International Institutions, Humanitarianism and Low Income Countries

Published by Brandonc1991 on

The actions of the United Nations in the global south have been designed to hold two effects. The first of which is to provide immediate short term aid to short term problems. The second effect is to preserve an order in the world, by this  I mean the intention of the United Nations was never to help low income nations rise out of poverty to obtain the status of hegemon, or to become model societies. Many of the leading nations in the U.N have interests in the developing world that require many low income countries maintain a weak rule of law and economy. Therefore U.N intervention is meant to prevent calamity to the extent that it ruins western interests and investments.

In a way, the U.N has proven itself to be a humanitarian branch of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The IMF has been defined as a lender of last resort. It is a lender that provides faulty economic solutions as a result of not fully grasping the societal, and cultural factors in each country that influence their economies. In many situations the IMF and World Bank place their low income clients in deeper debt. They apply a western capitalist model in nearly all situations with the belief that this method is the catch-all method.

Frequently advocated by the IMF and World Bank is trade liberalization. Trade liberalization is essentially the breaking down of trade barriers to allow for more competition on a global scale. While this can be beneficial for many developed countries, the developing world frequently takes a toll from trade liberalization. One can look at two of the world’s dominant powers, the United Kingdom and America. In the years leading up to their rise to power neither of these two states practiced free trade with the rest of the world. They were focused on protecting their own infant industries. They were essentially practicing the economics of nationalism, by not only using revenue to create a strong military, but to create a number of institutions that could support the state without the help of foreign intervention.

Trade liberalization is now a subtle tool used to cripple weaker industries in many low income countries. It also helps provide a means for private corporations to exploit cheap labor when they establish free zones.

Returning to the United Nations, there is a system of complacency that operates under the veil of humanitarianism. In 2010 the U.N faced claims that sewage from their camp in Haiti contaminated one of the country’s largest rivers and caused a cholera strain that has killed over 8,000 people since and sicked more than 600,000. Many will frequently not question the incompetence or complacency in the U.N due to their large work towards aid, but one cannot take for granted the fact that the U.N is also responsible facilitating international expropriation. The U.N responsibility towards the cholera strain is one among many occurrences that can occasionally get swept under the rug by media.

Yale law school published a 58 page report entitled “Peace Keepting without Accountability” detailing some of these actions. In regards to the U.N and Haiti, the report includes the U.N’s refusal to hear the claims of about 5,000 Haitians who were seeking redress. In justifying this refusal the U.N was reported to have immunity by saying the claims were not receivable. But one must ask how can an international institution devoted to providing redress and solution to turmoil have immunity from upholding their primary responsibility.  Other controversies involving the U.N include rape of civilians, and child molestation by U.N peacekeepers in various countries ( ) Another controversy has been the firing on unarmed Ivorians by U.N peacekeepers which was reported in the documentary “U.N me” by Ami Horowitz.

But despite the controversies and criticism previously stated, I cannot in all good consciousness fully condemn the United Nations or other humanitarian institutions. There are many who work for such agencies and better the lives of numerous families and villages around the world. Providing aid to living standards, health and education is never bad when it betters peoples lives. However, this is not the only aspect of the U.N that one should recognize, and while there are international institutions that claim to support a globalized community, there is frequently nationalist goals that influence actions. Perhaps one could even say that humanitarianism is a way of clearing the consciousness of those who comply with a status quo of third world exploitation for the sake easier living and cheaper goods.

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