“Audits of the Canadian International Development Agency’s huge involvement in Kandahar and elsewhere in Afghanistan depict a well-meaning drive for results the government could boast about — a push that faced ‘intractable’ security problems, political pressures and the ‘vaguely envisaged’ challenge of building a new nation,” Blackwell writes. (via A foreign-aid insider explains Canada’s $1.5-billion Afghan sinkhole | Full Comment | National Post)
- “All the projects have failed. None of them have been successful,” notes Nipa Banerjee, who headed CIDA’s Afghanistan operations from 2003 to 2006. “I think we went into Kandahar to increase our international profile … rather than thinking about the interests of the people of Kandahar. It was too much politicized and militarized and securitized, and as a result we ended up with failure.”
- It’s a sad story of wasted taxpayer money, and unfulfilled promises. Yet it is hardly unique. If anything, in fact, the whole Afghan aid fiasco is a fitting symbol of the existential problem that has burdened CIDA (which is now overseen by the Minister of International Cooperation) since its creation in the late 1960s.
- “Ever since CIDA was created a few decades ago, there has always been a huge divide between [CIDA] and what [effectively] has been its senior partner, the Department of Foreign Affairs,” a former agency head told me. “The gulf is wide: CIDA believes in helping the poor and doing so where an aid dollar can be most effective irrespective of the importance of the recipient country in the grand scheme of global power and economic interests. Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, doesn’t much care about poor people. They want Canadian aid to support whatever the current political game plan may be. So if Afganistan is the hot topic of the day, they want a visible Canadian aid presence on the ground, new school buildings and medical centres with Canadian flags flying from them, perfect backdrops for the PM or Ministers’ photo-ops when they fly in to inspect this, that, or the other thing.”
- It was this hopelessly conflicted mandate that led to the disaster in Afghanistan — a country so primitive that it did not have the basic tools that are required to absorb large-scale development aid: literacy, rule of law, a respect for pluralism and due process, and peace.
this conflict in the Canadian bureaucracy actually reflects the conflict in the public opinion: some believe in a “selfless” foreign policy, while other think we don’t owe anything to anybody.