Earlier in the week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Director-General Robert Mardini said Ukraine’s humanitarian activities are well-supported whereas there is a “lack of funding for the vast majority of humanitarian settings”, starting with Africa. He called on the international community “to ensure that no one is left behind”.
Western countries and donors of humanitarian organizations are ready to spend billions of US dollars on supporting Ukraine or Israel, but they would think twice before giving a hand to other nations in the developing world, including Africa, believes Ashraf Patel, Senior Research Associate with the Institute for Global Dialogue and Member of the South Africa BRICS Think Tank Network.
“First, they view the world in a geopolitical context and NATO and EU members come first in the global order of importance,” Patel says. “Hence billions can be spent on just one country such as Ukraine or Israel, but little on the poorer nations of the world.”
The expert argues that the West’s assessment of which countries were important was revealed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Western nations ignored poorer nations and practiced a so-called “vaccine nationalism”. He says that the African continent “came last” in the West’s order of importance and “was not even provided with vaccines”.
“For Western nations and pharma companies, Africa was seen as a market to make money during the pandemic, and they made billions in profit,” Patel states. “Only China and Russia provided the developing world and Africa with vaccines as part of humanitarian and solidarity support.”
Another expert, Professor Jo-Ansie van Wyk from the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa, disagrees with her fellow South African researcher, saying that “Western donors are not turning a blind eye” to problems in Africa and other regions of the world.
Van Wyk admits that the West’s humanitarian assistance for crisis in poorer countries has recently declined, but she argues that members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union “are more likely to invest in their immediate spheres of influence and interest”, as they view the crisis in Ukraine as a “direct threat” against them.
“Let us not forget the assistance and investments from Russia and China in these regions,” Professor van Wyk notes. “The latter two states do not always announce the size of their assistance.”
Patel partially agrees with this point of view, saying that Ukraine was “an immediate priority for the West and billions are now being mobilized for this, to the detriment of many African nations.”
According to Patel, Africa, which is the world’s fastest-growing region, is still regarded by the West as “a continent in colonial terms”, a “basket case”, and a “continent that needs charity”.
He stressed there should be “fair trade” rules that would guide trade relations with the African states.
“Hence, no fair investment or trade rules at the WTO and G7 and G20,” the researcher states. “Without fair trade, Africa is then depended on foreign donor aid, which comes with many unfair prescriptive conditions.”
Earlier in the week, in an interview with Sputnik on the sidelines of the Third Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum, Robert Mardini, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, highlighted the fact that Ukraine’s humanitarian activities over the past months have been well-supported, whereas other countries remain underfunded and in need around the world.
“Today, ironically, the humanitarian work in Ukraine is well-supported by donors, but the downside is that the rest of the world is underfunded, and that’s a reality for the ICRC,” Mardini told Sputnik. “I would argue that there is today a lack of funding for the vast majority of humanitarian settings, starting with Africa.”
Mardini stressed that “humanitarian diplomacy” needs the international community “to ensure that no one is left behind”, adding that there are some forgotten tragedies in places such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Latin America.