Post #6- Crisis Caravan

Linda Polman’s book Crisis Caravan exposes the faults within humanitarian aid organizations, including NGOs.  

Her concerns begin with the dilemma expressed by some of the world’s first humanitarian workers: Henri Dunant and Florence Nightingale. The question they differ on is to what extent does one leave and ask “Is it worth it?” NGOs have been subjected to paying excessive amounts to rebel organizations, missing supplies, witnessing atrocities to other groups as well as not being allowed to treat others suffering.

Dunant believed it was a duty to help no matter what and he carried over the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence while forming the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863. Nightingale believed aid fails in purpose of warning parties use to their own advantage.

One must determine whether it is just to pick certain human rights to defend and to have others that are chosen from as NGOs have to provide funds to rebel causes, and remain witnesses to atrocities for the sake of neutrality. For example, in Goma, NGOs were at the mercy of the Hutu extremists.

 “In one attack, twenty-five private security guards at an aid supplies warehouse belonging to CARE Canada were shot dead by robbers. Their places at the gate were coolly taken by Hutu extremists, who then demanded-and apparently got-regular salaries from CARE,” (Polman 31).

Polman expresses her concern with aid organizations that have to pay or give supplies to enter a war zone. Warlords use the money to arm themselves, while the aid organizations are trying to help the people they are injuring. For example in Somalia, “the entrance fee charged by warlords to as much as 80 percent of the amount the aid supplies were worth,” (Polman 96). Polman has an issue with the fact that the people who the INGOs are negotiating with are the ones that are mainly the cause of the conflict. By paying to enter the area, they are facilitating the conflict that is ravaging the area. Ethics are not considered once in a war zone, but they should be on this matter. Polman stresses the weight of the benefits the aid organizations are providing with the fact that millions of dollars are entering the pockets of these violent regimes only to make them more powerful. Not only do the aid organizations have to pay, but their lives are pt at risk by working with the powerful leaders. In the Congo, six Red Cross workers were killed for helping the Lendus, whom they were not allowed to help based upon an earlier agreement.

The Hema soldiers in the eastern Congo region, who have been at war with the Lendu people.

Another concern Polman raises is that NGOs provide aid that is not needed. With the introduction of MONGOs (My Own NGO) which are “run by people who are convinced they can get things sorted out in a crisis zone more effectively, quickly, and cheaply than the “real” aid workers with- to MONGO eyes at least- self serving motives and cumbrous bureaucracy,” (Polman 50), the influx of problems in providing any kind of emergency relief has increased. In times of crisis, MONGO carriers unknowingly bring in broken supplies, just bringing in whatever donations received. They focus more on the quantity of goods they are providing rather than the quality in order to boost their statistics. I will address their business mindset later on.

“MONGOs have been known to ship frostbite medication to victims of tropical disasters, and starving Somalis have received laxatives, slimming cures and electric blankets,” (Polman 52).

Polman has issues with MONGOs like this because they are doing more harm than benefit in the areas they enter. They are often unorganized and led by people who feel they have a calling to do good, rather than true humanitarian aid experience. Bringing supplies, medical equipment and clothes that the people of that country either can’t use or don’t need defeats the purpose of the MONGOs existence. Polman argues that those living in a war zone “deserve protection from people that arrive unannounced and set about to work without the most basic qualifications,” (Polman 62). Another issue Polman has with MONGOs is the fact that larger aid organizations rarely critique the faulty MONGOs to avoid negative publicity for the entire industry, so their mistakes rarely go noticed by the general public.

Journalists, Public and Government Officials

This is something that journalists, the public, and government officials need to focus on to make humanitarian aid more successful. Since larger organizations won’t hold themselves or MONGOs accountable, it is up to these groups to ensure that these organizations are performing justly and efficiently. Journalists need to expose the fact that an MONGO performing an operation killed a young boy or another one delivered winter coats to refugees in the desert instead of tagging along with them to refugee camps. Journalists need to distance their relationships with the aid organizations to do an un-biased job reporting on them. By exposing these mistakes, the public, including those that donate money or supply, learn the faults that these organizations have. Public officials need to create some sort of regulation to make sure only legitimate organizations are entering the countries needing aid, instead of a random group with no experience. These regulations will protect those who need the aid, ensuring they receive only legitimate aid. All of these groups are lacking the urgency to investigate these aid organizations properly and are missing out on an important ongoing global issue.

“Businesses Dressed up like Mother Teresa”

Polman uses this term in the afterword of her book Crisis Caravan to define the business mindset of many NGOs. They operate like a business for contracts to travel to provide aid in these areas, a term Polman deems “contract fever”. NGOs are in competition with each other by how much money they raise, the number of countries they operated in a year or the number of patients they have treated. These statistics are put together in a report published to the public to have donations poor in. For many NGOs, the percentage of a donation that actually goes towards humanitarian aid is lower than most would think. The website, Charity Navigator, allows people to see how much of their donation goes towards what causes. However, the NGOs hide their business motivations by portraying a “Mother Teresa” front to make themselves appear more charitable in the public eye. By competing with each other to make themselves appear the most involved in global affairs, the NGOs are positioning themselves to receive the most aid, which helps get the better contracts, and powers the entire cycle.






Post #4

Deemed a “hoax” by politicians and delegitimized by corporations that are profiting billions of dollars from polluting the planet, climate change is an extremely legitimate problem for the Earth’s population.

We are now at a time where it is imperative that governments come together to seriously enforce initiatives to halt the devastating damage that corporations have done to our planet, before it is too late. Oceans are rising and warming, forests are disappearing daily, and glaciers that have been frozen for thousands of years are now melting.

We are destroying our very own ecosystem.

Not only are we, citizens of the Earth, physically damaging the planet. We are also damaging the livelihoods of people. Along with their livelihoods, their culture, language and traditions that have existed long before any of us were alive. For example, the Inuits in the Arctic are trying to maintain a sustainable life while the glaciers around them are melting rapidly while preserving their culture that has been based around the Arctic conditions. In Shiela Watt-Cloutier’s work “Inuit Right to Culture Based on Ice and Snow”, she makes the connection of the importance the environment has on the lifestyle of indigenous peoples. Watt- Cloutier states that environmental issues are “very much about the health and well-being not only our bodies, but also our cultural survival.” The Inuit culture is based on hunting, with ice and snow as their “highways”.  Not only is climate change causing the animals that they hunt to become near extinct, the hunting culture that instills patience and courage in the young Inuit people becomes instinct as well. It is the same with the Republic of Kiribati, with sea levels rapidly increasing, the island is at risk of literally drowning.

The Republic of Kiribati

So, what is being done?

The Paris Agreement was signed by 170 countries with the goal of limiting the rise of global temperatures and slowing the effects of climate change on the planet. The countries that signed this agreement are responsible for 93% of emissions of greenhouse gases. China and the U.S, make up for 40% of emissions were major supporters of the agreement. However, with the recent election of President Donald Trump, these efforts may or may not persist as his administration has not placed a high emphasis yet on environmental protection.

The key points of the Paris Agreement can be found here. They primarily focus on reducing global warming, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing transparency, financial support and a recognition for small islands like the Republic of Kiribati.

Iran’s Environmental Issues

United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Gary Lewis gave a speech detailing the five main environmental issues in Iran. 

They are as follows:

  1. Water
  2. Land Degradation
  3. Energy
  4. Air Pollution
  5. Biodiversity Loss

Water is Iran’s biggest resource constraint, as the livelihoods of many people that depend on the resources they have are not going to be able to sustain their reliance on these sources for much longer. For example, Lake Oromiyeh, one of Iran’s largest bodies of water has been rapidly evaporating.  This is causing tensions among the people that live nearby.

The evaporation of Lake Oromiyeh

Iran, like many other nations, has issues with deforestation. Lewis said, “Currently, Iran’s energy intensity and per capita CO2 emission levels are among the highest in the world. This has to do with Iran’s growing population – its rightful development aspirations – and its abundant natural gas and oil reserves. But it also has to do with fuel price subsidies that have set the price of energy far too low.”

However, Iran most life threatening environmental issue is air pollution. The capital city of Tehran, has a consistent smog problem that causes schools and businesses to shut down. Tehran’s air pollution is partly due to geographical factors: The Iranian capital is semi-enclosed by high altitude mountains in three directions, blocking air circulation. Tehran’s large population also adds to the air pollution, as well as the high number of domestically produced vehicles on the roads. This causes tensions among the people and oil companies, who are placed with a large amount of blame for these issues. The pollution in Tehran causes a severe threat to the health of the people, and is responsible for hundreds of deaths in the city.

tehran pollution.jpg

The Environmental Protection Organization of Iran has implemented several initiatives to improve the conditions in Iran, but have been unsuccessful. This is partly due to the politics are structurally involved in the problem of air pollution. The organizations responsible for taking on the issue are not coordinated and managed under a higher body with superseding control, while the Iranian capital suffers from the effects of centralized management. The people of Tehran are becoming frustrated with the lack of change as the effects of the pollution are detrimental to their health.

Drastic changes in the emissions of greenhouse gases and implementation of new restrictions are going to be required of the Iranian government in order to see an improvement in the environment.



Post #2- Language

The Language

Language affects various aspects of a countries culture, people and policies. From the way one’s thought processes are formed to the ways it can be interpreted, language holds a central role in global interactions.

Iran is a nation that hosts a wide variety of language speakers. The most common one spoken is Farsi, otherwise known as Persian to Westerners. Farsi is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Over half of the population of Iran speaks Farsi. What is unique about Farsi is that many words either overlap with French or have similar roots. The French and Iranian people have shared a friendly relationship since the Middle Ages, after experiencing a brief rough patch, are now continuing with their past history. On Jan. 28, French President Francois Hollande met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in Paris to work on a major trade agreement. With that being said, there are many French words spoken in everyday Farsi language.

The second most common language spoken by approximately 18% of Iranians is Azerbaijani, a form of Turkish dialect. This is followed by Kurdish, which is spoken by 10% of Iranians and then small patches of Luri, Arabic and Balochi encompass the diverse language set of the Iranian people .

There are three categories of Iranian languages: Ancient, Middle and Modern. Most of the evidence of these languages is remnants of ancient texts and poetry , as they are no longer spoken and have few connections with the current languages of Iran.

Map of Iran showing the various languages spoken in the distinct geographical regions.

Global Organizations

United Nations

Iran was one of the 51 original members of the UN since it’s founding in 1945, but now has a controversial role in UN relations. Since 2008, there have been several sanctions passed by the Security Council against Iran, including a mandate of an Iran Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts. Here is a report of the committee’s meetings. 

International Monetary Fund

Iran has been a member of the IMF since 1945 as well. Iran was under review by the IMF from Dec. 3 to Dec. 14 2016 to assess the state of the nation after a recession in 2015. The IMF stated that the economy is rebounding due to oil production and exports. The IMF noted Iran has a “strong commitment to AML/CFT reform that helps facilitate the expansion of correspondent banking relations,” as well as a prediction for an increase of its GDP to 6.6 percent. A challenge Iran faces is developing a long term plan for sustainable activity and growth.

World Trade Organization

Unlike the UN and IMF, Iran has had a rough history with the WTO. Iran first applied for admission in 1996. Their application was not considered for five years due to tensions with the United States. It was brought up 22 times, and was finally approved in 2005. However, Iran has only reached an observer status in the WTO, and their exports have increased exponentially since 2005.

Gini Coefficient

The Gini Coefficient of Iran is 44.5, and they are currently ranked 46th in the world, out of 176 nations. In relation to the United States, which is 45.0, the coefficients are very similar. The Gini Coefficient measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of income. The lower the Gini coefficient is, the more equal the country is. Iran’s 44.5 coefficient signals a significant inequality in the country.



Post #1

I will be spending the semester covering the nation of Iran and its affairs, people and general culture. Iran, the second largest country in the Middle East, is constantly in our American TV news broadcasts and papers. Having this blog will allow me to have a greater focus on not only Iran, but the Middle East as well as this is such a tumultuous geographic area for so many Americans.

On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering America for 90 days as well as refugees for another 120. Iran, one of the seven countries in the ban, specifically spoke out against the President and this ban. The foreign ministry issued a statement stating,

“While respecting the American people and distinguishing between them and the hostile policies of the U.S. government, Iran will implement the principle of reciprocity until the offensive U.S. limitations against Iranian nationals are lifted.”

The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani tweeted this statement early on Jan. 28 in response to the executive order.iran-blog-1

Tensions between Iran and the United States were already thickening due to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, so it will be interesting to see in the coming weeks how this executive order influences relations with Iran and other countries in the Middle East.

Politically, Iran elected President Hassan Rouhani of the Moderation and Development Party in 2013. Rouhani won the election with 50% of the votes, signaling a shift in Iran towards electing progressive leaders in their theocratic government. On Jan. 8, former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani passed away. Rafsanjani played a crucial role in the revolution of forming the Iranian Republic and was a well respected leader and had a very close relationship with the current president. “Mr Rafsanjani was seen beaming even more broadly than the incumbent himself. Mr Rouhani, after all, was his old national security adviser,” as reported by the Economist.  The Iranians are opposed by several terrorist groups in the Middle East.

The Iranians are currently facing threats from various Saudi based terrorist organizations. As journalist and political analyst Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm explains, “They have been trying hard to strike at Iran itself, because Iran is the only country, which is enjoying security in the region.” The amount of terrorist threats in Iran has increased tremendously since the 2015 deal, as it raised Iran’s status among other Middle Eastern countries, particularly the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization.

Women in Iran are under strict scrutiny by their male counterparts. While this is a common occurrence in many Middle Eastern nations, Iran allows more freedom than several other countries. For example, women are allowed to drive. As an American woman, the concept of having permission to drive as an adult is difficult. However, Iranian women are allowed to attend universities, but there are several that ban what women can study. These subjects are typically in the science and technology field, as those are more male dominated.

The Iranian people have very deep rooted traditions in Persian and Islamic cultures, but there is a progressive movement occurring. More and more women are choosing not to marry and the divorce rates in Iran are surging. An article in the LA Times states, “Marrying remains a powerful norm in Iran, and many laws still treat women as the property of men. Married women need their husbands’ permission to travel outside the country.” While there is a surge of highly educated, progressive women in Iran they still face the scrutiny of not choosing the life that is deemed acceptable to the traditional Iranians.

Based on my observations of the state of current affairs in Iran, it is a thriving country in the Middle East. Their power and progression is a threat to not only other countries, but to the deep rooted traditions of the past. I am looking forward to covering Iran this semester and getting to further analyze their relations and affairs.