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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Compassion or crime?

    Six French nationals have been charged by Chadian officials with kidnapping and face possible 20-year prison sentences. The charity workers, employed by the humanitarian organization Zoe’s Ark, were arrested after a failed attempt to fly from Chad with 103 children. A seven-person flight crew will also be charged with complicity.

    Zoe’s Ark is either an altruistic cause cutting corners in a desperate situation or a dangerous child-trafficking organization capitalizing on the crisis in Sudan. But while Zoe’s Ark insists its intentions were altruistic, its record-keeping was unforgivably incomplete. In its fervent rush to save Sudanese orphans, the organization appears unconcerned with verifying whether the children were truly Sudanese or even orphaned. Considering the dark history of child trafficking across the developing world, this haste seems sophomoric. The diplomatic outrage to this news is reminiscent of recent child-adoption controversies in Vietnam and in Sudan. When news broke that some of the Lost Boys of Sudan might not be orphans, public outcry prevented other verified orphans from being rescued. One organization’s error can damagedthe reputations of other, more thorough programs.

    – Matt Rolland is a junior majoring in economics and international studies.

    There are many issues at play in this case, none more pressing than what it reveals about corrupt Western actors in the developing world. I’m not talking about multinational corporations, often maligned for their Third World marauding. There’s a more insidious deceit festering here: the aid industry. Seemingly cuddly non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Zoe’s Ark often resort to extralegal measures to accomplish laudable goals. This disease is spreading throughout the aid industry as fast as the diseases they struggle to eradicate. Can NGOs really be blamed?

    The aid industry is like any other industry: competitive to the hilt. Competition confounds progress as organizations become embroiled in protracted displays of one-upsmanship, vying for the funds necessary to stay in business. The more you do for your cause and the more visible it is, the more money you’ll get. As we see in the Zoe’s Ark case, with limited oversight and a natural desire to survive, some NGOs must put unadulterated altruism to the side to keep donor money rolling in. With everyone and their mothers founding new NGOs, many with the same goals as dozens of others, we can expect this obscure story to become more and more commonplace.

    – Eric Reichenbacher is a senior majoring in economics and international studies.

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