The Human Journey

Creating a Sustainable Future

Aid – Conclusion

According to the 2011 World Development Report

“insecurity has become a primary development challenge of our time. One-and-a-half billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict, or large-scale, organized criminal violence, and no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single United Nations Millennium Development Goal.”
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela

Although violence and the lack of rule of law is not as yet listed as a priority in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals of 2015, at least the possibility of change is in the air. In Central and South America people, including the poor, are demanding these and other changes they need. With the help of social media, in Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and elsewhere in Latin America there are demands expressed through widespread protests to reform the impunity with which these countries’ corrupt legal systems are administered.

Refugees of the fighting in the Central African Republic, January 19, 2014
Refugees of the fighting in the Central African Republic, January 19, 2014

Access to social media has changed the world. It facilitated an explosion in the Middle East, and in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, it played a central role in shaping political debates and in the spread of democratic ideas across international borders. The opportunity and freedom to express oneself and connect with hundred of like-minded people is revolutionary. But the positive effects of the Arab uprising were short-lived in part due to lack of experience and political structure upon which to build new institutions.

An airstrike in Sana'a, Yemen on 11 May 2015 (By Ibrahem Qasim)
An airstrike in Sana'a, Yemen on 11 May 2015 (By Ibrahem Qasim)

Unfortunately, Freedom House reports that 2014 saw the state of freedom in the world worsen significantly “in nearly every part of the world.” Authoritarian regimes appear to have abandoned moves towards a freer society in their effort to defeat terrorism and preserve political control. Government corruption and ineptitude, together with the lack of freedom exacerbates the problem. Social media has strengthened and extended terrorism, which now stretches from West Africa through the Middle East and into South Asia. Terror, terrorism and authoritarian misrule, has caused the largest humanitarian crises in our history.

Nevertheless, people have to survive and will find ways – often totally unexpected – to do so. The road to successful economic development varies with each country and community depending on its unique history and culture. Growth can fluctuate over time, but studies do show a number of common elements. Self-reliance and a willingness to search for solutions appear to be key, as is market feedback and accountability; and the ability and freedom to integrate Western ideas, institutions, and technology as needed.

Estimates of disability-adjusted life years from physical violence Estimates of disability-adjusted life years from physical violence
Estimates of disability-adjusted life years from physical violence, per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004

Map Legend
<200  200  400  600  800  1000  1200  1400  1600  1800  2000  >3000

Governments need to be responsible for larger programs such as infrastructure, education, and security; but nevertheless, these need to be administered at the local level to avoid causing inadvertent harm to the very people they wish to help, and to ensure that useful developments are not only initiated and carried out, but maintained.

People often think of global poverty as a problem that is too big to solve. However, like most big problems, it can be broken down into a number of smaller ones. By focusing on utopian goals, aid agencies have missed many opportunities to achieve realistic ones. Of course international aid agencies like OXFAM, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, UNHCR, and IRC are indispensible when disasters like earthquakes, floods, and the sudden influx of refugees occur. Foreign aid cannot end poverty but it can relieve the suffering of the poor, and aid agencies should aim that this, instead of trying to change governments. By improving opportunities for health and education the poor have a chance of a better life. Listening to the poor and providing them with more choices, access to modern technology and quality products designed with their needs in mind adds to their quality of life. Steps like these not only help at least some get out of poverty, they can also improve the self-esteem of the community, eventually empowering people to demand the political changes they need.

The poor live daily with a horrendous level of violence with no recourse to justice or the rule of law. They have limited access to information and education and next to no opportunity to use their talents. To be effective, global aid must address their real and changing needs. To help the poor, it is important to understand how they live, what they think, and what they need in each distinct community and location.

The free market favors the rich and powerful, but doesn’t provide economic opportunities for the poor, who don’t want charity, which undermines their self-determination. Many already have skills to earn money, or who could acquire them through minimum training. Foreign aid agencies spend billions on development, but very little of it is spent on microcredit programs although the microcredit business is both profitable and beneficial not only to the poor, but to society at large.

Aid agencies need to invest in entrepreneurs whose products will help the poor. They need to invest in technologies and training so that, for example, communities can be connected by phone and able to organize to ensure that their voices are heard, that their women and children are safe, and that services work in their communities.

As Barak Obama told audiences at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya:

“Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world – it’s the spark of prosperity.  It helps citizens stand up for their rights and push back against corruption. Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don’t see a future for themselves.  … in order to create successful entrepreneurs, the government also has a role in creating the transparency, and the rule of law, and the ease of doing business, and the anti-corruption agenda that creates a platform for people to succeed.”