“Maybe their hearts were in the right place. Maybe not. Either way, these are solid contenders for the title of “worst attempts at helping others since colonialism.”
So begins this article by Richard Stupart, titled “7 Worst International Aid ideas” and while you may not agree with all of them, i imagine at least everyone will have some kind of agreement that some of these ideas were not well thought out. Read the article to get the full commentary on each point, but to give you a taste of the themes, here are the ideas he lists:
1. One million t-shirts for Africa
2. TOMS Buy-One-Give-One
3. Machine gun preacher
4. 50 Cent ransoming children in Somalia
5. Donor fund restrictions
6. Making food aid the same colour as cluster munitions.
7. Making USAID a foreign policy tool
This closing paragraph sums it up:
Sometimes bad foreign aid is just the consequence of someone caring too much, but knowing too little. Other times it’s people who should have known better not being diligent in considering the consequences of their actions. And sometimes politicians and unscrupulous businessmen are simply manipulating the suffering of others for their own ends. When it’s benign or thwarted, it’s easy enough to laugh it off. But when a bad idea is carried through, the results can be diabolical.
Reminds me of a story my wife Valerie reminded me of the other day. In the wake of a Tsunami, one well meaning group came in and fixed all the roofs of the houses that had been affected… which indirectly [or maybe directly?] led to a number of local roof repairers being put out of work.
Good intentions – when they have disastrous effect – are really not enough. Often a simple changing of the question from ‘What works well for me?’ to ‘What will work well for them in the long run?’ will be at least a good start to this question of International Aid.
How about you? Heard any similiar stories? Been part of any of them? Which of these 7 do you feel is the most costly to the locals affected?
finally, a little tongue in cheek look at foreign aid to help bring the point home:
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