The international community is great for disaster relief, but it struggles with creating healthy business environments. What's the secret to generating entrepreneurship?
One thing the international community is very good at is disaster relief. A large number of agencies--government and non-government, public and private--have the combined logistical capacity to quickly provide basic disaster relief almost anywhere on earth on amazingly short notice. Whether the Indonesian tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti, or even the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster, these agencies can deploy the most basic relief efforts on extremely short notice. They are not perfect, and cannot provide relief perfectly, but the speed with which they mobilize is remarkable.
Immediate disaster relief is a core competency of the international community. Even in situations not involving natural (or man-made) disasters, they can mobilize very quickly. When I was researching the stricken Uzbek communities of Osh, Kyrgyzstan last month, I saw little UNHCR signs everywhere. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees had not only provided immediate food and shelter for those left homeless by last year's June riots, they were were spearheading the reconstruction of several large neighborhoods.
What had stalled out in these neighborhoods, however, was a revival of the thriving Uzbek businesses that once defined Osh. In its 3,000 year history, Osh has been a center for commerce, and that commerce has been driven by the Uzbek community, who have worked as merchants and traders for centuries. In the 18 months or so since last year's riots, however, the Uzbek business community has stagnated.
There are several causes for that stagnation. Many Uzbeks feel besieged in their own neighborhoods, called mahallahs. There is a constant threat of theft by either officials in the government or linked to the government. And there is the fear of missing justice: because none of the perpetrator's of last year's violence have been held accountable, there is little desire to go out into the community again. The social isolation there is severe.