Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mercy Corps Declines USAID Iraq Money

AP article on Mercy Corps turning down USAID money for programs in Iraq due to new "strings attached" that could compromise staff security.

Here we go; this is Round One between US NGOs and the Bush administration. In one corner we have a number of large NGOs who have become dependent on USAID funding. In the other corner we have an administration that wants to politicize aid and use it as a foreign policy tool. The NGOs want to keep their neutrality. The administration says you need to play by the new rules if you want funding. The NGOs say the new rules compromise their neutrality, which in turn reduces their effectiveness and jeopardizes staff in certain parts of the world. As a result, just about every major NGO that has relied on US government funding as a significant part of their budget is scrambling to figure out alternate funding sources that won't have as many strings attached.

It's not going to be a very pretty fight. While large NGOs can try to play the moral high card and decline money, the reality is there are many smaller NGOs waiting in the wings that won't be as picky when it comes to USAID funding stipulations and will see this as an opportunity to build a relationship with the US government for future monies. Which the government will be happy to establish, since working with compliant small NGOs is much easier than working with those large, old NGOs who got a little too powerful for their own good.

And if NGO staff are placed at a higher level of risk, well that's a small price to pay in the name of national security.

It's going to be an interesting next couple of years…


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