Reflections & Commentary – 2010-11, Romania and Tanzania

Part 2

In Part 1, we talked about the history of Romanian and Tanzanian independence.  Today, we will talk about our experiences.

We can’t speak from the Western European experience, but we can speak from the American experience … especially as it relates to international aid.  We are ethnocentric, as is often reflected in our international public policy efforts.  The United States has accomplished many great things in our 230+ year history.  Many of those efforts were often waged from two perspectives:  (1) “What’s in it for us?” and (2) our belief that, “We know how to export political, social and economic solutions that look American, and those solutions must be good because they have been good for us.”  We are not criticizing U.S. foreign policy, but rather hoping it can be reshaped in how it influences the way we go about the business of helping or assisting others.

There are hopeful signs that a different attitude is in the making.  For example, under the most recent Bush Administration, the United States instituted very different policies and procedures for addressing the Aids crisis in Africa.  We have seen evidence that these new approaches are working.  Under the Obama Administration, we are converting much of the work of USAID to provide support aimed at creating sustainable food production rather than shipping grain and other food stuff to the recipient countries.  Obviously there are exceptions, one being the current famine in parts of Africa that requires immediate humanitarian aid.

But enough of the political observations, and back to Romania and Tanzania!

In Romania, positive moves forward are difficult and seemingly show to come.  However, if we look at some simple facts, we might see the future in a slightly different light.  Many of the emerging leaders in Romania have lived in both the old and new Romania.  In the old Romania, they were often unaware of the happenings of the outside world.  The Communist system had rotted in front of them, yet their parents knew no other form of government.  The first new leaders after the Revolution were for the most part still Communists, but were just tired of their country suffering under a particularly cruel dictator.  When the West entered the fray, programs were promoted that emphasized “democratization,” formation of a free market economy, and the rebuilding of infrastructures.  Funding was provided through the World Bank or the European Union, and, of course, NATO did not want to miss out on the opportunity to help with nation building.  It is no wonder that the cash infusion stimulated even more corruption – it just had a different face. 

When IMPACT and Mosaic entered Romania in 2002, anything could have been offered as a program model as long as it provided new money to the country.  Any new monies gave opportunities for employing friends, family members, and outright theft of funds.  New cars appeared in significant numbers, financed by recipients of the funds.  Bribes became “business as usual,” but after five or six years, the new cry for funding stream opportunities moved to anti-corruption schemes.  Today, we see positive results of funds going into the hands of people and organizations where the commitment to addressing the multitude of needs of Romania’s people is paramount. 

We are very proud to say that Motivation Romania, under the direction of Cristian Ispas, has been extraordinary in changing the lives of so many people in positive ways.  Are there still needs to be addressed in Romania?  Oh, yes!  More than any of us can imagine!  The needs are evident almost everywhere we go. 

By the time IMPACT and Mosaic entered Tanzania in 2007, most efforts to provide international aid had failed throughout Africa.  World Bank loans were overdue, the IMF was renegotiating loans, and much of the world community was advocating for loan forgiveness under the belief that these countries, including Tanzania, had not been ready for the infusion of such large sums of money.  Through Tanzania was never ruled by one of the “big men” (one who is elected, but rules as a dictator), it has had its fair share of corruption and difficulty in ensuring that the billions of dollars of assistance found its way to the real people in need.  At this time, the program, Building a Caring Community (BCC), led by Deacon Elirehema Kaaya, is making great strides in producing positive changes in the lives of children and families in Moshi, Tanzania.

Check back on Monday, September 6, for Part 3, our conclusions to these reflections and commentary!

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