Friday, 21 January 2011

NGOs: A Stake in Keeping Africa Poor

"Are we being used?" Jenny Williams asked, referring to her
work with NGOs in Africa. "Are the concepts of aid and
development simply tools in the arsenal of the West, wielded not
for the sake of charity but for the sake of control?"
I had become acquainted with Jenny during the editing of
Confessions. An intern at Berrett-Koehler, my hardcover
publisher, she offered brilliant insights—and then headed off to
travel across Africa and work for a nonprofit that runs both
emergency relief and development projects in Uganda and Sudan.
"I was fed up with the hypocrisy of the West and tired of
being an armchair critic," she said. "I wanted to actually get on
the ground and do something, see for myself what was happening
with all that aid money."
I found her perspective especially interesting because growing
up in San Diego, graduating from UC Berkeley in 2004, she had
been subjected all her life to the media hype that promotes
habituated consumerism and the idea that foreign aid helps the
poor. She, like my daughter, Jessica, represents the generation
that will lead us into the future.
The e-mail she sent from Uganda in September 2006
The signs of Westernization in Africa are constant and clear:
"Coca-Cola" plastered across kiosks in drought-ridden Northern
Kenya; the proliferation of American rap and hip-hop
paraphernalia among impoverished African youth; people
drinking imported instant coffee instead of locally grown beans
because "it tastes better" when, in fact, it's because their own
products are more expensive due to corporatocracy-imposed
tariffs and taxes.
I'm sure corporations would have seen Africa as ripe for
consuming regardless, but NGOs are part of the machine that
sustains Westernization. From leadership styles to ex-pat salaries,
NGOs enforce Western cultural, social, and economic standards
that create a gap between aid workers and the people they're
trying to serve—a gap that Africans are constantly striving to
narrow by emulating the foreigners. Western values overturn
cultural beliefs and send local economic systems into upheaval.
Another dilemma: in Northern Uganda, a region ravaged by
twenty years of rebel warfare that has left thousands of people
killed and nearly two million displaced, NGOs have been accused
of prolonging the conflict simply by being there. As long as the
situation is considered an "emergency," donors will continue
funding activities and NGOs will continue flocking to the scene to
care for people living in horrifying conditions in squalid camps.
(One Ugandan radio station joked that "there are more NGOs
than boda-bodas"—motorcycle taxis that crowd the streets of
every city.)
There's no question that the Ugandans living in these camps—
some for ten years or more—would be dying in even greater
numbers without the provision of boreholes for wells, sanitation,
educational facilities, and food relief by NGOs. But because of
the NGO presence, both the Ugandan government and the West
have been able to shirk responsibility for ending the fighting that
has stalled the development of an entire region. The peace talks
happening now, in the summer of 2006, are long overdue.
"We're like a fig leaf that Western governments hide behind
when they don't have—or want—a diplomatic or political
solution," one coworker told me. "In any conflict, any crisis, who
goes in first? Aid organizations of course, so the West can say
'look, we're doing something,' even if they don't really want to
solve the real problems in the end."
Ultimately, it's not just that the West is apathetic or has no
motivation to solve conflicts, it's that the West has a real stake in
keeping Africa poor. People in Western countries have sincere
feelings of charity and they have faith that aid works—but
Western governments and multi-national corporations reap
enormous benefits from the continued instability and destitution
of African countries. The successful manipulation of cheap
labor and agricultural products, smuggled resources, and
arms trading relies on corrupt politicians, prolonged warfare,
and an underdeveloped civil society that lacks the capacity to
stand up for its rights. If there were peace and transparency in the
Congo, it would be much more difficult—if not impossible—-for
foreign corporations to exploit the mineral resources; if there
were no rebel groups or tribal conflicts, there would be no market
for small arms.
Not all causes of poverty or violence are directly linked to
Western motives. Corruption among African leaders and latent
tribal tensions play a big role in poor governance and the disunity
of African people. But I believe if the West truly wanted to see a
stable, developed Africa, the continent would be well on its way.
Instead, the situation is worse after decades of Western
involvement and billions of dollars of aid money.
I fully believe that most aid workers are honest, hard-working
people who want to help vulnerable and marginalized people in
developing countries. They—we—-are up against a system that is
difficult to comprehend and still harder to fight. Yet, that is
exactly the point. We must change this system.
Jenny is not alone in her commitment to understanding the
situation and working to change it. University students and recent
graduates around the United States seem to understand the
problems confronting their generation better than their parents
did. When they travel abroad, they often shun the old
destinations—Paris, Rome, Athens—and head instead for Africa,
Asia, and Latin America. They attend rallies and conferences, like
the World Social Forums, and they mix with the local people.
They play music, dance, drink beer, and fall in love. But, above
all, they discuss world politics, compare ideas, and plan.
Something that even the most environmentally and socially
aware members of that generation might not realize, however, is
that another widely accepted trait of their generation—
dependence on cellular and computer technology—is destroying
the lives of millions of people.

EMPIRE. By John Perkins


lastcrazyboys said...

معلش بقى ..بس مش طالبــة معايا نكد الليلة دي
آخــر اصــدارات "الســت فيــروز" ..تصــوير للأغنية أثنــاء التسجيـــل

!!. اهـــداء للسهيـــرة

ايه فيه أمـــل

Ebn 5aled said...

maho el shab men dool bybda2 kwyes kedda , le7ad mayeshta3'al fe sherka kebera, w yela2y eno 3ashan yetra2a lazem yeb2a zebala zayohom w business oriented aktar men ehtemamo belbany2admeen...
bardo kollo bygry 3ala akl 3eesho w masla7to el awel

Ebn 5aled said...

w so2al
howa yo2sod men el goz2 el a5eer beta3 el e3temad 3ala el technology w el cyberspace dah eih?

en el 7arakat betebda2 3ala el facebook maslan w te5las gowah w mafeesh 7erak fe3ly y3ny ?