The U.S. Civilian Assistance Programme to Pakistan fails to measure the success of its various projects in the country. According to its quarterly report, which was recently released, the indicators required to measure the success of these projects remain missing from its assistance programme, which were supposedly to be identified by the US Embassy. Three years down and with almost 4 billion dollars already spent since 2009 on the programme, the environment in Pakistan towards the U.S. is as hostile as it was post 9/11.
The assistance programme aims to support high-impact, high-visibility infrastructure; focused humanitarian and social services; and government capacity development, and then there is a shift in funds as the need arises and is determined by the USG in consultation with the GOP. But what this assistance programme doesn’t aim to do is to create a parallel public focus from within Pakistan on issues, which are relevant to their existence; even if it did, the approach is dealing with it at the surface as the problem lies with our institutions that lack the capacity to address deep-rooted issues despite the funding and the necessary linkages.
The areas where USG implements these project through the USAID, most of its partners are already bad storytellers not that the ‘AID is any different; they are far worse hence the strategic way of communicating the relevance of these projects in the targeted sectors that they operate in is often diluted with the cases such as “Davis’es” of USA and the “Qadri’s” of Pakistan, the fact of the matter here would be that situation such as these will continue to arise-so one of the core aim of each project/USG/USAID should be to communicate to the people of Pakistan that the money which is being spent through these projects on the assistance is coming out of the American taxpayers pocket, and that too not in a way that challenges and questions an average Pakistani’s ability to meet his/her own needs, but to develop a sense of realization that enables them to react constructively towards their basic rights.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2011, one of the three important clusters of risks beyond the Economic disparity and global governance failures is the “Water-Food-Energy” nexus. According to which, shortages can lead to social and political instability, geopolitical conflict and irreparable environmental damage. The rapid increase in population will put unsustainable pressures on resources in Pakistan, despite having realtime factual data on the three, the debate that needs to be created on these issues within the media to bring them into public focus is far from ever happening. Yet the level of communication and advocacy strategies required for the emerging crisis out of the inter-relatedness of the nexus will be critical in raising awareness for the value of water, renewable energy technologies and agricultural production practices within the Pakistani society.
As of December 31, 2010, $3.931 billion in FY 2009, 2010 and 2011 fund were obligated to support the assistance strategy; of this amount, $233.8 was obligated for energy, $225.6 for agriculture and a staggering $298.5 for water. And if this were to be translated into the public debate it would mean nothing less than a “void”.
For instance, not much content has been created over the past three years on education especially the areas where the AED was operating in, had that been the case, it wouldn’t had taken the USAID OIG this long to make up their minds over suspending the partner’s operation in Pakistan. The livelihood development programme in the upper region of FATA, where the mission had no baseline data to determine the progress of countering the influence of extremism, is yet another example. Consequently, the assistance programme suffered greatly as it lacked a strategic content integrated approach to it, in other words it lacked the knowledge that could have been as a result of an outreach support from within Pakistan that could have put the most relevant challenges in the spotlight.
So as the OIG expects to conduct four performance audits and one financial audit for the remaining FY 2011, programmes such as the Pre-STEP, Firms, the Energy and Efficiency Capacity are in the waiting of being evaluated.
And in spite of such overarching principles and priority programmes; almost everything in Pakistan tends to be politicized so it’s either a conspiracy or a propaganda, the civilians are normally found religiously lost in the debate over the two.
So if the assistance strategy, that as it may seem strengthening the partnership with the Pakistani people is often looked as impediments to the country’s economic growth and social stability. Meanwhile the media falls short of creating any content whatsoever upon pre-identified local priorities just as the embassy tries to realign the indicators required for the ‘AID to measure the impact of it’s projects in the country.