Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Do relief agencies such as the IRC have a conflict of interest in reporting war casualties?

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 10, 2010

A new Canadian study, suggesting death rates usually decline when wars erupt, continues to stir controversy (see article). The study led by Andrew Mack of the Human Security Report Project at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver reports that the decline in wartime mortality is largely due to public health measures such as immunization, along with a dramatic rise in humanitarian aid.

Andrew Mack, however, also criticizes organizations such as IRC for ignoring their obvious conflict of interest in authoring studies and reporting war-time deaths while also benefiting from the resulting aid in response to their reports – reports which he claims inflate death rates.

[Mack] argues that international relief agencies – such as the International Rescue Committee, which produced the estimate of 5.4 million dead in the Congo – are facing a potential conflict of interest because they depend on donations that, in turn, are stimulated by their studies of death tolls. Those studies should be done by independent experts, not by relief agencies that depend on donations, he says.

Of course we know all about conflict of interests at refugee resettlement agencies  in the U.S., such as the IRC. These agencies have trumpeted, via their PR and lobbying group RCUSA, studies such as LIR’s The Real Cost of Welcome, which claim that the resettlement agencies cover most of the costs of refugee resettlement (something which we know is a total fiction, as the U.S. government pays for the lions share of the costs of resettlement). The resettlement agencies are also the ones that have now greatly benefitted from the State Department’s recent decision to double R&P public funding (see our analysis).

In fact, the government, via its decision to double R&P funding, seems to have relied almost exclusively on the resettlement agencies’ own studies. These resettlement agencies, which have been demanding more government funding, were also granted status as major players in President Obama’s comprehensive review of the refugee resettlement program via the National Security Council (NSC). The State Department claimed that the NSC gave its concurrence in the doubling of R&P funding – even before the NSC has finalized its recommendations and sent them to the President.

 Of course we’ve written to the resettlement agencies about some of these problems, and our concerns have fallen on deaf ears. They ignore all communications. Their friends at the State Department have also failed to respond to our concerns.

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