Tuesday, September 13, 2005

This is why I donate to organizations other than the Red Cross

I've had some political issues with the Red Cross for some time and had, since my last donation to the OKC bombing fund, limited my Red Cross interaction to donating blood. Four years ago, after the organization announced that funds donated to its Liberty Fund would be limited to use in relief efforts in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I donated a couple of hundred dollars to them in a targeted donation specifically for that purpose. Not too long thereafter, it was revealed the funds were not used for that purpose at all and only a small minority of funds went to the victims/survivors of the terrorist attacks. I, again, limited my Red Cross donations to blood donation (at least while they would take it and use it; they have recently re-revised guidelines to again accept blood donations from those who have spent time abroad in Europe). When the Tsunami hit, my donations went to organizations like Médecine Sans Frontières (and, I think, Mazon) instead of the Red Cross. Even when I saw the liberal blogosphere join together to collect for the Red Cross relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I opted to donate to America's Second Harvest instead.

I am sorry to say that while the Red Cross volunteers bust their humps and people donate to the organization with the best of intentions, the American Red Cross does not function quite as one would anticipate based on their charter and code of conduct. [emphasis added]

1: The Humanitarian imperative comes first
The right to receive humanitarian assistance, and to offer it, is a fundamental humanitarian principle which should be enjoyed by all citizens of all countries. As members of the international community, we recognise our obligation to provide humanitarian assistance wherever it is needed. Hence the need for unimpeded access to affected populations, is of fundamental importance in exercising that responsibility. The prime motivation of our response to disaster is to alleviate human suffering amongst those least able to withstand the stress caused by disaster. When we give humanitarian aid it is not a partisan or political act and should not be viewed as such.

While it's understandable that since the Red Cross is not a search and rescue organization and does not want to (and should not) put its own people in harm's way, when it came to the Katrina Crisis the organization sat at the table with government officials and blithely capitulated to Homeland Security that it not set up shop in New Orleans or distribute much needed provisions within the city limits.
Amid reports that thousands were trapped in the Superdome and the Convention Center, the Red Cross did not distribute or drop supplies to either location. The group's explanation that its presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city mirrors a National Guard decision not to drop food supplies, saying they did not want to spark riots [Raw Story]
They also did not distribute supplies to victims at designated shelters who waited for buses (some waiting for days) to evacuate them from the city. This, despite reports that the goods armed forces are bringing in were largely for their own use - not to be distributed to victims in need.

Raw Story reports that Congress not only incorporated the Red Cross to "work under government supervision", which essentially allows it to work as an instrument of the government (while exempting it from religious discrimination and FOIA claims) which also seems to run counter to the international organization's code of conduct [emphasis added]
4: We shall endeavour not to act as instruments of government foreign policy
NGHAs are agencies which act independently from governments. We therefore formulate our own policies and implementation strategies and do not seek to implement the policy of any government, except in so far as it coincides with our own independent policy. We will never knowingly - or through negligence - allow ourselves, or our employees, to be used to gather information of a political, military or economically sensitive nature for governments or other bodies that may serve purposes other than those which are strictly humanitarian, nor will we act as instruments of foreign policy of donor governments. We will use the assistance we receive to respond to needs and this assistance should not be driven by the need to dispose of donor commodity surpluses, nor by the political interest of any particular donor. We value and promote the voluntary giving of labour and finances by concerned individuals to support our work and recognise the independence of action promoted by such voluntary motivation. In order to protect our independence we will seek to avoid dependence upon a single funding source. [IFRC]
Much as it did during the drive for the OKC bombing and Liberty funds, the Red Cross claims designated donations to the Katrina relief fund will be used only for the victims of Hurricane Katrina - sadly, they've given me little reason to believe them.

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