An unfortunately short-lived coalition

Disbanding the coalition is a poor idea

It went as fast as it came. Colin Powell has announced that humanitarian coalition consisting of Australia, Japan, America and India has been disbanded after ‘having served its purpose’. That prompts the question — was it really necessary for the United States to go through an exercise of forming a ‘core group’ just to get an appropriate international response? As if the deaths of 150,000 people and the destitution of several millions more were not enough!

An effort by the United States, Japan, India and Australia to coordinate tsunami relief will be disbanded and folded into the broader U.N.-led operations, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday.

The group’s creation was announced by U.S. President George W. Bush just eight days ago as he tried to dispel criticism that the initial U.S. response to the catastrophe was slow. Some analysts saw it as an effort to appear engaged.

But U.S. officials said the group had already served its purpose by jump-starting aid efforts to devastated regions following the Dec. 26 tsunami that barrelled into 13 countries around the Indian Ocean and killed some 150,000.

“The core group helped to catalyse the international response,” Powell told a tsunami relief conference in Jakarta according to a prepared text released by the State Department. “Having served its purpose, it will … now fold itself into the broader coordination efforts of the United Nations.”

Other diplomats have suggested there was concern that if the huge relief effort breaks down, the United States would prefer not to be in the lead role where it might get the lion’s share of blame. [Yahoo! News]

The United States may have decided to dissolve the coalition in response to the criticism that it is resorting to unilateralism and undermining the United Nations. If so, it has chosen the wrong place and time to do so.

The dissolution of the ‘core group’ is a bad idea because it is premature — a multinational effort led by the UN machinery will take time to get going, and until then it is important for the major regional powers to remain engaged. In the end, Powell’s justification only confirms the dim view that more than humanitarian, this was just a coalition of headline-grabbing.

4 thoughts on “An unfortunately short-lived coalition”

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  4. ALl the “aid” from western governements (US and Europe) always comes with strings attached, such as buying medicines and other products from their own countries (as opposed to cheapest). I hope that the individual contributions are not similarly structured, and are more meaningful.

    So it is wonderful that India can say no to all the foreign aid, and can actually help others.

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