Is our help becoming unwanted?

Humanitarian aid has been a noble cause provided by multiple organizations. The United Nations have organized numerous conferences for developing countries in need of aid. However, there has been a tendency of these developing countries to decline this aid. Why is this and what does this hold for the future of humanitarian aid?

By Leonie Andriessen, May 3th, 2018

It is a strange idea: a country not attending an international conference that is about them. However, this is exactly what happened at the UN donor conference that was held for the Republic of Congo. The Congolese government decided to boycott the conference and asked other governments, including the Dutch government, to do the same. The Dutch government was the co-chair of the conference, thus the Dutch Minister for Development Aid Sigrid Kaag, attended the conference whilst the Congolese government remained absent.

The United Nations and the Congolese government disagree on the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Congo. According to the UN, the humanitarian crisis caused there to be around 4,5 million displaced people whilst the Congolese government speaks of an impressively lower number of 23000 misplaced people. Additionally, the Congolese government is dissatisfied with the way in which the conference was set up, which is without the input of themselves. They even went as far as comparing the conference to when Africa was divided up by Europe without discussion, during the Scramble for Africa.

Leonie help unwanted schemaHumanitarian crisis map of Congo © OCHA

Another reason for Congo’s aversion towards the conference and humanitarian aid is the impression that it gives of Congo. Before this, the Congolese government declined visits of a delegation of the IMF to discuss economical aid. The government is afraid that all of this will leave a negative image of the country and will therefore scare of investors. It could be argued whether humanitarian aid and economical assistance of the west or investments managed by the Congolese government themself is more beneficial to the development of Congo.

Unwanted Humanitarian Aid
There has been a trend going on in which African developing countries are declining offers of humanitarian aid. This has increased after the economic growth and increasing political stability in African countries since the year 2000. This has caused a change in the behavior of African governments: they want to be less dependent on the aid of western countries. Foreign and UN aid is more and more viewed as unwanted meddling which devalues humanitarian aid.

It is a trend that increases even today. Countries that are already very busy with their own development want to achieve this themselves and do not want to be seen as a crises driven country that is heavily dependent on humanitarian aid. Also, the presence of foreign powers in the developing country causes friction when this is very dominant.

Leonie help unwanted hulppakkettenFood aid bags given out to people in a UN camp © ITV News

The Future of Humanitarian Aid
With all these changes in attitude towards humanitarian aid, the question arises of what will become of humanitarian aid and how this will affect the developing countries. Because the UN might be dominantly present in Congo, but what would happen if they were not there? Even more chaos might erupt. Conflicts are not dealt with politically by the governments and thus need to be handled by aid organizations.

Another problem arises: the UN needs to be supportive of the government of the developing country, but this government wants them out of their country. This makes the future of humanitarian aid very complex.


Nederland negeert Congolese oproep om Congo-conferentie te boycotten – 11 april 2018 –

 ‘Ga weg, we doen het zelf’, zegt Afrika steeds vaker – 19 april 2018 –

Nederland schenkt ‘vergeten’ Congo 10 miljoen – 13 april 2018 –

Congo boycot eigen donorconferentie, en wil dat Nederland ook wegblijft – 10 april 2018 –

Photo: Reuters



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