The Decade’s First Global News Story

Paul Collier in a January 17th Guardian story.

“Humanitarian crises around the world have shown that, while disaster response is often fast, effective and well-funded, reconstruction attracts fewer resources and, in many instances, fails to deliver an opportunity for a better future. Aceh, on the tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra and a region often taken as a model for focused development efforts after the 2004 tsunami, now faces new challenges as aid agencies reduce cash handouts and a lack of employment opportunities threatens stability.”

The media spotlight is shining brightly on Haiti just as it did Aceh in 2004. What are the odds that in six years, we will read that Haiti “now faces new challenges as aid agencies reduce cash handouts and a lack of employment opportunities threatens stability.”?

People’s recent generosity towards Haiti strikes me as odd given how little attention most people typically pay to desperately poor people and places.

In the medium and long-term, what impact can we expect an “ignore, give generously, and ignore again” style of philanthropy to make?

We need to commit to more serious and sustained global citizenship that rests on historical knowledge of colonialism, of specific places like Haiti, of globalization and neo-liberal economics, and less on one-off, media-inspired, charitable giving.

I would be more optimistic about Haiti’s future if people checked out books by Sachs, Collier, and other experts on global poverty and formed groups to debate the merits of their proposals for reducing global poverty.

If we don’t press our government to give more generously and intelligently, and we don’t consider changes in our own lifestyles, I can’t help but wonder if we give at times like this out of a sense of guilt.

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