Foreign Aid Reform: Making Real Changes for Those Who Need it Most
After watching the debate that I outlined in my previous post, I spent some time reflecting about its implications to the work Bread is doing. I found that both sides brought up important points in defense of foreign aid reform (many of which Bread already uses). On one side of the issue is the sheer, abject poverty that exists in the developing world. There is no question in my mind that, in order to give those who are in that kind of poverty a chance to improve their lives and the state of their country, aid needs to be given; moreover, it needs to occur on a government level, since only governments can mobilize the kinds of funds necessary to significantly improve lives.
However, the methods through which aid is allocated need to become more efficient and effective. An improvement in this area requires two paths: a uniform direction and strategy for our government’s foreign assistance, in order to ensure that the aid gets to where it is going more efficiently and a change in the perception of Africa and its needs. The first point I believe can be addressed with legislative action and a change in our government’s foreign aid assistance, but the second requires an immense input by the general population and a change in people’s mindsets. We need a realization that Africa cannot rely on aid alone for ever. Job training and agricultural development need to take center stage in order to create real change in people’s lives as opposed to a constant stream of money and goods. Finally, and most importantly, the populations of all the developing nations need to stop simply feeling sorry for Africa. Instead of treating Africa like a street child simply begging for scraps, the world powers need to take movements towards legitimate equal partnerships with African nations. Only through mobilizing the people into changing the national image of Africa as a beggar, to Africa as a young, but potentially brilliant, entrepreneur in need of an opportunity, can real changes be made.
It is in this area that a organization such as Bread for the World can make all the difference. It has the resources to educate the general population, the structure to connect the people to those who make the decisions, and the calling to accomplish it all.
I find that these sentiments are very well supported by Paul Collier’s closing remarks in the Munk Debate, which I paraphrase: In order to create change the governments need to get serious. Look at the Marshall Plan, in that situation the government got serious and change was made. However democratic governments act at the will of the people, so the people get the type of aid that they deserve. If they want politicians kissing babies and showing how sorry they feel for the people of Africa, that is what they are going to get. In order to make real change, people need to get informed, and motivate their governments to do what needs to be done and bring legitimate change to the developing world.
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