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Are private owned charity agencies doing any good to the countries in need? Are private owned charity agencies doing any good to the countries in need?
by Christos Mouzeviris
2012-10-11 08:38:09
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When I was growing up as a kid in Greece, I remember that almost every year my mother was buying notepads of UNICEF for me to have at school. Just so that we did our little bit to help the poor kids of Africa. We were watching so many advertisements on our television sets about the humanitarian emergency that this part of the world was facing, so we were moved by all the images we were watching.

I am now a 35 year old man and one would think that nearly 30 years later, the campaigns to save the "poor kids of Africa" would be a thing of the past! Well to my surprise, they aren't. After so many charity events, concerts like LIVE AID and LIVE8, such high profile campaigns all over the world and many new NGOs and private charity organizations like Concern, Barnados and so on, the continent of Africa still needs help.

So where are we going wrong? Is it just the Africans' fault that their continent is still lacking the development that other parts of the world have achieved? And what about other regions of the so called "Third World?" Can humanity progress any further if we leave those regions behind? How can we tackle the situation and is charity and the offer of loans the answer to this problem?

Let's admit it. Most of us when we think of the African continent there are two main images that come first into our minds: its wildlife and its poverty. Images of lions, elephants, giraffes and zebras on one side, and children barely alive from hunger in Africa's slums with flies flying all over their weakened bodies on the other. And who can blame us? That's all we see from this continent usually. If you ask any African immigrant in Europe though, he/she will tell you that these images often offend them. And they do not always portray the real life in Africa, apart from some poverty stricken regions. They do not identify with those images.

So why we rarely see anything on the lifestyle of the average African family? Well simply, it doesn't "sell!" Who would give money to support a well established African family? Nobody. Besides, this also helps our elites to support the idea that Africa desperately needs more aid, when in fact all it needs is investments. Then why do we prefer to offer aid than investments? Well with loans and "aid" it is easier to control, corrupt and manipulate the African governing elites. With direct investments we only offer solutions fast. But with loans we can control an indebted country for decades to come.

So what is the role of private NGOs in the whole story? Well first of all, it is their advertisements that brainwashes our brains to associate Africa only with poverty. Just as now we relate Greece with tax evasion and corruption, we have been doing the same for Africa for decades. Not that some of the claims are not true. But corruption thrives where there is money and power. And by that I mean that the richest and more powerful a country is, the more corruption it can foster. But in most cases, this country is using it to corrupt more vulnerable regions and bring them under its influence. So the images that we see usually of Africa are a part of a world wide propaganda.

Little do we know how rich Africa is actually: underneath its fertile soil lie vast natural resources that other nations, multinationals and corporations want to steal for nothing! The same "trick" is used today in countries like Greece. We saw it happening in Latin America too. Throw more and more debt on a country or region and then get it natural resources as spoils.

And wouldn't you think that after 30 years of constant receiving of aid from the developed world would have made not just some significant change, but would have solved the majority of the continent's problems? Surely some blame can be put on the African political elite. But just think of the fact that most of Africa's countries were formed not too many decades ago, after the WW2 and especially during the '60s. The European colonizers made sure their very successful policy of divide and rule was applied all over the continent and in result, it created many inter-ethnic or religious wars and tensions. So when the African countries gained their freedom, the old hatred that the colonizers promoted remained; and it kept working its corrosive way into African life.

In other words, it is only business for some to keep promoting these images. "Charity" is profitable business. And how can they keep this business alive? Well that is simple; by keep advertizing the "need" and "urgency" to help a dying child. As disgusting as it may sound, dying children always "sell!" I admit that some of these charities have done a lot of good and have helped to built  and restore communities. But in my opinion this is not the way to help a region in need with long term results. The only way to achieve this is with direct investments. Help those countries to learn how to exploit their natural resources and utilize all their potential. By forcing these countries into poverty and then go and offer compassion and charity, is like stealing everything from a family and then return back some of the spoils and thinking that we are doing good.

Now who would want a rich and prosperous Africa? Imagine if Africa was as free to develop and reach its full potential, how the rest of the world would look like? How would we in the first world have super rich, if we did not have the developing countries to "offer" us cheap first materials like Africa, or cheap work force like some Asian countries like India.

Of course not everything is negative. Africa enjoys a growth rate much higher of that in Europe. But still there are  huge economic disparities. And if Europe and America remain in recession for long, Africa alone won't be able to sustain its growth rates. The solution in my opinion would be to promote the setting up of industries in Africa, more fair trade must be established and Europe and America, as well as other countries should lower their protectionist policies. The African nations should be then able to exploit their natural resources and provide them to the global markets for the benefit of their people first. Invest in the continent not with aid and loans, but with factories and jobs in Africa, universities, hospitals and so on.

Another worthy initiative is the promotion of local businesses. Not just in Africa, but in every other region of the world including Europe itself, to deal with the economic crisis; this one and others to come. Encourage local businessmen to create new jobs, and with new jobs will come prosperity and stability, education and then more industries and investments from abroad and withing the region. In fact the European Commission will be hosting on 16-17 October the EU Development Days, "a two-day forum on international affairs and development cooperation, to discuss some of the global issues. The three main themes of the event will be food security, inclusive growth and how to encourage the private sector to engage in development." (from the Debating Europe website: http://www.debatingeurope.eu/2012/09/28/can-local-businesses-help-fight-global-poverty/).

That will be great news for Europe and Africa. If they manage to come to an agreement that is. But I will be still vigilant and skeptic. I came across a recent article that one of its main arguments it used to convince the global players to promote business and development in the so called "third world" was the fact that they are losing out on a "potential market." In this article by Imoni Akpofure, the director of the Western Europe Department at the International Finance Corporation, we read: "If you are in business and you ignore the poor, you are ignoring a market of 4 billion people with an estimated $5 trillion in purchasing power. For the poor is not poor business."

Hey and when we run out of humans as customers, because we will have turn them all in manic consumers, let's give a chance to other species with similar intelligence to experience the joy of purchase!! Give the apes a tag that will be a credit card and when they feel hungry and they need to eat a banana or taste a treat like a chocolate bar they will have to scan their tag in a special machine to retrieve their treats. Each tag will have credits, credits that they will be able to accumulate for working in the circus or in a zoo. Do you think is funny? Well I think is funny that the only reason that some people think is worthy of lifting people out of poverty is because they want more clients and consumers, not because it is humane and the right thing to do!! Shame on these excuse for human beings who think like that! Though it does give an initiative to our greedy elites to invest and see those regions through a different perspective, I find it scandalous that human kind has to think like that to do any good to another.

To conclude, if you agree that the three decade saga of "aid" to Africa and the rest of the "third" world has gone too far, then it is time to change attitudes. Besides, Europe as the biggest donor on our planet, can not keep up with this. Most of our continent is gripped by a recession. And above all, it is not ethical to portray a whole continent as we have been so far, forcing them to seek jobs elsewhere and then blame them for coming into our countries. The world I am dreaming of is more equal and not because we are seeking new consumers and to expand our markets, but because it is simply the right thing to do.

*************************************************************************

Christos Mouzeviris is the writer of the blog: The Eblana European Democratic Movement 

 

 


    
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Emanuel Paparella2012-10-11 11:50:22
The above is an eye-opener on “charity as a profitable business” which indeed could serve as sub-title to the piece. Especially relevant is the notion of first robbing a family and then coming back to “generously” offer some help which is similar to the notion of “trickle down” economics so prevalent in so much of the capitalistic Western world. Which is to say, the cart has been put before the horse: justice ought to have precedence over charity.

What I am about to say may shock some readers of an anti-clerical frame of mind, but it needs to be said. The notion that charity is no replacement for justice can be found first and foremost in the Papal social encyclicals of the last one hundred years. Most of the founding fathers of the EU knew that fact very well. Today’s EU politicians do not have the foggiest.

One may of course protest and adduce individual abherrant clerical behavior, but how fair is to condemn the message because of the guilty messenger, or worse beat the messenger because one does not like the message. How far is it to condemn an institution that although flawed because governed by flawed men has also given to the world the likes of St. Francis of Assisi and a cohort of saints?

And what is the message one may ask. It is simple in a way: before one proposes trickle down charity, one must do justice, especially distributive justice. For promoting that notion of social justice called preferred option for the poor various Popes and the Catholic Church as a whole have been accused of promoting socialism and communism together with sexual repression and pedophile behavior misguidedly attributed to the whole clergy and many other such pre-judgments simply not supported by the empirical facts which reveal that pedophilia is even more prevalent among married men and secular non-clergy than celibate clergy, but that is another story to be better explored at another time.

To focus on social justice, the Popes have repeatedly been contemptuosly advised to sell the Vatican artistic treasures and distribute the proceeds to the poor of the world. It is claimed that such an action will give evidence of putting one’s wallet where one’s mouth is. But here again the cart has been put before the horse. Were the Pope to do that, each poor will then receive one hamburger and the real problem of hunger in the world because of bad distribution of wealth will still remain unaddressed only two hours later.

To the contrary, I think the Popes are right in placing justice before charity as the above article amply suggests. The argument itself is right and as the piece suggests at the very end, one does the right thing not for business but “simply because it is the right thing to do.”

And, by the way, the readers should be reassured that I am no advisor to any Pope and furthermore I think Dante was right in placing three Popes in hell, but Dante never made the mistake of confusing the message for the messenger.


Leah Sellers2012-10-11 19:56:05
Yes Sir, Brother Christos !
I concur with everything you have put insightful Thoughts and Words to, dear Sir.

It is Our Global Systems that must further Evolve and Revolutionize this dead end Cycle and historical and sociological systemic Re-Cycling of all too familiar Energetic Failures.

Also, I enjoyed your humor, Sir. But I think that the Apes (and other animals) are far too intelligent to get involved with Our Human Foibles - ha ! But then again, because of their propensity for Territorialism, perhaps not.

Thank you for the chuckle, and your informative Observations.


Christos Mouzeviris2012-10-11 23:15:54
Thank you dear Gentlemen for your comments. I agree with your positions. And Mr Paparella, I think that the Church too, has to reform and modernize in some issues, but in other go back to the basics, to the roots of Christianity, if it wants to be still relevant and survive.


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