Thursday, January 06, 2005


There's a word in French, "surenchère", which suits the current immediate post-Tsunami donor situation. Donors trying to outbid each other with pledges.

"We're the largest donor," says donor #1.
"No, we're the largest donor if you count this way," says donor #2
"Well, we have always been a very generous nation, we're the largest donor by far, in history, if you count that way," says donor #3.
"That's all fine," I say, "come back to me a year from now and show me what you've actually delivered. Then we'll congratulate the winner."

The newspaper this morning had several articles going in different directions.
1. We've never seen so many pledges on such a scale... it's great but... 2. there are other crises around the world that don't get as much attention but over time kill the same numbers of people if not more..... and 3. pouring money on the Tsunami relief and reconstruction will pull resources away from these equally deadly crises.

Wait a second, we're talking about pledges anyway, which is quite different from the amounts actually spent, so, yes indeed, if the billions now pledged are spent on the Tsunami area, it's very likely that resources needed in other areas will not be available, but if we can expect that the amounts disbursed will be much less than those pledged, then perhaps this redirecting of resources to the Tsunami area and away from other areas won't be that dramatic.

French Radio RFI this morning noted that the motivations for this "surenchère" are not entirely humanitarian. Of course they're not. Do we care more about this particular crisis because so many western tourists died? Probably.... but there's something that wasn't mentioned. Here in the North Virginia area and all over the United States, there are many immigrants from the affected region who have lost family members or who feel a much closer connection to the tragedy. These are people we know, our neighbors, people whose children go to school with our children. We are no longer isolated from tragedies that happen far away. To me, this is demonstrating a positive impact of globalization.