NGOs, Disaster Relief and Asset Transfer in the Horn: Political Survival in a Permanent Emergency

Authors

  • Mark Duffield

    1. (Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT) was Oxfam's Country Representative for Sudan between 1986 and 1989. His current research interests include the political, institutional and resource implications for the EC and its member states of the growth in large-scale, complex disasters in non-member countries.
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ABSTRACT

Famines have winners and losers. Conventional analysis has concentrated on the losers: what has been neglected is that famines can result from the conscious exercise of power in pursuit of gain or advantage by the politically strong. This article is an attempt to analyse the process of political survival in the context of permanent emergency. Through examples of local asset transfer, and indicating how this process articulates with a wider regional parallel economy, the paper offers an analysis of political survival in the arc of crisis that runs from Sudan through southern Ethiopia to Somalia. The role of donors and NGOs is examined in terms of how they relate to the weak and the strong within the asset transfer economy. Donors are seen to have supported the strong whilst the position of NGOs is more contradictory. Although programme measures to protect assets have been developed, and the disjuncture between the rules of sovereignty and the protection of human rights has been highlighted, these measures have essentially failed. A review of trends since the end of the Cold War suggests that the chances of preventing the further consolidation of a transfer economy within the region are negligible. The position of those who gain from such a destructive se the process of political survival in the context of permanent emergency. Through examples of local asset transfer, and indicating how this process articulates with a wider regional parallel economy, the paper offers an analysis of political survival in the arc of crisis that runs from Sudan through southern Ethiopia to Somalia. The role of donors and NGOs is examined in terms of how they relate to the weak and the strong within the asset transfer economy. Donors are seen to have supported the strong whilst the position of NGOs is more contradictory. Although programme measures to protect assets have been developed, and the disjuncture between the rules of sovereignty and the protection of human rights has been highlighted, these measures have essentially failed. A review of trends since the end of the Cold War suggests that the chances of preventing the further consolidation of a transfer economy within the region are negligible. The position of those who gain from such a destructive process seems assured.

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