Posts tagged with: povertycure

Alan Duncan, an aid minister in the UK, says his government is “forced” to hand over large amounts of money to the EU’s foreign aid budget, but has no say in how the money is spent. The problem is that much of the $2 billion+ “aid” money (one-sixth of the British budget) goes to projects such as making a Moroccan water park more eco-friendly, an art project in St. Petersburg, and building a hotel and leisure complex in Barbados. Britain’s International Development Committee reports that only 46% of the “development” donations go to “low-income” nations.

Some are urging that the British government “redefine their official development assistance (ODA), through which the relevant EU aid is spent“, with the British Development Committee warning that the situation will “devalue” the concept of aid in the eyes of its citizens.

Oxfam policy adviser Claire Godfrey stated, “If aid is not about helping the poorest then it is not worthy of the name.” Peter Bone, a Tory, had this to say about the money given to wealthier nations:

The Government has been saying for the past two years that this money’s been spent brilliantly. Alan Duncan is right to say the money is being wasted, but wrong to say there’s nothing we can do about it. There is: all you have to do is stop paying the money. It’s no good just crying crocodile tears about wasted money. If we stop paying, what will the EU do: sue us for not funding water parks in Morocco? Come on!

It is good to recall what Robert Woodson, a poverty activist in the U.S. has said about this type of situation:

There is a poverty industrial complex. You’ve got huge numbers of people who profit off our differences. You see, if you are problem oriented, you can write about the problem, you can lecture about the problem, you can consult on the problem. You can do everything but solve the problem.

Clearly, some in the British government are becoming aware of the fact that transparency, accountability, and outcome are absolute necessities in foreign aid and transferring money from one government to another. It remains to be seen if the UK government will take action, or will write, lecture and consult.

Read “EU Squanders Our Aid Millions” and “Most EU aid ‘goes to richer nations‘ “.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Very often in charity and foreign aid work, we forget that the people to whom charity and aid are given are quite capable, smart and resourceful but are simply caught in difficult situations. I recently had a chance to speak with Mary Dailey Brown, the founder of SowHope. She shared with me her organization’s method of meeting with the leaders of villages and areas that SowHope is interested in helping, listening to what they have done and wish to do, before SowHope makes any suggestions. In this way, SowHope follows the lead of those who know what is needed and what assets are already in place, rather than coming in and saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do for you.”

The poor are poor. They are not lacking in dignity or capability. Latifah Kiribedda from Uganda, has written a compelling paper entitled, “When Helping Really Helps: How to Effectively Help Without Hurting the Poor at the Bottom of the Pyramid in Developing Countries“, while a student at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She outlines seven principles she believes should guide development work while preserving the dignity of the poor.

  1. Be aware of the global view held by the people in the local community, it can heavily influence their ability to break out of the cycle of poverty.
  2. Address underlying factors that perpetuate poverty.
  3. Before you offer help in a local community, evaluate whether it is relief, rehabilitation or development aid.
  4. Be cautious of the “Savior Mentality”.
  5. Start with the assets and not just what is lacking in the community.
  6. Ensure that the local people are active and full participants in the planning, designing, implementation and evaluation of the projects.
  7. Build relationships that can forge trust between you and the local people in the community you intend to help.

Kiribedda states, “The people are the number one resource, not money. When people are empowered as full participants in the process, they can teach others, improve existing structures, and expand the momentum of what they want to see in their community.” Viewing the poor as fully capable peers in development instead of mere recipients of charity will not only give appreciation to their dignity as God’s children, but allow their voices to take the lead in the progress to alleviate poverty.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Tuesday, September 18, 2012

“Petty” bribery is an accepted way of life in much of the world. A person simply understands that he or she will need to “grease the palms” of certain officials in order to get a business license, a work contract or help with a legal matter. In Rev. Robert Sirico’s book, ‘Defending the Free Market: the Moral Case for a Free Economy‘, he recounts how economist Hernando de Soto decided to see how long it would take the average person to set up a small business in Peru.

He [de Soto] and his colleagues decided to test the question by establishing a two-sewing machine shirt-making business in a Lima shanty town, and he took himself out of the equation by sending out four students under the supervision of a seasoned lawyer to do the work of trying to comply with all of the legal requirements. “I’ve discovered that to become legal took more than three hundred days, working six hours a day,” De Soto writes. “The cost: thirty-two times the monthly minimum wage.”

This type of corruption is a leading cause of poverty. While many times the amounts of money may seem small – therefore “petty” – the cost is enormous when viewed more globally. Eduardo Bohórquez and Deniz Devrim, of Transparency International, Mexico, have studied “petty” bribery and concluded that this type of corruption not only hampers economic growth, but is truly devastating to the economies of developing nations, calling bribery a “regressive tax on the poor.”

The Index on Corruption and Good Governance suggests that while Mexican households with an average income spent 14% on bribes in 2010, households with the minimum income spent 33% of their monthly income on corruption, a percentage that by no means can be considered to be “petty”. The survey on experienced corruption in the Western Balkans confirms the finding that the average number of bribes paid is higher among lower income groups than wealthier citizens.

Further, Bohórquez and Devrim conclude that bribery doesn’t simply cost the poor money; it weakens their trust in public officials and institutions  and undermines struggling democratic underpinnings of government. In fact, they state, “Calling corruption in public service delivery “petty” minimizes its devastating effects and the high damage it has on the development of societies. Therefore, the term “petty bribery” needs to be banned from the anti-corruption vocabulary.”

Read Bohórquez and Devrim’s ‘Cracking the Myth of Petty Bribery‘.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Friday, September 14, 2012

Yesterday at Mashable.com, a leading social media site, an article entitled ‘5 Fun Games With a Higher Purpose‘ was featured. The article noted that these types of games attempted to combine fun with some sort of societal impact. One game, Darfur is Dying, allows the player to simulate life in a Darfuri refugee camp for a family. If one family member leaves to get water and is killed or captured, the player must choose the next family member to send out. The game prompts players to make donations to humanitarian organizations.

Another game, Survive125, challenges folks to survive on $1.25 a day, with choices like sending one’s young daughter into a factory job or selling her to a prostitution ring. At the end of the game, the player is once again enjoined to make donations to various charities.

While the main purpose of these games seems to be to heighten awareness of global issues that plague much of the world’s population, there is something decidedly distasteful about playing at poverty. Every human, in every living situation, has dignity, and their lives are not games. Despite living in a refugee camp, a woman has dignity. A man trying to support his family on mere pennies a day has dignity. The image of a person casually punching their smartphone while playfully dodging bullets or sending a daughter off to a life of prostitution – real occurrences in some people’s lives – leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth…and perhaps a callous on one’s soul.

These games don’t do a darn thing, except provide a form of vulgar entertainment. A person may or may not be moved, at the end of play, to make a donation to an NGO or charity. If a donation is made, will it make a difference? What stands in the way of that donation and making a difference in Darfur or another place in the developing world? Corruption, lack of rule of law, lack of private property rights, lack of adequate education….the list goes on. The donation of money to foreign countries is not, and has never been, the answer to these issues. One need only look at Haiti (note this post and this one) to see that foreign aid not only doesn’t help but often hurts.

Such games foster the illusion that a person playing a game, who knows nothing of what it means to live in war-torn country or eke out an existence on a sub-standard income, is more able to alleviate and solve the issues in the developing world than those in the developing world themselves. What the people in these circumstances lack is not donations from the players of Darfur is Dying. What they need are the tools to create a safe, sustainable existence for themselves, supported by those with the capacity to offer real partnership. Games don’t solve poverty; hard, dignified work done by real people with creative minds does.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Subsidiarity, the idea that those closest to a problem should be the ones to solve it, plays a particular role in development. However, it can be an idea that is a bit “slippery”: who does what and when? What is the role of faith-based organizations? What is the role of government?  Susan Stabile, Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law, has written “Subsidiarity and the Use of Faith-Based Organizations in the Fight Against Poverty” at Mirror of Justice blog and has a succinct view of subsidiarity:

Faith-based organizations have tremendous advantages over the provision of direct benefits by the federal or state governments, being capable of steering a course between welfare as an entitlement for all and state based determinations as to what general criteria make one worthy of receiving governmental assistance. The fact that they are closer to the problem allows them to better tailor aid and solutions to the situations of those they serve. The fact that they are community-based allows them to better facilitate the full development of the human personality of those who they touch. The fact that they are faith-based allows them to capture benefits of attempting to address some of the behavioral contributors to the difficulty of improving the lives of those they serve.

However, subsidiarity emphasizes action at the level most suited to address a problem, not merely action at the lowest level. It is thus important that subsidiarity not be used as an excuse to merely devolve responsibility downward without assurance of effectiveness, that it not be used as an excuse for the federal government to abdicate responsibility to provide for the social welfare of its citizens, viewing social welfare as the responsibility of states and localities, aided by private actors. Doing so would be inconsistent both with the concerns underlying the principle of subsidiarity and with subsidiarity’s context within the broader body of Catholic social teaching, and would be little more than merely a ruse for simply reducing federal expenditures. It is thus important to recognize that the effective provision of social services requires multiple actors. While it is desirable that faith-based organizations play a significant role, the federal government must also retain a significant role both in enabling faith-based organizations to do their job and in doing those things that can not be done effectively by such organizations. Ultimately, the government must remain the ultimate backup to ensure that no one is left behind.

Ms. Stabile goes on to say that, “…addressing people’s spiritual needs, helping change their lives rather then just providing for their material needs, empowers them.” By focusing on the empowerment of people on the local level, both those in poverty and those trying to alleviate poverty, we remain centered on the human person, created in God’s image and likeness, with creative power to serve and solve.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

You have to hand it to Theodore Dalrymple: he doesn’t mince words. In an August 2012 piece in The Telegraph, Dalrymple let it be known that British plans to continue international aid to India are a, well…bad idea:

…our continued aid to India is nevertheless a manifestation of the national administrative, mental and ethical torpor, as well as incompetence and corruption, that is leading us inexorably to economic and social disaster. It is high time we stopped such aid, and not only to India.

Dalrymple knows whereof he speaks. His collection of essays, “Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass and Our Culture, What’s Left of It”, stemmed from his experiences with the mentally ill in Birmingham, England and their struggles with poverty. He continues in The Telegraph:

Aid is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of the economic development of a poor country; there is no country that has been lifted out of poverty by aid, which is a form of international social security for corrupt governments. I saw this in Africa, working on a project that enriched an inefficient British company and its personnel, and those local government officials whom it bribed, while the country remained poorer than ever, a kind of tropical Merthyr Tydfil. The economic growth that Africa is now experiencing is thanks to higher commodity prices and somewhat wiser government policies, and has nothing to do with aid.

Foreign aid creates a myriad of problems, and does not, unfortunately, do what it is intended to do: create wealth. Worse, as Dalrymple points out in The Telegraph article, foreign aid perpetuates paternalistic attitudes and corruption. Let’s keep repeating Mr. Dalrymple’s words: “It is high time we stopped such aid, and not only in India.”

Read The Telegraph’s ‘India is heading for Mars: it doesn’t need British aid money to pay the bills’ here.

This piece was cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It doesn’t seem that anyone would WANT to live in a slum. But that is not necessarily true, according to Charles Kenny of Foreign Policy. In fact, for many of the world’s poor, a slum can offer opportunities and services not available in rural areas.

 Across the world today, thanks to vaccines and underground sewage systems, average life expectancies in big cities are considerably higher than those in the countryside; in sub-Saharan Africa, cities with a population over 1 million have had infant mortality rates one-third lower than those in rural areas. In fact, most of today’s urban population growth comes not from waves of villagers moving to the city, but city folks having kids and living longer.

In part, better quality of life is because of better access to services. Data from surveys across the developing world suggest that poor households in urban areas are more than twice as likely to have piped water as those in rural areas, and they’re nearly four times more likely to have a flush toilet. In India, very poor urban women are about as likely to get prenatal care as the non-poor in rural areas. And in 70 percent of countries surveyed by MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, school enrollment for girls ages 7 to 12 is higher among the urban poor than the rural poor.

In no way does this suggest that we should simply shrug our shoulders and say, “Slums are good enough.” However, it does suggest that there are economic footholds in urban areas that can be built upon – footholds that appear to be lacking in many rural areas.

Read Charles Kenny’s ‘In Praise of Slums’ here.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

There is a lot of talk today about “social entrepreneurs.” What is a social entrepreneur, and how does that differ from a business entrepreneur? Why do social entrepeneurs matter?

According to the Ashoko website:

Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.

Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.

These are people like Marie Montessori, who pioneered a new method of education, and Muhammad Yunus, who created Grameen Bank, known for its revolutionary form of microfinance.

Social entrepreneurs differ slightly from business entrepreneurs, although there may be some “cross-over.” While business entrepreneurs typically start businesses because they want to make a profit and serve a particular customer base, social entrepreneurs usually start with the desire to solve a problem. While profit may be an outcome, it is not necessarily a part of the social entrepreneur agenda. For instance, a chef may decide to start a restaurant because she loves cooking and wants to profit from it. A social entrepreneur may start a restaurant because she wants to teach young people how to cook so they can gain valuable job skills. Both are worthy goals, built on different platforms.

In Ireland, Michael Kelly saw that most supermarkets were filled with imported produce, even though fresh local options were available. Not only was the lack of fresh food a nutritional issue, it was costing jobs and impacting local growers. He created GIY (Grow It Yourself) Ireland, helping people grow their own produce and increase demand for locally grown food.

Kahiniawalla is an organization borne of hope and necessity. Samantha Morshed was looking for a way to help rural Bengali women create sustainable jobs. While they were able to make wonderful handmade items, they didn’t have an easy way to sell and distribute them.  After meeting Austin and Marita Miller, Kahiniawalla was born: handmade items “that tell a story”.

Some social entrepreneurs start with an eye towards artful expression, such as Patricia Michaels, a clothing designer from New Mexico. As an artist, she wants to do more than simply create beautiful clothing; she uses her business as a way to “raise the status of Native American people”, connecting the stories she grew up with to the outside world in her designs – teaching through art, if you will.

Social entrepreneurs come from a variety of backgrounds, with agendas as different as Ireland is from Bangledesh is from New Mexico. They may be artists, missionaries, engineers, teachers. All are confronted with an issue or problem, and see a way to solve it. Then they try to do just that. Social entrepreneurs matter because they are NOT people who say, “You know, somebody ought to…..”, and wonder why the government or some agency hasn’t yet solved the problem. They think, “somebody ought to…” and ask, “Why not me?”, tackling the issue through a blend of creativity, determination, business acumen and a desire to serve and solve.

Cross-posted at PovertyCure blog.

PovertyCure, an educational initiative of the Acton Institute, has won a 2012 Templeton Freedom Award for its contributions to the understanding of freedom in the category of “Free Market Solutions to Poverty.” From the website:

Acton Institute, United States
The US based Acton Institute has won a 2012 Templeton Freedom Award for their PovertyCure educational initiative. PovertyCure advocates moral free enterprise as the key to authentic and permanent poverty elimination. PovertyCure has already had a tangible impact on the poverty debate through high-impact partnerships, resources, and conferences even though the project was only officially launched last fall, relying on the efforts of an extensive coalition to market and publicize the effort.

A visit to the website reveals a growing list of 160 national and international partner organizations from over 50 countries. These partners represent academia (University of Notre Dame, University of Cambridge), entrepreneurial groups (SEVEN Fund, MicroRate), and religious ministries (Goshen International, Partners Worldwide). The ‘Voices’ section of the PovertyCure website features over 30 well-known experts, as well as those who have overcome poverty including Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, Cambridge University scholar Peter Heslam, and Oxford University professor Paul Collier. Over 30,000 web users have watched these short, impactful videos to date.

A major element of the campaign was Poverty, Entrepreneurship, and Integral Development, a seven-part conference series taking place throughout Africa, Europe, and Latin America. In total, conference lecturers fielded some 300 television and radio interviews with media outlets around the world, while the conferences themselves received coverage on television, radio, and Internet sources reaching more than 50 million individuals. This figure includes such popular outlets as The Guardian, The Economist, and Financial Times. Additionally, social media is one of the initiative’s most effective vehicles. PovertyCure’s Facebook page, which had 2,300 likes this time last year, boasts 368,000 today, representing a substantial number of people around the world who interact with and share our content. A documentary is currently in the works and will be broadcasted by PBS.

For more on PovertyCure, please visit the website.

In a post about the “Nuns on the bus” tour, National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez reminds us that “at a time when the very ability of church organizations to freely live their mission of service has been compromised by federal mandates, it is especially important to debate the role of government with clarity and charity.” In her essay, she brings in the the PovertyCure project and Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s new book, Defending the Free Market: A Moral Case for the Free Economy.

About PovertyCure, Lopez notes that “the project asks if we have been raising ‘the wrong questions’ about the causes of poverty and how to address them.” She goes on to quote Rudy Carrasco, the United States Regional Facilitator for Partners Worldwide, who said this in relation to the PovertyCure mission: “Everybody has capacity, talent, and ability. Everybody has responsibility. Everybody has stewardship responsibility. I don’t care what dirt hovel you’re living in, in Brazil or Mexico City or Manila. You have a responsibility to be a steward of the resources under your control because you have a heavenly Father who has put great things inside of you, that [are] waiting to be called out and developed and extracted.”

Download Carrasco’s AU 2012 lecture here.

Religious people have a big role to play in the defense of freedom, Lopez says.

“When freedom is divorced from faith, both freedom and faith suffer,” Father Sirico writes in a new book, Defending the Free Market. “Freedom becomes rudderless, because truth gives freedom its direction. Freedom without a moral orientation has no guiding star. On the other hand, when a people surrenders [its] freedom to the government — the freedom to make moral, economic, religious, and social choices and then take personal responsibility for the consequences — virtue tends to waste away and faith itself grows cold.”

The nuns on the bus may not be cheerleaders for the bishops or the Fortnight for Freedom, but their road trip can be a helpful accompaniment. Fundamentally, this debate we’re having about God and Caesar is about much more than a presidential election: It’s about who we are as a people and whether we do not merely tolerate but welcome — and even encourage — religious believers as economic and political participants. The sisters and the bishops are on the same page there.

Read “Without Freedom No One’s Got a Prayer” by Kathryn Jean Lopez on National Review Online.