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Title: Geopolitics of pre-tsunami and post-tsunami aid to Sri Lanka
Authors: Hyndman, Jennifer
Date: 2008
Publisher: Dept. of Geography, University of Simon Fraser, Burnaby, BC, CA
Abstract: The 2004 tsunami produced enormous loss and destruction, remarkable media attention, and an extraordinary outpouring of international aid. This paper seeks to argue that tsunami aid cannot be adequately understood if we do not contextualise it historically. It is at once distinct from long-term development aid and part and parcel of humanitarian assistance. Nonetheless, the conditions of its giving and the context in which it has been provided are constitutive of its meaning and impact in the case of Sri Lanka. In this regard, the relationship of the 2004 tsunami to aid disbursements and politics in Sri Lanka is of particular interest. Utilising data from interviews with international non-governmental organisations and aid agencies in Colombo, the salient responses of bilateral and international non-governmental agencies are analysed. A case study of one of these donors – the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) – is employed to provide a historicised and detailed analysis of its relationship with Sri Lanka over time. The various impacts of neoliberal aid policies within CIDA, active conflict in Sri Lanka, and the devastation of the tsunami witnessed worldwide are all probed in relation to CIDA’s assistance on the ground. The paper presents evidence from research conducted before and after the tsunami to argue that crisis creates exceptionalism. CIDA dramatically changed its neoliberal application of ‘aid effectiveness’ policy in Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami. While CIDA’s response was not exemplary of all bilateral foreign aid agencies to Sri Lanka, it illustrates the historicised and geopolitical antecedents that shape aid practices on the ground.
Description: Also published in “Tsunami in a time of war: aid, activism & reconstruction in Sri Lanka and Aceh,” de Alwis, Malathi and Hedman, Eva-Lotta E., eds. (2009)
Project Number: 103604
Project Title: Post Tsunami Reconstruction in the Context of War
Access: IDRC Only
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