Arab Federation of Doctors, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment of the United Arab Emirates, and the Deniz Feneri Association of Turkey.

They came with their own style.

The Saudi National Campaign for the Relief of the Somali People, a project of King Abdullah, sent planeloads of food, including jam and cheese. The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) sent 600 tons of dates. Turkey’s IHH (Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief) even ventured outside Mogadishu into territory considered a no-go zone for most international aid organizations because it is not under government control.

They also came with a lot of money.

In an emergency meeting in August, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), pledged US$350 million for Somalia – “numbers we dream of”, one UN aid worker in Mogadishu said – though it is still unclear how much of this is new funding.

Turkey says it has collected more than $280 million for the Somali effort,  while Saudi Arabia’s contribution to UN agencies alone was $60 million, and Kuwait, a country of 3.5 million, contributed $10 million. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Office for Coordination of Foreign Aid, too, received confirmation of 62 million Emirati dirham (USD $16.9 million) in contributions to the Horn of Africa emergency.

Gulf countries were able to raise funds with remarkable speed and ease. In the span of three hours, a TV telethon in Qatar raised nearly 25 million riyals ($6.8 million). In a couple of weeks, Kuwait’s International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO), raised 80,000 dinars ($290,000) in cash by asking for donations in malls, while aid telethons in the UAE reportedly raised an additional $50 million for the Horn of Africa.

With many Western donors cutting budgets amid fears of another recession, this region has gained influence in aid, especially in countries with large Muslim populations. Both in terms of funds and action on the ground, the effort in Somalia has put Muslim and Arab donors and organizations onto centre stage.

But their relationship with the broader humanitarian system has been limited at the best of times, and rocky at the worst. For example, most OIC funds for Somalia are not being channelled through multilateral mechanisms, like the UN-administered Consolidated Appeals Process.

Players from the region say they are accustomed to working on their own – due to a history of mutual mistrust, a lack of awareness on both sides, and a perception by some Muslims and Arabs that they are better placed to help under certain circumstances.

The UN is now actively trying to improve that relationship, but the road to cooperation and coordination faces many challenges.

How did we get here?

The history of mutual mistrust between the predominantly Western aid system and its counterpart in the Muslim and Arab world is long, say analysts.

“These are two china elephants looking at each other,” said Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, development and humanitarian worker, and author of Humanitarian Jihad: Investigation into Islamic NGOs. “They see each other; they know that they’re there; but they can’t move towards each other,” he told IRIN.

Some Muslim aid workers see in the UN system a certain arrogance. “They don’t want to understand us,” one Muslim aid worker said. Others speak of undertones of neo-colonialism in the way aid is delivered and in the relationship between the Muslim aid community and its Western-dominated counterpart.

“They only involve us when it suits them,” the aid worker told IRIN. Often, he added, they are invited to meetings and conferences as “an afterthought”.

“You feel you’re being used like window dressing,” he said. “Things are hatched and cooked in the West and then brought to people to eat.”

''Everyone knows they’re [engaging with us] for the money, not for unity … Islamic NGOs were a black box that nobody wanted to touch''

Some NGOs from the Arab and Muslim world are afraid of being “swallowed up” by the UN system and don’t feel confident they can engage with the UN on an equal footing.

“It’s not about experience,” one Arab aid worker said. “The UN has the experience and the upper hand when it comes to everything – information, communication, movement on the ground. There’s no question. But to give them money and let them implement activities, we have to rest assured that we’ll like what comes out in our name.”

He called for a kind of code of ethics or framework of understanding that would outline what both sides mean by certain fundamental principles and outline boundaries of action.

For example, terms like women’s empowerment need to be defined, he said. “How we understand it is not how the UN understands it,” he added. Organizations from this part of the world would fear partnering with the UN if women’s empowerment is understood to mean “removing the hijab [covering a woman’s hair], destroying the family institution and throwing religion out the window.”

Some aid workers and donors from the Muslim and Arab world are also sceptical of the real motivations behind the Western system’s desire to partner with them.

“Everyone knows they’re [engaging with us] for the money, not for unity,” another Muslim aid worker said. “Islamic NGOs were a black box that nobody wanted to touch,” he said. “Then they [the UN] realized they were missing out.”

Others do not easily differentiate between the UN Security Council, which has authorized Western interventions into Muslim countries and is seen to be unwilling to tackle the Palestinian question, and humanitarian aid agencies like the World Food Programme (WFP) or the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

For these reasons, many Red Crescent societies in the region, according to one senior aid worker, sometimes try to avoid working with the UN system. “We try to coordinate with – and not be coordinated by – the UN because of neutrality issues,” he told IRIN. “The UN is not considered to be a neutral organization, especially in a conflict set-up.”

Technical standards

Some Muslim organizations have been doing emergency relief work for decades. But many others had until recently focused more on developmental work – building schools and mosques or helping orphans.

And they have ramped up activities. The Qatar Red Crescent, for example, has seen its annual international budget jump from less than $250,000 to more than $45 million in the last decade, according to Khaled Diab, its international cooperation adviser. Turkish NGO IHH, which used to operate projects of $600-700,000 dollars a year for the Horn of Africa has increased its budget to more than $20 million – one of its biggest campaigns ever, according to its vice-president, Hüseyin Oruç.

But the UN and the broader humanitarian system have their reservations too. And with the influx of programming have come some clashes of ideology.

“Their awareness and subscription to commonly-understood best practice isn’t necessarily there,” one senior Western aid worker said of NGOs from the region, citing neglect of environmental impact or nutritional balance as examples. Distributing powdered milk, for example, is no good in an area where there is no clean water, while dates are not ideal in cases of malnutrition because they are high in sugar, low in nutrition, and hard to digest.

Other humanitarians say aid workers from the region do not follow normal security procedures. The aid worker in Mogadishu told IRIN that many of them have a “naïve view” that “nobody would hurt a fellow Muslim”.

“I worry we’ll see a Muslim aid worker being shot,” the Mogadishu aid worker said. “It’s a huge concern for all of us.”

Lack of coordination?

There are also complaints about lack of coordination. The Red Crescent societies, said one aid worker, send in piles of goods without coordinating with the humanitarian community or checking the needs outlined in the Consolidated Appeals Process.

Planeloads of food arrive from the Gulf – much of the assistance from the region comes in the form of food aid – and “we have no idea where it goes,” the Mogadishu aid worker said. Much of it is sold by its recipients on the open market because the value of some of the food, like jam and cheese, is so high, he added.

The 9/11 attacks also affected the relationship.

“A lot of Western charities are still afraid of being associated with Islamic charities because of the stigma that hangs over their heads since September 11th,” the author, Ghandour, said.
 
US laws about the financing of “terror” have further complicated the relationship between Muslim charities and the West because NGOs working in designated “terrorist” countries, like Iran and Burma, or areas controlled by organizations like militant group al-Shabab – deemed a “terrorist” organization by the US – fear being accused of complicity and so keep quiet about their activities.

Financial transactions to fund work in these areas through the conventional banking system are not possible and the movement of large sums of cash could create problems with some governments.


Photo: Heba Aly/IRIN
Gulf dignitaries attend the opening of a meeting in Kuwait City organized by OCHA, Direct Aid and the International Islamic Charitable Organization

“They can’t afford to be transparent,” said Haroun Atallah, finance and service director at UK-based Islamic Relief Worldwide. “How do you expect them to be transparent if it could come back and bite them?”

Some Muslim and Arab NGOs see close dealings with the UN as possibly jeopardizing their access in al-Shabab areas, and so they keep their distance.

Understanding each other

But observers say mutual mistrust stems from a lack of insight on both sides.

“There is still a lack of in-depth knowledge and understanding about the culture of emerging donors towards giving,” according to the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi), which is currently researching the universality of humanitarian donorship.

Part of the reluctance on the part of Muslim organizations to broadcast their actions comes from a culture that sees charity as something private and humble – that should not be paraded in front of everyone for recognition.

“We do things without saying that we’re doing it. It is part of Islamic culture,” said Naeema Hassan al-Gasseer, a native of Bahrain and assistant regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Similarly, many NGOs from the Muslim world do not understand the UN. Acronyms like UNHCR and WFP can be unfamiliar terms. One Muslim aid worker described the UN as having a “branding problem”. Many aid workers from the region have never heard of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – charged with coordination of all aid in emergencies – and have no idea what its cluster system is.

“We have become, as a system, so jargonized, so inward looking in terms of how our system works, that hardly anyone else understands it,” Ghandour said.

“The discussions about humanitarian assistance are still taking place in rather exclusive clubs,” GPPi research associate Claudia Meier told IRIN.

And “if you want to be a member of that, you need to play by the same rules and speak the same language,” Ghandour said. “Not everyone has the will or capacity to do it.”

UN officials acknowledge, for example, that few senior UN staff speak Arabic.

Coordination has also been a challenge logistically. In Saudi Arabia, for example, “it’s difficult to identify who is responsible for which decisions, because decisions are usually taken at very high levels, usually at the Office of the King, known as the Royal Court,” Meier said, based on the Institute’s case study on Saudi Arabia.

At the field level, many Muslim aid workers are willing to coordinate, but simply don’t know how to do so.

The Mogadishu example

Mogadishu is an example of the complexity of the relationship. There, the OIC has opened a coordination office and created an alliance of 27 organizations that operate across the country, including areas in the south controlled by al-Shabab.

The OIC conducts agency meetings and has set up a mini-cluster system – with the Arab Medical Union (also known as the Arab Federation of Doctors) leading work in the health sector and the Qatar Red Crescent leading the food distribution effort.

While OCHA has expressed its satisfaction with the move, some UN officials told IRIN of a concern – especially at headquarters – that the OIC is trying to create a parallel coordination structure.

But the OIC said it was not in competition with the UN.

“No one will say that we’ll do better than the UN in humanitarian [work],” Atta Elmanan Bakhit, OIC assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told IRIN. “You have the know-how. You have more means. You have more access. You have a long history in humanitarian [work]. The main [player] in humanitarian [work] will be always the UN.”

Ahmed Adam, head of the OIC’s Mogadishu office, said one of the aims of the OIC was to fill the gaps left by the UN with regard to inaccessibility of aid to certain areas of Somalia that are off-limits to international UN staff.

“UN coordination is facing difficulties in covering most of the affected areas due to security challenges,” he told IRIN. “That is why we are trying to play a complementary role in order to improve the humanitarian activities. We are sharing information and challenges with OCHA in our regular meetings. The cooperation between the OIC and UN agencies is addressing the problems that the humanitarian actors are facing, particularly in this emergency period.”

Rapid growth

Addressing this coordination problem has become an increasing priority, given the recent explosion of involvement in aid by the region.

“We are seeing a gradual but steadily increasing engagement by Middle Eastern countries in international humanitarian action, both as donors and as policy supporters,” said Robert Smith, chief of the Consolidated Appeals section at OCHA.

In a shifting aid landscape that increasingly features non-Western states like Brazil and India, a collection of Arab donors (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman) account for nearly three-quarters of the contributions by countries not included in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee, giving more than $3.2 billion in aid in the last decade, according to a report by Development Initiatives, a research and advocacy organization.

“Gulf countries are leading an important new phase in humanitarian affairs,” Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos told an information sharing meeting in Kuwait in September, noting the humanitarian community was facing “unprecedented challenges – many in the Islamic world.”

Many of the crises of recent years have affected Muslim people, including the Bam earthquake in Iran in 2003, the Southeast Asian tsunami of 2004, the Pakistan earthquake of 2005, the attack on Gaza in late 2008, and the flooding in Pakistan in 2010. In all of these crises, Muslim and Arab donors contributed significantly.

“These states want to position themselves regionally and in the international arena as contributors to the humanitarian effort, seeking recognition as rising – if not equal – powers on the world stage,” Meier said.

In 2008, the OIC created a humanitarian affairs department. The same year, the UAE created an Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid. Qatar has appointed a state minister for international cooperation.

In recent years, the UN’s efforts to engage this part of the world seemed to be paying off.

According to Smith, member states of the OIC have contributed $594 million to appeals for humanitarian aid to Muslim countries in the last decade.

In a sign of increased willingness to channel funds into multilateral agencies, Saudi Arabia gave WFP half a billion dollars in 2008 during the global food crisis. In 2010, it was the largest single contributor – globally – to the Haiti emergency response fund, with $50 million. In 2011, Kuwait gave a record $675,000 to the Central Emergency Response Fund, whose advisory group it and Qatar are now members of.

Somalia changes aid dynamic?

But the famine in parts of Somalia seemed to have changed the dynamic. If aid is counted as a percentage of GDP, several Middle Eastern countries have been more generous than so-called traditional donors, but contributions to the multilateral system have been limited.

The $60 million contributed by Saudi Arabia to WFP and WHO for the Somali crisis was “a start” according to WHO’s al-Gasseer, but was not the multilateral engagement UN agencies were hoping for.

Of the nearly $17 million UAE donors have reported to the government Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid as contributions to the Horn of Africa emergency, only $10,000 are recorded as having been channelled multilaterally, through the International Federation of the Red Cross.

''We need to learn from UN experience … We need the help of UN. We cannot deny that''

Instead, observers say, competing powers like Qatar and Turkey have seen humanitarian involvement as an opportunity to pursue foreign policy interests and flex their muscles. In a recent article in ForeignPolicy.com, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan boasted of the more than $280 million worth of donations for Somalia that were collected in Turkey in the last month.

And in the midst of their efforts on the ground, coordination has not always been a priority.

“All the people on the ground are very busy,” Oruç of Turkey’s IHH told IRIN. “They couldn’t find time for cluster meetings.”

Others acknowledged that a culture of working with others simply did not exist: “It’s a new thinking, at least in the Gulf,” WHO’s al-Gasseer said.

She pointed to another problem as well: Charitable giving is a requirement in Islam, but people often want to give their zakat, or charity, to something tangible.

“Everybody we talk to [wants] to build hospitals, because hospitals are a physical, visible thing. And distributing medicine is something everybody likes,” she told IRIN. But in their rush, many of the NGOs and charities do not consider whether there are staff to man the hospitals, enough storage space, electricity, how materials will be distributed and to whom, she said.

In Somalia and Libya, she said, this has resulted in hospitals being built next to one another, medication expiring, and an excess of services in one area while others are neglected altogether.

“If we don’t take a serious step, the result will be very, very dangerous,” she told fellow Arab participants of the conference in Kuwait.

Moving forward

Despite the challenges, there are renewed efforts now to reopen dialogue between both sides. NGOs from the region have acknowledged that they have lacked professionalism in the past. They believe their cultural and religious background gives them a unique ability to help, and have appealed to the UN to build their capacity.

“Arab and Muslim organizations have got the access which others do not have and the culture which others do not have. What we need is to equip them to become permanent international players,” Hany El-Banna told conference participants. He is head of the Humanitarian Forum, an organization that aims to improve dialogue between organizations from Muslim countries and their counterparts in the multilateral system.

“We need to learn from UN experience,” the OIC’s Bakhit added. “We need the help of UN. We cannot deny that.”

“Greater inclusiveness would make the humanitarian system more legitimate,” GPPi wrote in its research. “It would also provide the humanitarian system with a broader range of cultural knowledge and thus support dignified and effective interaction with affected populations and governments.”

In the aftermath of the pro-democracy protests of the Arab Spring, such engagement is all the more important.

“The uprising in the Arab world requires new ways of thinking and working, greater collaboration with NGOs and civil society from the region and support from regional organizations such as the OIC and [League of Arab States],” Abdul Haq Amiri, head of OCHA’s regional Middle East and North Africa office, wrote in the July issue of the Humanitarian Exchange magazine.

“We should make an effort to meet these organizations on their own terms, listen attentively to their interpretation of humanitarian affairs and, importantly, speak their language.” 

* This report was amended on 26 October.

ha/eo/cb
source www.irinnews.org

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,226 other followers

%d bloggers like this: