Waylaid Dialectic

August 16, 2011

A Confession

Filed under: Aid — terence @ 9:22 pm
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I have a confession to make.

When I donated money in response to the Horn of Africa Famine I earmarked it. Rather than just donating it to an NGO which works in that part of the world (among other places) and which does good work, and then letting them allocate the money as they see best, I donated to a specific fund for the famine. I’ve done this before with other emergencies.

I understand this is bad practice: if you trust the NGO (and why would you give money to an NGO you didn’t trust) then you should also trust them to allocate the money to where they can best put it to use. If you don’t, there is a chance that the NGO will end up with more money than it can usefully use in the crisis in question, while being under-resourced in tackling other, quieter tragedies.

I know this and yet I still ear-marked my donation. Why?

Possibly it’s because I believe disaster relief aid is more likely to be effective than development aid (although I do believe development aid can work). That’s probably part of the story. But it’s not all of it. In part I think my decision was simply driven by emotion and, less charitably, a desire to assuage my own sorrow and guilt — the sorrow and guilt I’ve felt while listening to news about the famine.

This isn’t a good excuse. But it’s what happened nevertheless. No doubt the rest of the development blogosphere has been much more considered in their donations. But I’m also sure than my own motivations and type of donation are pretty typical of the donating public more generally.

Which is something to consider next time you’re about to start dissing Poverty Porn or NGO marketing arms. They respond to us in ways that reflect how we respond to them.

We respond to them, they respond to us.

October 4, 2010

Churchill’s Secret War

Filed under: Social Justice — terence @ 7:02 pm
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A must watch Bloggingheads TV, Churchill’s secret war and the Bengal Famine.

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