“It is the requirement of US government to brand its aid, but we are giving waivers to projects undertaken in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, because if they put up our logos etc, it can be life threatening,” says Mehdi Ali Khan, the communication specialist for USAID here.
Another official says USAID in Pakistan would prefer to be more transparent. Not only would it help to show that money is being put to good use, but it could build good will toward the US.
“We [would] like to get credit but it’s a complex situation. There is a war in Afghanistan. There are areas under conflict in Pakistan.... This is the reality,” he says wishing not to be named since he is not authorized to speak to the media. The official said USAID was putting up signboards that say the project is USAID funded in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in northwest Pakistan, but in areas like FATA, it just wasn’t possible.
The trouble with branding
Some in the region criticize USAID’s approach.
Shad Begum, who received the International Women of Courage Award by the US State Department for her social work in the area, was threatened by the Taliban for working for the US government, even after asking the press in the area not to cover her award in the media for her safety.
“USAID is more focused towards highlighting their name than focusing on development on many of the projects on which I worked with them,” she says. She developed a campaign recently on capacity building and social rights awareness that involved distributing fliers and putting up banners. But because USAID helped fund it, the organization required that its logo be visible on all materials she handed out, she says.