Thinking of ‘3D’, some people might get the movie Avatar on their retinas, but this is really about the relations between the representatives of Defense, Diplomacy & Development. We belong to the latter D. There has been ongoing discussion about this issue, but what is our role, as an aid organization in the debate?
Yesterday afternoon a meeting was held at Clingendael about this subject: assessing four years 3D approach in Uruzgan, Afghanistan. Together with Oxfam Novib, Cordaid, ICCO and Save the Children UK, the risks and opportunities were discussed, as well as the added value of working together with diplomats and the military. The discussion focused on the Dutch Consortium Uruzgan (DCU), in which HealthNet TPO participates. The conclusion was both obvious as distressing: a hundreds of million Euros intervention in Afghanistan has not produced any added value for aid organizations. Okay: Camp Holland provided protection for aid agencies as a place to stay, the base housed diplomats who could be consulted on the relief activities, and above all: it was fun in the camp. But isn’t that a bit thin considering the costs?
The afternoon discussion also showed that less wealthy organizations are more likely to accept funding that we could classify as ‘political money’, or put more diplomatically: geographically earmarked money. Representatives of the larger organizations claimed never to accept funding from for example USAID in Afghanistan. That is a luxury that only large organizations can afford themselves. It is also a luxury to claim neutrality, impartiality and independence, when you have access to your own logistic system. Anyway, in the end politics determine the success or failure of a 3D approach. The Netherlands were present in Baghlan and left because the then Defense Minister Henk Kamp wanted to operate in the upper spectrum of violence. Therefore, the whole 3D circus left for Uruzgan. After four years in Uruzgan, the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) pulled the plug out of our presence in Uruzgan and in the beginning of this year, the left wing party (GroenLinks) put the plug into Kunduz. 3D is nothing more than a sales gimmick of the proponents of the concept, in order to sell the military intervention to the Dutch public.
The ironic thing is that now the contours of a new circus in Kunduz are beginning to appear. The 3D veneer is to hide the fact that half a billion is spent on activities that have nothing to do with the Development of the province.
It was concluded that the 3D concept is strongly occupying our minds, but the concept itself provides little opportunities for an aid organization. Critics will blame organizations of opportunistic behavior when an organization accepts money from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the influence sphere of the military. However, if the overriding interest – helping people who need it most- is served, opportunism is just. But remember: safety for staff and stakeholders is always leading, and the needs of the population are always a priority.
Stefan van Laar – Context advisor with HealthNet TPO
Background: Cultural anthropology/non-Western sociology, development studies (post-doc).
Research and publications in the area of: military culture, civil-military relations, reintegration of ex-combats, Defense Diplomacy and Development approach (3D)and beach boys.