Friday, 20 January 2006

Make Poverty History

I have just read an appeal from the 'make poverty history team', asking everyone to lobby the Chancellor to provide even more aid.

I can only reiterate what I have stated many times before. I have seen very little evidence that increasing aid diminishes poverty. Most of the countries which receive large amounts of aid also spend large amounts of money on arms, and suffer from varying degrees of institutional corruption. Aid benefits the donors, by ridding countries of food surpluses, and often makes recipient countries aid dependent. It salves the consciences of individuals, who live a life style, which is often dependent on exploiting poorer countries. It also absolves corrupt and oppressive regimes of solving refugee problems. Aid is also a huge industry, with a large number of (often very well paid) jobs in the developed world now dependent on it. The celeb's sponsoring fund raising to 'make poverty history' could easily take enough money out of their own bank accounts to donate more than is raised from the widows' mites. And some aid -- such as increasing the number of goats in Africa) -- leads to environmental degradation. Aid is a short-term papering over of two long term problems: increasing human populations, and environmental degradation. While we spend more on the wall paper than restoring the crumbling bricks and mortar, we can be sure the wall will fall down soon.

This is not to say that some emergency aid is not vital. But long term aid is not a long term solution.

This is a personal view, based on extensive experience of travelling the world. When I first started travelling 40 years ago, there was serious poverty in Spain, southern Italy and many parts of Central and South America. Those areas have mostly seen dramatic improvements in standards of living, while Africa has seen dramatic increase in those living in serious poverty; is there an aid connection?

I wrote to Oxfam recently asking about their goat policies, and the impacts on the environment, but have not had a response......

1 comment:

  1. There's a quite funny blog at The Ecologist about the tremendous success the "Make Poverty History" campaign has had on eliminating poverty. The author (Paul Kingsnorth) explains how poverty magically disappeared a couple of years ago thanks to "a strong-willed Coalition of the Warbling" and "a critical mass of white-banded mass idiocy" and goes on to say that now the fight to end poverty has been won we should go on to tackle climate change in the same way.