Pakistan – disaster recovery under extreme conditions and great scrutiny

As noted here many times, the recovery process is a complex one and one that is hard to accomplish in the U.S.  When the U.S. participates in the international response to a major to catastrophic disaster in another sovereign nation – especially underdeveloped ones,  such as Haiti or Pakistan — the problems grow almost at a logarythmic  rate.  Added to all of the elements of recovery are issues of morality, strategic significance, and existential concerns.  An opinion piece in the Wash. Post highlights some of these added concerns. Pakistan flood relief is in America’s strategic interest, Sept. 1, 2010.

The challenge for the Obama administration and other governments is to develop new mechanisms — similar to those, perhaps, that the United Nations has devised for rebuilding Haiti after its earthquake in January — that would enable relief and reconstruction with maximum transparency and honesty. If this is done successfully, the Pakistani government and its international allies, the United States included, could gain prestige in the eyes of a skeptical people. The alternative is a vacuum that extreme Islamist groups are already attempting to fill.  The American people must be there when the floodwaters recede. The moral justification is compelling enough. But the strategic rationale is real, too.

A related report, well written and compelling, was issued by the U.S. Institute of Peace, on August 17th, titled: Flooding Challenges Pakistan’s Government and the International Community. It makes a somewhat different case for the U.S. aid to Pakistan, highlighting the link between disaster recovery and peacebuilding.  A notable observation in that report is:

Unfortunately, disaster management priorities are often focused on immediate visible results rather than the less tangible and long-term goals of stable peace, good governance, and sustainable development. Saving lives is undoubtedly essential. At the same time, how disasters are managed can have a long-term impact on the conflict context. Disaster managers must ensure that short-term interventions also carry positive long-term impacts on societies that have already experienced considerable suffering.

Additional article, posted on Sept. 2, is well worth reading.  It deals primarily with the digital media and the mechanics of providing assistance to Pakistan, providing a very interesting contrast with the Haiti catastrophic earthquake earlier this year. See A Month In, Pakistan Flood Relief Efforts Stuck at 1.0, in Wired magazine .

2 thoughts on “Pakistan – disaster recovery under extreme conditions and great scrutiny

  1. Excellent point about the military as only mechanism for large scale response and recovery assistance. Note that in the Senators comments noted in this blog on 8/31 on the need for improved recovery capabilities in the US they said they wanted to see a “world class” recovery system. I wonder if they mean it and will make the investment to do so!

    Claire

  2. A Month In, Pakistan Flood Relief Efforts Stuck at 1.0

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/09/pakistan-flood-relief

    “A month after the Haiti earthquake, the U.S. government had over 20,000 troops on the ground, $450 million in assistance money earmarked, and an innovative web-based system to let troops and aid workers collaborate like never before. A month after the floods in Pakistan, the U.S. effort doesn’t compare in any way. And that’s a major problem, considering Pakistan may be the most strategically significant country on the planet right now.”

    One of the underlying problems is that the only effective mechanism the U.S. has for large-scale projection of power overseas is the military… thus any large relief effort is easily misconstrued as an invasion.

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