Dear BEST Society,
The United Kingdom is currently working to pass a bill that will
mandate the government to spend 0.7% of the country’s income on
international development. While most of the politicians are
celebrating the bill, some are expressing concern over the subject of
development itself. One Member of Parliament remarked that, “overseas
aid is the taking of money from poor people in rich countries and giving
it to rich people in poor countries.” It appears that this minority
of British politicians are expressing a public sentiment that is
widespread both at home and abroad. Across the pond, most Americans
year after year believe that their government overspends on foreign aid.
They think that aid is around 25% of government spending and should be
cut to 10%; in reality, the US only spends about 1% on aid.
Lately, the blogosphere has been afire with critique of aid. It
is a common sentiment that international charity is based off of
cultural paternalism, with non-Western nations being cajoled along
certain paths of development. One opinionist, Jason Hickel, goes so far
as to claim that foreign aid is neo-colonialism in disguise and that
NGOs are capitalizing on the concern of citizens from developed nations.
Others assert that, rather than conspiratorial exploitation, the
shortcomings of aid are more likely due to myopic zeal. Michael Hobbes
discusses how the excitement of a new playground-style water pump in
Africa ended up being millions of dollars more trouble than it was
worth. Joan Hanawi tells a story of mixed results where South American
villagers have been successfully maintaining rain-collection systems for
fresh water; however, they might be culturally dependent on aid workers,
asking for further financing and projects.
For now, it seems that the UK will go ahead with G8 goals to
increase foreign aid as the legislation continues to move forward.
Opposition concern for this bill produces a chance to reflect on
international work. Is development instituting resource exploitation or
is it fostering interdependence in a global economy? The most important
lesson, these columnists remind us, is that we measure the success of
sustainable development with outcomes, not dollars donated.
“Conservative right-wingers lose bid to kill of International
Development Bill” – Nigel Morris – The Independent – December
“2013 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health” –
The Kaiser Family Foundation – November 07, 2013
“The death of international development” – Jason Hickel –
Aljazeera – November 20, 2014
“Stop Trying to Save the World” – Michael Hobbes – The New
Republic – November 17, 2014
“International Development is Selfish Work” – Joan Hanawi –
Huffington Post – December 03, 2014
BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology Lab
Soil and Water Science Department, UF-IFAS
on location in Haiti