Posted by: sean | August 23, 2006

Aid and Hizbollah

Relief agencies in Southern Lebanon that receive American funding are finding themselves in a difficult situation. The US government says that they are not allowed to give out aid or money through Hizbollah. This means that they should bypass the organization completely, a difficulyt task in Southern Lebanon:

“Unicef has been here, and Mercy Corps and other groups,” said Ahmad Zogby, 39, whose house was destroyed, along with that of his parents. “But everything coming in, Hezbollah puts an eye on it, makes sure it is all given out in the proper way. It is all in the hands of Hezbollah.”

Though Hezbollah is only one of many groups providing social services in Lebanon, its reputation for delivering those services honestly is unmatched, making it that much harder to circumvent. In nearby Nabatiye, for instance, Mercy Corps has begun working through the Jabbar Foundation, a nonprofit group run by Yaseen Jabbar, a wealthy member of Parliament.

But the mayor of Nabatiye, Mustapha Badreddine, 55, says he considers the foundation ineffective. For his own part, Mr. Badreddine says he does not belong to Hezbollah, but that he works with it because it is trustworthy, far more so than any other group in the area.

…As an example of Hezbollah’s hold on everyday life in southern Lebanon, Ali Bazzi, the mayor of Bint Jbail, outlined his big dreams for his half-demolished town as workmen raced past and tractors rumbled.

…Bint Jbail, the main Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon, saw some of the worst bombing and fighting during the monthlong war, in which Hezbollah, which is integrated with the general population, was Israel’s target. But Mr. Bazzi intends to complete the reconstruction without using a single cent from the Lebanese government, much less the United States or the West.

Instead, Mr. Bazzi is counting on Construction Jihad [Hizbollah’s building company]. Just a day after the fighting stopped, Construction Jihad enlisted the volunteer services of 1,700 engineers, electricians, plumbers, architects and geologists who have cleared streets, dug ditches and built temporary bridges.

While the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has just begun organizing committees to study the reconstruction of the country, Construction Jihad has all but completed surveys of southern Lebanese towns.

I’ve talked to people from other internaitonal NGOs, and this is a common problem in places like Lebanon. The US government stipulates that organizations cannot have anything to do with anyone who has anything to do with groups on the “terrorist list.” This has caused NGOs to be fractured to the point where the American and other European branches have seperate offices in the same city.

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Responses

  1. Yes, the US Aid situation in Lebanon should raise a few eyebrows here and there. The US simultaneously gave guns to Israel and aid to Lebanon. The big question is: what should Lebanon do with all that money if Hizbullah has proved itself so capable in the reconstruction of Southern Lebanon?

    I mentioned this before, but in Southern Lebanon, Hizbullah is performing at a very impressive capacity that NGOs can only dream of. I also believe that Hizbullah is currently “banking” on the humanitarian efforts in the civil society sector at this moment. Thus, we’re not only talking about the *economic* reconstruction effort of Southern Lebanon, but also the *social* reconstruction effort. What’s at stake is the battle for legitimate sovereignty in that area.

    Part of what’s so maddening about so called “humanitarian” NGO-organizations in post-disaster situations are, in some ways, inter-competitive. Seen from a market perspective, it seems to be the case that NGOs often fight it out with other NGOs for contract licenses from IOs, nations, private, and corporate sectors. What often results is a large degree of confounded bureaucracy and corrupt activities, a kind of black market for humanitarian services if you will (http://cedar.barnard.columbia.edu/~polisci/faculty/cooley/ngoscram.pdf#search=%22ngo%20scramble%22 “NGO Scramble, Ron and Cooley). If I decided to “help out” in Southern Lebanon right now, there’s nothing in the world that could stop me from doing so. I’m sure a lot of NGOs are scrambling right now without the realization that their good intentions lead to some fairly disastrous results.

    At this moment, Lebanon is confronted with three choices regarding the reconstruction of Lebanon. 1.) Compete/fight against Hizbullah (waste of money), 2.) Work with Hizbullah (cost-effective), or 3.) “Open” Southern Lebanon for various NGOs and IOs, as it was the case with Rwanda and to some extent, Bosnia.

    All three of these choices face serious results. We’ll see what happens.

    -KM


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