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Since the overthrow of Egypt’s democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi earlier this month, US government officials have made painstaking efforts to avoid calling the ouster a military coup d’état. Why the semantic sensitivity? Because according to the FY2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (PL 112-74), all US foreign assistance to the Egyptian government must be terminated if the military’s actions did, in fact, constitute a coup.
Cutting development assistance to a country after some negative political shock is undoubtedly a well-intentioned effort by donors to incentivize better political institutions. Aid donors do not want to be seen to support coups, which would come with reputational and political risks at home. Instead, the argument is made that donors should offer a carrot and a stick to developing countries to encourage better institutions.
January 12 will mark the third anniversary of the tragic Haiti earthquake that killed over 220,000 people, displaced millions, and flattened much of Port au Prince. Damage and losses estimated at $7.8 billion exceeded Haiti’s entire GDP at the time. The country received unprecedented support in response: more than $9 billion has been disbursed to Haiti in public and private funding since 2010. Private donations alone reached $3 billion, much of it from individuals donating small sums via text messages to the Red Cross and other charities. Official donors tripled their assistance from 2009; in 2010 aid flows were 400 percent of the Haitian government’s domestic revenue.
With relentlessly bad news out of Syria, the search continues for what the world can do to put pressure on Assad’s regime and to lay the groundwork for a future, legitimate Syrian government. The case for preemptive contract sanctions is becoming ever more compelling. Under this approach, the United States, United Kingdom, and other members of the Friends of Syria, would declare that new contracts with the Assad regime are illegitimate and that our courts should not enforce them if a legitimate successor government in Syria repudiates them. This could deter new loans and investments in Syria’s oil or other sectors and send a signal to the Assad regime that the economic pressure will not loosen.
Charles Dunne, Director of MENA Programs at Freedom House, posted a timely op-ed in Huffington Post over the weekend calling for preemptive contract sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria. Charles' piece came on the heels of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York, where countless speeches, meetings and behind-the-scen
For the third time in recent months, Russia, supported by China, blocked United Nations action to put additional pressure on Bashir Assad and help end the violence in Syria. A UN Security Council resolution is the preferred way to go. But if that is not possible, preemptive contract sanctions can tighten the squeeze on Assad without the cooperation of Russia and China.
Mali’s post-coup transition in the South and the separatist rebellion in the North are two distinct but inter-related crises. Neither can be ignored by Mali's friends. But the current planned interventions seem both muddled and wrong-headed. The South appears destined for a prolonged and ambiguous political transition that will eventually get to new elections and put the military back in barracks.
The Friends of Syria coalition will meet in Paris on July 6 to discuss how they might stem the escalating violence in Syria. Once again there will be much hand wringing on what to do and a search for new ideas. Owen Barder and I, who have been working with our colleagues at CGD and officials in the U.S.
On January 12, 2010, at 16:53 hours, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the city of Port-au-Prince, killing over 200,000 people and leaving several million homeless. Foreign aid poured into Haiti, at the rate of almost a thousand dollars per Haitian. For the past two years, we have been putting together the various pieces of data we could find on aid flows and foreign involvement after the quake. We found that the big international NGOs and private contractors have been the primary recipients of billions of dollars in U.S. assistance have been not been required to report systematically on how they use the funds. There has been a lack of accountability to both the funders and recipients. Our preliminary impressions based on our visit to Haiti are that this lack of accountability is if anything worse on the ground: the NGOs are frequently not accountable to the Haitian government or to the people they aim to serve. We even learned something about earthquakes--for example, did you know that Haiti’s two major faults (the northern Sententrional fault and the southern Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault) are called slip-strike faults, and are similar to the San Andreas Fault in California? It was the southern fault that triggered the quake two and a half years ago.