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Speaker: Rethinking NZ’s Emergency Aid

68 Responses

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    Maybe this doesn't apply to all churches, but in a lot of cases the church is part of the problem for Pacific Islanders here and in the islands. Making already-poor people fork out large chunks of their income to keep pastors in luxury isn't my idea of something our government should be supporting.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4424 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    "encourage donations of cash" eh?
    Through church organisations eh?
    Yeah. Right. Not.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Thirding the reluctance to funnel anything through the famously avaricious clergy. And note, I feel that way about our palagi religious charities too -- I always prefer secular organisations.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    I know it shouldn't affect the argument presented here, but ... anyone else find the repeated coupling of "disaster relief aid" with "opportunities" deeply disturbing?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 878 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    linger: yes.
    And the next worrying question that popped up in my mind was, of course, "Opportunities for whom?"

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    "The Lebanese organisation, Hizbollah."

    Ooh, let me suggest some others:

    "The Irish organisation, the IRA."

    "The Tamil organisation, the Tigers."

    "The Basque organisation, ETA."

    Dunno how I missed that on first reading.

    Furthermore, from here:

    "Hezbollah is not the first revolutionary movement to be corrupted by money, and it won't be the last," wrote columnist Sateh Noureddine in the pro-Hezbollah newspaper As-Safir.

    Much of the change in behavior can be traced to the aftermath of Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel, when government compensation money flooded impoverished Shiite neighborhoods devastated by Israeli attacks.

    Some of the money went toward reconstruction, but much of what was left ended up with Ezzedine [a Ponzi scheme fraudster]. Some Hezbollah backers sold their land and their homes so they would have extra money to invest with the businessman, who promised eye-popping returns. He even appealed to his customers' piety by insisting that his investment strategies were compatible with Islamic banking principles, which generally prohibit interest-bearing accounts.

    Church, family and many other non-specialist groups don't have the same kind of monitoring and accountability as organised charities.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    geez, that was tucked in neatly wasnt it?

    David Shearer, you've gone several notches in my estimation. Which means you've lost a large whanau-ful of support-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Kimberley Verburg,

    @Stephen Judd, presumably he's thinking of implementing changes to improve the monitoring of money to these non-specialist groups. He said it shouldn't be difficult, so I'm quite curious as to how he would do it. Imagination fails me atm.

    Leiden • Since Jun 2007 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Maybe.

    we fund aid agencies which tend to use more circuitous and more expensive processes....

    ... Funding churches and families in New Zealand can be the most direct and fastest means of getting assistance to those affected in the islands. Making that flow transparent and accountable should not be difficult.

    Isn't accountability and transparency a big part of the reason that aid agencies are circuitous and expensive? I certainly would like to know HOW we are to have one without the other, in a bit more detail than "should not be difficult."

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    I really don't see the problem with `Hizbollah, the Lebanese organisation'. It's true. And I wouldn't see the problem with the other lines, provided they were in context where it wasn't being asserted that, say, the IRA were the Irish organisation.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1321 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Old Likud loverboy over at Kiwiblog isn't going to be happy to see you praising Hizbollah. Why, just last week he was admiring the height of the wall that keeps all the Palestinians in the zoo.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1776 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    "The Lebanese organisation, Hizbollah."
    Ooh, let me suggest some others:
    "The Irish organisation, the IRA."
    "The Tamil organisation, the Tigers."
    "The Basque organisation, ETA."

    The Italian organisation, teh Catholics.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16503 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    The base level of existance is at desperate levels already for the rural poor in Fiji. By not funding Fiji as much as we should and nowhere near as much as they need, we're creating a pressure cooker, and that's the aim.
    We have an image that basic life is easy in the islands, which is not true.
    If you're still on your land/plantation, there might be some truth to that. The internally displaced living in shanties with no work and a collapsed economy isn't looking pretty.
    OK we don't like what has happened there. We now need to decide if we want Fiji to be our Cuba or Haiti and are we their US or Venezuela.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1145 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    As an aside (though not directly related to the Pacific), anyone wanting insight about the mechanics of what happens in large scale long term disaster relief operations could learn much from browsing the blog of Bob McKerrow. He's the New Zealander currently directing the Red Cross operation in Indonesia, and he blogs about the details of everything happening there frequently.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 325 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    Good thinking from David Shearer.

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Crap thinking from David Shearer.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1175 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Hizbollah, the Lebanese organisation

    I believe the point was probably "the local organisation".

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16503 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Good thinking from David Shearer.

    Crap thinking from David Shearer..

    More like some unformed general observations on the operational practicalities of aid delivery.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1776 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    More like some unformed general observations on the operational practicalities of aid delivery.

    So he's been warming a seat in teh parliament for a few months and his brain has gone and made itself into swiss cheese.
    Hows that for a UGO.

    "Unformed general observations" .....sheez.
    If I want those I can look out a window, or read the NZ Herald, or watch TV.

    What is it most people have in this country, Loads of stuff they don't use anymore, cluttering up wardrobes, spare rooms. garages, under houses.
    And what will people do if they hear of disasters and help is needed, will they think 'Well better head down to a bank and get some money to donate when the ad's come on TV, and the door to door collectors come a knocking.'

    No, IMO they are more likely to think ' I can get rid of that stuff which is cluttering up my place and it may be of use to those victims of this disaster"

    If there is a role for churches in this, it is to act as centres where people can bring their stuff, and commiserate with friends and relatives, or just be another human being who wants to help out.
    "Think of the time and labour needed to sort tee-shirts from other trousers and then into the correct sizes for example." Isn't the time and labour free? And what better way is there of bringing people together than doing a mindless physical task and just enjoying the company of people. Maybe thats why churches are still around today.
    Just saying out loud. give 'em money and ' it better be all accounted for' is stupidity of the highest order.

    And geographically Palestine and the islands are completely different places.
    So when David says "Within a remarkably short time, building materials arrived, labour had been hired and basic needs met. " He is ignoring a lot or indulging in magical thinking.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1175 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    I don't think Shearer says we should hand over a whole pile of cash to churches so that pastors can buy nicer cars. There will have to be accountability, and Shearer mentions that. He's not putting up concrete proposals, so some of the venom in this thread towards Shearer is unjustified.

    Church plays an important role in the Samoan and Tongan communities. If you're trying to distribute aid it makes sense to involve church groups. Isn't it worth at least considering?

    In Lebanon after the Israeli bombings Hizbollah was about the only group left in the country with any kind of ability to get aid to people quickly. If your goal is to distribute aid quickly you work with the people you have to.

    Groups like Hizbollah do an awful lot of charity and aid work among local communities. They're not saints, but nor are they simply terror organisations.

    Yorke of The Atatu • Since Feb 2009 • 789 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    Funding churches and families in New Zealand can be the most direct and fastest means of getting assistance to those affected in the islands. Making that flow transparent and accountable should not be difficult.

    My hunch is it would be quite difficult, as the first concern of many would be to make out like bandits.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Maybe if David returns he can answer some of the questions people have raised.

    The bog-standard response that seems to come up here that anything to do with churches is to be mistrusted and avoided isn't very helpful. Lots of aid work already occurs through churches, both locally here in New Zealand, but particularly in the Pacific Islands. They're they only institutions that cover the broad geographic range that occurs in an island state, they're community based, they have people on the ground, and the government simply couldn't afford to build and staff a civil aid centre in every village. Churches are already there, so it's entirely sensible to use them. When disasters occurs that's where people will go looking for help as that is the heart of their community.

    The idea that a church inherently can't be accountable is silly. There's nothing inherent in government, or NGO organiations that somehow make them immune to corruption.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    When I said "unformed" what I meant was the observations were simply that: An observation of how aid gets best and quickest to people who need it.

    They were "unformed" because the wider implications of unaccountable funding of overweight Samoan pastors or suicide bomber recruiting Hizbollah fighters have been left open. I think that what he is saying - that cash rapidly distributed by organic community organistions is the most effective form of aid delivery of all - is hardly open to dispute.

    I think therefore the discussion he has left open is HOW we go about achieving that within an accountable framework that doesn't lead to chronic corruption, encourage violent milita or, dare I say it, require the need for mercenaries to make it happen.

    When I used to be a commerical fisherman I well recall when sweeping changes were made to search and rescue. The whole organisation was centralised in a Wellington bunker and introduced all sorts of layers of authorisation and delay. At sea, like the "golden hour" they talk of in the ambulance service, the first hour of SAR is critical. The inevitable delay meant that while a well cordinated and cost-efficient search effort could be mounted the "rescue" aspect became increasingly academic.

    My preferred method of SAR at sea was and shall always shall remain one of "overwhelming immediate response" with every available boat heading to the search area or searching (even if location and information is still uncertain) and the best equipped LOCAL VESSEL at sea taking charge of the immediate co-ordination and response. And that would include authorisation to, for example, scramble an Orion. Most fishing vessels and many private vessels have extensive comms suites and can easily coordinate and control SAR efforts if the training was provided to the crew. After the immediate critical period (1-3 hours) has passed, the C3 functions can be handed over to a centralised authority.

    It seems to me that if my experiences at sea are any guide, then rapidly getting well trained people on the ground with the authority to spend money without bureaucratic interference is the best response in the critical first few days/weeks of a disaster. Then the larger agencies can take over the deliver of more accountable and long term aid.

    Of course, the problem with with giving people the authority to get on with the job is it runs completely counter to our modern obssession with managerialist approaches to solving problems.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1776 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    One of the most effective aid operations I’ve seen – after nearly 20 years in the aid business – was in southern Lebanon in 2006 after the Israeli bombing flattened Lebanese Shia towns. The Lebanese organisation, Hizbollah, moved around distributing US dollars directly to people whose home had been destroyed or damaged.

    There some are blatant and obvious differences between a tsunami and a military assault.

    Hizbollah were able to predict that those towns were going to be targetted years in advance of the bombing, because they had prior knowledge that a certain militant group (called Hizbollah) was going to use those towns to launch several thousand missiles at Israel. So during the entirely predictable Israelli response they were able to move in with reconstruction aid in a very timely manner. Hizbollah probably had arrangements sorted out prior to the very first rocket attacks it launched. Apparently whatever PR pre-planning Hizbollah did worked out very well for them, easily able impress the local UN staffers.

    Prediction of earthquakes and tsunamis is not accurate. One might or might not occur over several centuries in the Pacific Islands. No group in Samoa, Tonga or NZ is ever going to be able to provide a seamless response (unless the Ministers really do have a direct line to God), because we could not know beforehand.

    Please come up with a better comparison.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Nimmo,

    One of the biggest obstacles to Pacific development is, I feel, the lack of options for Pacific New Zealanders to send remittances. If anyone is 'making out like bandits' here, it would have to be Western Union. Is there any way that free or low-cost remittance transfer could be organised by the New Zealand and Australian governments?

    Wellington • Since May 2009 • 97 posts Report Reply

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