A borrower in Iraq. We obscure the identities of many of our borrowers in conflict zones for their protection.
Few people question the morality of micro-lending. But when it comes to making loans to borrowers in conflict zones, my first question is, "Is it moral?" More on this later. First, I think it's important for people to understand the realities of conflict zones.
What is war? Aside from violence and destruction (which has a lengthy history of thought and regulation), war is defined by Clausewitz as “just an extension of politics by other means.” He also asserts that, in order for a country to be successful in a war, a trinity of political leadership, the military, and the civilian population must be in harmony.
Today, this doesn't apply to most wars. The majority are being fought as insurgencies, a portion of a country’s population fighting their sovereign authority in an armed rebellion. In this model, the insurgents and the insurgents' political leadership are a singular, hostile force, while the government authority struggles to retain its authority through political leadership and the military (a notable exception being military dictatorships). The civilian population in insurgencies are the center of gravity and, in the end, this civilian population will decide who wins the conflict.
Counter-insurgency strategists tell us that the most effective way to fight this type of war is to focus on gaining and retaining the support of the non-insurgent civilian population. This has to happen in order for the government to cut off resources and degrade the combat capabilities of its enemies.
Kiva Fellow and author Leo Della-Moretta in his former life.
As a combat veteran, volunteering for Kiva in Ecuador is a dramatic shift from my previous professional experience. The driving factor for me to volunteer is the desire to help build something. All soldiers work and fight to protect their nations, their families, and their friends, but the reality is that we often do so by destroying people and things.
In contrast, Kiva is an institution that is enabling people around the world to build their communities and improve their lives. It's also believed to be one of the only organizations that actively injects capital into conflict zones (Kiva has partnered with microfinance institutions in Iraq). With that same mindset and goal, this article will try to explain how and why I believe microfinance can help move countries out of conflict and into social and economic development. This article is based solely on my personal experiences.
As a Kiva Fellow, I have spent the last four months working with partner organizations in Kampala, Uganda. One of these partners is BRAC where we are developing and launching a new loan product for Kiva’s platform.