Posts tagged with: aid

316853_288803591143707_552690558_nIn a recent episode of EconTalk, Russell Roberts chats with Acton Institute’s Michael Mattheson Miller about Poverty, Inc., the award-winning documentary on the challenges of poverty alleviation in the developing world.

The entire conversation is rich and varied, ranging from the ill effects of Western do-gooderism to the  dignity of work to the need for institutions of justice.

You can listen to the whole thing below:

Later in the episode, Miller discusses the need for us to reach beyond mere humanitarianism to a fuller expression of love, recognizing the dignity and capacity of every human person, as well as the full scope of human needs — material, social, spiritual, and otherwise: (more…)

ffd3_356x140A new stage is set for an old conversation. This week marks the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD3) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Bringing in representatives of almost 200 countries, it has drawn attention from the anti-poverty crowd across the globe. Whether they are members of NGOs, churches, celebrities, or politicians, many concerned about the developing world have their ears turned to Ethiopia.

FFD3 isn’t the first conference of its kind. The original summit took place in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002. It led to what was called “The Monterrey Consensus,” a companion to the frequently referenced “Millennium Development Goals.” The second summit was held in Doha, Qatar, in 2008, where some of the vague agreements of the first conference were made more explicit.

The Millennium Development Goals, commissioned in 2002, were the start of a massive surge of foreign aid to the developing world. The success of this top-down approach has been mixed at best, and, as Anielka Münkel of PovertyCure explains, is based on a fundamentally faulty view of the human person. While clarifying old objectives once again, FFD3 is also trying to refine its focus. If global leaders are willing to commit, there will be an opportunity to set in motion the revised “Sustainable Development Goals.” (more…)

470380_368492526508146_880858769_oMichael Matheson Miller, research fellow at the Acton Institute, presented a course at Acton University a few weeks ago titled, “Poverty in the Developing World.”

The purpose of the lecture was to demonstrate the root cause of global poverty and to analyze the impact of attempts to alleviate poverty through economic aid. Miller was able to draw from the insights he gained during his extensive travels across the globe, and his conclusion was that aid often harms local economies because it crowed out small businesses by under-cutting their prices. He also found that aid often encourages dependency on foreign assistance which prevents long term economic development. However, he went on to clarify that “this lecture is not a critique of aid but a critique of a flawed system and its underlying assumptions of which aid is the main symptom.” (more…)

Members of Band Aid in 1984

Members of Band Aid in 1984

In last week’s Acton commentary, “The Worst Christmas Song Ever,” Jordan Ballor touched on the well-intentioned yet harmful message shared by “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” the 1984 song produced by the music group, Band Aid, in response to the famine that struck Ethiopia.

Ballor describes the context and some of the song’s lyrics:

The song describes Africa largely as a barren wasteland, ‘Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears.’ It continues in this vein. Africa, the onetime breadbasket of the Roman Empire and home of the Nile River is a land ‘where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow.’ The title question likewise plays into the supposed desperation of the continent. The only ‘Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.’ The response to this call is supposed to be charity from the affluent West, to ‘feed the world’ and thereby ‘let them know it’s Christmastime again.’

The song perpetuates an image of Africans as helpless and dependent on outside assistance to support their well-being. It is true that dire situations exist and increased awareness and emergency aid is needed to prevent loss of life, outbreak of disease, and other severe conditions. But overall, do negative depictions serve to accurately portray people in the “developing world,” and their capacity for producing innovation and change in the areas in which they live?

This is the question I pose in the PovertyCure blog article, “The Hopeless Results of Graphic Poverty Imagery,” which highlights the 1984 Christmas Song and similar versions that have been produced since.

I argue that depicting Africans as incapable and destitute ultimately neglects their true nature as human beings. Though it is true that poverty exists in some corners of Africa (and this should not be ignored), a vibrant, energized environment can be witnessed in many others. There are thousands of entrepreneurs like Senegalese entrepreneur, Magatte Wade, who are establishing creative solutions and finding new markets for business and trade.


Philosopher and theologian, Michael Novak recently delivered a speech at the Catholic University of America on the vocation of business and Forbes published the transcript. Novak argues that “capitalism is lifting the world out of poverty.” As many Asian and African economies shift from socialist to capitalist, they are seeing enormous economic growth, and small businesses are the force behind these economic gains:

Even in developed nations, most jobs are found in small business. In Italy, over 80 percent of the working population works in small businesses. In the U.S., the proportion is just about 50 percent, but some 65 percent of new employment is in small businesses.

During the great economic expansion of 1981-1989, the U.S. added to its economy the equivalent of the whole economic activity of West Germany at that time. Sixteen million new jobs were created in the U.S., the vast number of them in small businesses. Startups peaked as new businesses came into being at a rate of 13 percent (as a portion of all businesses) – an all-time high. Much the same happened under Clinton in 1993-2001, but even better – 23 million new jobs were created.

In the creation of small businesses, four factors are necessary. First, ease and low cost of incorporation; second, access to inexpensive credit; third, institutions of instruction and technical help (such as the system of local credit unions in the U.S.), and the steady assistance of the extension services of the A&M universities; and, fourth, throughout the population habits of creativity, enterprise, and skills such as bookkeeping and the organization of work. Economic development is propelled, as John Paul II said, by know-how, technology, and skill (Centesimus Annus 32). Therein, perhaps, lie the greatest entry-points for Americans and others who wish to help poor nations by proffering assistance in economic development from the bottom up. (more…)

Mission Drift, Peter Greer, Chris HorstPeter Greer recently wrote a book about the spiritual danger of doing good, encouraging Christians to deal closely with matters of the heart before putting their hands to work. “Our service is downstream from the Gospel message,” he said in an interview here on the blog. “If we forget this, it’s just a matter of time before we self-destruct.”

Just a year later, writing alongside co-author Chris Horst, he’s released another book, Mission Drift  this time focusing on the spiritual risks faced by Christian organizations, churches, and the leaders who drive their missions. Their thesis: “Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission.” Assuming such organizations are founded out of obedience to God, such missions are not, of course, ours for the drifting.

Highlighting a number of cases, from Yale University to ChildFund to the YMCA, as well as the struggles they’ve faced at their own organization (HOPE International), Greer and Horst demonstrate that it is all too common and convenient for Christian organizations to move toward whole-scale secularization. Such a digression is the “natural course,” they argue, and without the proper foundation, safeguards, and determination, “drift is only a matter of time.”

Yet it is not inevitable. Thus, in an effort to help others prevent such a course, the bulk of the book focuses on how organizations can stay “Mission True” — serving, adapting, and growing without changing their God-given identity. “Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs,” they write. “They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, February 4, 2014

povertycureCan the current model of humanitarian aid generated by networks of large philanthropic foundations, NGOs, and Western governments actually alleviate global poverty? The latest Liberty Law Talk podcast asks Acton’s Michael Miller, director of the new Poverty Cure Initiative, to address that question and to explain what conditions can lead to prosperity:

As Miller discusses, the prevalent humanitarian aid model frequently uproots the very beginnings of the circles of exchange that must exist for wealth to be created in these societies. Frequently missing as well in the current approach is understanding how crucial the rule of law, property rights, and markets are in the uplift from poverty, and that frequently, these economic and legal orderings are absent in regions of hardship. Consequently, the conditions for human flourishing don’t exist and cannot be created by large philanthropic interventions, which everywhere substitute parental relationships between the donor and recipient in the place of real human flourishing in these communities.

Click here to listen to the podcast.