The rise of the relief and reconstruction complex

50 Years is Enough, This article first apeared in the Journal of International Affairs, Spring/Summer 2006, vol. 59, no. 2.

, by BELLO Walden

Massive infrastructure damage and great social dislocation have been common consequences of natural disasters and social disasters like wars. Up until a few years ago, the aims of relief and reconstruction efforts were fairly simple: immediate physical relief of victims, reduction of social dislocation, restoration of a functioning social organization and reparation of physical infrastructure. In major disasters or wars, international actors were central players-most prominently United Nations agencies and the Red Cross Movement. In recent years, however, the objectives of both disaster relief and post-conflict reconstruction have become more complex. Strategic considerations have become more prevalent in military-led disaster relief operations. Post-disaster and post-conflict reconstruction planning and implementation are increasingly influenced by neoliberal market economics. A new militant humanitarianism infuses not only post-conflict reconstruction work but, in a number of cases, has itself helped to precipitate conflicts.