Tell starving children in East Africa that Britain’s broken


9:02 am - August 17th 2011

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contribution by Amy Pollard

There’s nothing like a riot to bring out the underlying editorial instincts of the British press, and we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly over the last ten days. In a leader column last week (Tuesday 9th August), the Sun proposed that the government should halt police cuts by slashing overseas aid.

There are numerous ways to boost police budgets, and stopping overseas aid is not the only – or even the obvious option.

But it is an extraordinary proposition that the response to ‘moral breakdown’ in Britain should be to stop an area of government spending that is about doing what is morally right.

Our commitment to overseas aid is fundamentally based on the principle that it is wrong to do nothing when people are suffering needlessly – and when we have it in our power to stop that suffering. That is why the British government and public are leading the world in donations to the drought-affected regions of East Africa.

The value of giving aid goes far beyond the familiar benefits of strengthening economic ties abroad, building political relationships and increasing security. It allows us to carve out a national identity around values of compassion, fairness and decency – and thus reinforces those values within our society too.

If we want our cities to be places with a strong sense of community where people feel responsibility to their neighbours, then we must surely act as a nation with a strong sense of international community, with a duty to support those who are most in need.

Now is a moment to encourage selflessness and concern for others – not to become a Britain that turns in on itself and against each other.

There is another Britain: the leading force in international aid – acknowledged globally as one of the most innovative and progressive donors, home to world-class NGOs and researchers, with a strongly engaged and generous public.

This is a Britain that every member of the public – not just the government – should take pride in. It is as much of an indignity not to be able to help others as it is to live in poverty yourself. Giving is fundamental to our humanity, whether we are rich or poor ourselves. Everybody needs to gain the sense of self-worth that comes through generosity, and find in it the ability to connect with those around them.

Politicians of all stripes should have the courage to use aid as an indication of Britain’s social and moral health. They should tell those seeking to demonise young people how much money schools raised last term to help starving children in Somalia.

Say it proudly – Britain leads the world in international aid. That is the best argument against those who say our country is broken. And no matter what ‘The Sun Says’, the day we abandon that leadership we really are in a moral malaise.


Amy Pollard is Lead Aid Analyst at CAFOD

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Reader comments


Wow, some one who works for an aid agency / charity has written a nice article supporting foreign aid.

What next? An OpEd from a grizzly bear proaiming the virtues of sh@tting in the woods as opposed to rioting?

“Wow, some one who works for an aid agency / charity has written a nice article supporting foreign aid.

What next? An OpEd from a grizzly bear proaiming the virtues of sh@tting in the woods as opposed to rioting?”

What next? I’d say a supercilious comment from an obnoxious little Tory type belittling the role or foreign aid in saving innocent people lives. Or maybe a comment from a someone who supports the police proaiming (sic) the virtues of giving more money to the police as opposed to investing in communities in order to prevent future riots.

Wow indeed.

3. the a&e charge nurse

Adults as well as well children are starving in various parts of the world – is the specific reference to children a way of increasing the pathos of this horrible reality (in which case babies might have been even more effective).

The equation of how much suffering should be accepted locally in order to ameliorate suffering elsewhere probably depends on your situation?

It is said that 4 million UK children live in poverty?
http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/why-end-child-poverty/key-facts

Around 92,000 cannot access palliative care
http://palliativecarefunding.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/PCFRFinal%20Report.pdf

In short there is a very long list of need in the UK (see recent LC post on brands of therapy for families who lack even the most rudimentary parenting skills).

Of course all of these pale into insignificance when compared to levels of poverty in some parts of the world – charity is laudable and will have a profound effect for some individuals, even if it lacks the power to alter the fundamental dynamic between poor people and lack of political stability or infrastructure which may suggest a more promising future.

On the other hand being against aid seems inhuman – I suppose we will just have to accept that dire poverty will always exist somewhere in the world (and in fact may get much worse) so the need for overseas aid amounts to a perpetual demand on more affluent countries?

I think it might be overstating it somewhat to claim that Britain leads the world in International Aid. We’re ranked 5th in money terms and 7th in percentage terms.

http://anthonycooper.blogspot.com/2011/08/britain-leads-world-in-international.html

Also, it’s hard to equate aid given out of money taken through taxation with aid voluntarily given by individuals free to decline.

The riots will be used as an excuse for doimg what the government wanted to do anyway, whether its cutting overseas aid, clamping down on social media or bringing in National Service.

Like the 7/7 bombers a bunch of nihilistic arseholes have granted the State a licence to do whatever the fuck they want.

5. Shatterface

And that is where the Lib Dems come in.

The Tories really do need reminding that they didn’t win the last election outright, and their baser instincts, which are much worse than the other two Parties, require curbing by the junior coalition partner.

Dedaiux re comment 2:

“What next? I’d say a supercilious comment from an obnoxious little Tory type belittling the role or foreign aid in saving innocent people lives”.

Oh please, I suppose you’re either on the side of the fawning angels or the ‘obnoxious little Tory trolls’, eh? You must learn to get over yourself and take a little sarcasm in your stride otherwise you play up to a stereotype as well.

I would have liked a more reflective article about how aid can be made more effective rather than merely supporting aid per se. In my view, it is beholden upon any one from a particular inertest group to write article giving a greater insight into their field rather than be blandly supportive to the principle.

Does anyone go to work and say ‘I’ve got this 100″% right, so no bother to improve things’?

I don’t, perhaps you do.

@7

Why would somebody write an article about making aid more efficient in response to the Sun calling for cuts to foreign aid? That would make absolutely no sense.

Similarly, if you believe that writing an article supporting aid is the only thing that Ms Pollard does, or that it covers the entire breadth of her views on aid and how to use it well, then you are very silly indeed.

Claran re comment 8:

Thank you for your message.

Why? To outflank the growing chorus of people challenging the extent of Britain’s foreign aid budget and seeking to undermine it’s moral value, with examples of where it hasn’t delivered aid to those who need it in a particularly efficient manner.

Merely saying aid is good for us awarding ourselves top marks for trying won’t quell the mantra of “We’re broke can’t afford to give our money to despots and chuggers”.

You don’t need to think like Tzu Sun to realise there is more than one approach to defending your position.

Every time I see an African leader step out of his official Lear jet and get into his official Mercedes, wearing his three-thousand pound official Savile Row suit, shortly before shaking hands with a visiting arms manufacturer or politician from one of the countries which has provided it all, I feel a little more convinced that we should simply send the aid money direct to Zurich and cut out the middle man.

Hundreds of billions of pounds of aid money since the second world war. And look at the suffering now.

Bauer was right. Overseas aid has been a transfer of funds from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

It’s an inhuman disgrace.

Kojak: I would have liked a more reflective article about how aid can be made more effective rather than merely supporting aid per se

Please don’t pretend you care. If you did, you’d acknowledge aid does do good and would be opposing the Sun’s campaign. Instead you’re trying to pretend you’re sensible on the issue when you’re not.

Sunny re comment 11:

“Please don’t pretend you care. If you did, you’d acknowledge aid does do good and would be opposing the Sun’s campaign. Instead you’re trying to pretend you’re sensible on the issue when you’re not.”

The good thing about words is they have meaning, as do the sentences which they can form. All fairly straightforward one would think. However you appear to have discerned somewhere in my comments 1, 7 and 9 an opposition to foreign aid.

I realise reading all the comments might be a bit of a chore, especially tongue-in-cheek ones like number 1, but that’s no reason to jump to the wrong conclusions and accuse people of saying what you think they meant as opposed to what they said.

You mentioned the word sensible. What is sensible is for us not to bury our heads in the sands and ignore the growing clamour for reduction in foreign aid to compensate for any cuts at home. It’s not going to go away merely by repeating the mantra “aid is good – cuts are bad – people who question us are even worse”.

As the plateau out of recession extends further and further into the future charities and NGOs are going to have to be a bit smarter about answering questions challenging their validity than they have had to in what, to be frank, have been years of plenty.

In the unlikely event that ‘The Big Society’ catches on more people will ask “if I’m spending hours of my time doing charity at ‘home’, why should I pay a grinning chugger to earn commission from me to be charitable abroad?”.

It’s not an unreasonable question, one which requires answering on a number of levels, especially as we’ll be hearing more about ‘charity begining at home’ and complaints such as those outlined in comment number 10 by Liberanos.

13. SpeakasIsee

Strange but as soon as I hear or see the words Foreign aid I get the image of starving children brought into the world by parents who should never have had them as they can’t afford to feed them but expect us in richer countries to do so for them instead.
I’m sorry, but until the religious lot, who I mainly blame, stop encouraging them to breed children they can’t support I will switch over when the begging adverts come on tv and tell anyone else who will listen to do the same.

When “they” start to act responsible, as in, those producing the children and those who encourage them, then I promise to do my bit, until then, I have no more pity for them and will enjoy giving any spare cash I have to any tramp I see to waste on alcohol, knowing it will help stop another mother producing more babies this world can’t afford.

I may sound heartless and cruel but I can be when needs be, so that’s how it comes out!

“Tell starving children in East Africa that Britain’s broken”

AND, don’t forget to tell them were also skint because the lefties spent all our money & then borrowed until they had enslaved all Britains to debt.
Not that the lefties care, they would take the bread from our mouth so that we are all equally hungry!

@ kojak Wow, some one who works for an aid agency / charity has written a nice article supporting foreign aid.

What next? An OpEd from a grizzly bear proaiming the virtues of sh@tting in the woods as opposed to rioting?

Try arguing with me than you isolationist nerd

The world’s environment is groaning under the strain of overconsumption, we eat and drink while they starve,and giving at least redresses the huge env and human cost our lifestyles cost the Earth and its people.

I run my own company mate and as I have a degree in env science I think I know a little bit more about it than a prattling idiot like you.

@ MLC 1“Tell starving children in East Africa that Britain’s broken”

AND, don’t forget to tell them were also skint because the lefties spent all our money & then borrowed until they had enslaved all Britains to debt.
Not that the lefties care, they would take the bread from our mouth so that we are all equally hungry!

I don’t think so mate. They global env is far more important than any national issue. Its about time people like you get to understand that and with the Earth Summit coming up you could take a little time to find out about why aid from the rich world to the poorer world is important. East African starvation causation is at least in part environmetal in origin and it is unrealistic to expect the poorer world to care for the planet when we don’t.

Pete Lee re comments 15:

Gosh, I didn’t know my remarks were going to be read by a man with a degree, one who it turns out to run his own company, no less! I must I bow down to your immense achievements and vast world experience, as obviously I have none myself.

I will spell this out to you in capital letters, just in case that’s how you learnt your environmental science coursework at the College of Malthusian Studies and Global Warming:

I’M NOT SAYING FOREGN AID IS BAD AND SHOULD BE STOPPED, RATHER, THE ARTICLE FROM A CHARITY WORKER DOESN’T ACKNOWLEDGE THINGS CAN AND MUST BE IMPROVED TO ADDRESS THE CLAMOUR TO STOP SPENDING ON AID. AID WORKER SAYS ‘AID IS GOOD’ IS A BIT PREDICTABLE DON’T YOU THINK, PERHAPS?

I hope the big letters make this clearer.

I thought comments 7, 9 and 12 would have – but obviously not to a man who has attained the vast attainments of which you so proudly boast.

I mustn’t hold you up as, no doubt, you have your Form DS01 to complete.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Håkon Ragnvald

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  3. Sarah Lewis-Hammond

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  4. CAFOD Media+Policy

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  14. Sion Palmer

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