Dr Rakhshinda Perveen
Nobody wants to bite the hands that feed you
Development means a better life for all. And all means all human beings without ifs and buts of race, gender identity, faith, class, ethnicity relations and many other societal conflicts. The colonial era is over officially but its impact is still intact on the governance of today’s developing and least developing countries. One kind of way of keeping control of policy formulations and important institutions comes in the form of aid, which is not always bad. For instance, in our country, where there are more than 25 Million broken promises of the State aka Out of School kids, thousands of civil society representatives, civil servants, ex-army officers and media professionals have been able to receive higher and enviable education from the US, EU, Australia, Scandinavian and Asian Pacific countries through this very aid. But not all aid is utilized for this very purpose. In 2018-19 there were 34 bilateral donors and 33 multilateral donors who were managing more than 2,000 project activities in Pakistan.
A report of PIDE in 2020 noted that Donor agencies influence Government policies while presenting their research. The Government did not involve local think tanks in the process and huge amounts of aid go back to their country. There is research which proved that the local consultants are better than the foreign consultants and Pakistan should stop taking dictation from the donors. These alarming messages from an authentic forum compelled me to look into the loopholes in human resource policies of nearly all technical and aid agencies including the UN agencies, and INGOs that are seen as the Donor/sponsors in our homeland. As a result of these biased policies only certain local consultancy firms, NGOs and individuals are hired for all lucrative assignments. Nepotism, favouritism, and lack of transparency have been conveniently replaced by Networking. Even the academics mostly do not find any negativity in its connotation and themselves remain mostly occupied in snitching monetarily attractive “research” and “advocacy” consulting assignments. It comes to me as no surprise that many talented women and men who somehow entered into any international platform widely perceived as the influential donor agencies have also been able to “earn” higher academic degrees including doctoral ones, from local private universities. However, such explosive subjects have never been on the radar of journalists, even investigative ones. Any learned lawyer who can manage to merge legality and morality rather than separating their domains may be successful in spotting a crime scene here.
This piece, however, is neither about the “crimes” caused by the politics of aids, parasitic relationships between many donors and our governments or symbiosis between sharp employees in the industry of social development and our not-so-impressive academia. Today I ardently wish to command the attention of all champions of rights towards the crimes that have led to and are leading towards climate crises and emergencies like the one that the country is facing right now. In the wake of devastating man-made disasters, the floods the marketing of the miseries of the affected populations not only by the media but a large number of developmental forums is in the full swing. Very subtly and cleverly, a huge number of officially acclaimed climate experts, journalists and activists are sidelining the pertinent queries. There is no blame and sarcasm in these lines. As a part of the fraternity, I know that telling truth completely is not only an act of remarkable courage, but it has dire consequences as well. Most of us now follow pragmatism and try to remain safe till the time we can tell the story and remain safe afterwards. It is pertinent to recall that Reporters Without Borders has been publishing alarming statistics about journalists who cover environmental stories. In their 2020 report, it was recorded that at least ten have been killed in the past five years, while more than 50 press freedom violations linked to environmental journalism have been registered during the same period. Beyond the idea of safety, another drama is becoming immensely popular. The title is “let’s serve humanity in these testing times.” This has successfully sidelined rather buried the question of accountability to the populations of concerns. Regardless of the fact that the service and accountability are not mutually exclusive ugly and stinking truth is that literal crime scenes have become a playground for all forms of deceitful entrepreneurship, activism, journalism, research, photoshoots, celebrity visits and politics.
So long as intergenerational elites will continue to thrive and take the responsibility of representing the marginalized and so long the oppressed ones especially the brainy ones from lower and upper middle classes will continue to aspire to become an elite, the calamities would only hit the poor and the underprivileged. This calamity should have enabled us who want social justice to do course correction. We could have used this crisis as an opportunity and tried to link empathy and demand for accountability with public policy advocacy, activism, and actions. We could have raised our objections on social media against entrenched systemic insensitivity, and flawed approaches like wastage of resources through webinars and seminars devotedly practised by a good number of powerful platforms. But we did not, and we may not because most of us are tied to sordid economic realities. Nobody wants to bite the hands that feed you. Nobody wants to be shunned by the movers and shakers in the development business.
The UN may keep on calling for climate justice, but irony dies when climate crises may be accepted as an outcome of an organized crime, but nobody will dare to name the criminals. In a dangerously unequal world, there are more ways, safer and even legal ones to silence those who seek truth than to persuade those who can make a difference to speak out the truth the whole truth.
The Breaches in the canals causing floods are visible. Nobody, atleast among the worthy voices is talking about the breaches in the contract of people with the State and all contracts, conventions etc. done in the name of people by high profile officials at high profile foras and by high profile agencies. If we really want a nondiscriminatory world change our inputs have to be changed and go beyond the UNGA sessions and speeches. Rethinking development and life-changing actions in an emergency are needed. Voices of dissent must be noticed and heard by those who are in a position to create transformative changes.