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Nik Gill

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Can first world countries spend their overseas aid budgets more effectively?

On March 20th 2013, Great Britain's government firmly backed a legislation that would ensure that 0.7% (~£11 Billion) of Gross National Income will be spent on Overseas Aid.

With many skeptics feeling that this money is often wasted or better spent in more important areas, how would you like to see this money spent to change the perception that International Aid isn't effective?

Myself and Maddy Nash would love to hear your thoughts!


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  • Mar 30 2013: Yes, but no.

    Yes, they can. Money can always be spent more wisely. My "but" in this has to do with the countries that don't want to actually do the research to make it happen.

    I worked for a church for a while that just passed on money to "worthy" groups. A noble idea and the folks felt good about it. One rabble rouser suggested that we do a review of the groups that were receiving the money just to be honest about where our money was going. There were of course arguments to that logic, but ultimately, they moved ahead with a study. Many of the groups were found to no longer need the aid or were mis-using it. That type of research needs to be done if we are to effectively use the money that is spent on foreign aid rather than just giving it away.

    A better way to look at it might be this, you have money, time, and skill to give in service. Giving money is easiest, you can give it and feel good regardless of how it was used. But to volunteer your time to do projects on the ground is more powerful. Couple that with using the skills the people have to make a difference would have long - term positive effects.

    Imagine what could happen if the US agreed to "give" a dollar amount each year to another country. But, instead of just money, the country had to say "this is how we will use it". Then the US could send money, fund the project, or spend the money or groups from the US, like the military, to go and do the projects that were needed. The soldiers would get paid their wage plus they would be able to use time and skills to get tasks done. That would be money well spent and a far better idea than just giving money away.
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      Mar 30 2013: Hi Everett,

      Thank you for joining our conversation!

      The Church funding insight is an interesting one to bare in mind and makes you wonder how a large sum of money such as overseas aid can be spent with a relatively low form of vetting / accountability.

      I like the humanitarian aspect of your idea and I think it's something everyone can relate to. Let's donate more resources such as people's time and efforts in these countries abroad rather than just sending emergency supplies over in the hope that the ones that really need it receive these in time.

      It's an interesting idea to begin to use the military for such projects as this could potentially be a nice way to appease those that feel that the army is responsible for some of the conditions they are now experiencing in their own country (as a result of war etc.). As an optimist, I am sure small projects like this do exist but they needs to be carried out on a wider scale. I'm sure soldiers would love the opportunity to help a country recover from a situation where they themselves know of the conditions first hand.

      We're approaching the half-way point of our conversation now so will be posting a summary of the underlying thoughts / ideas that everyone has contributed on Monday / Tuesday. It would be great to hear your thoughts on these too!

      Thank you Everest!
      • Mar 30 2013: The issue I see with just giving money is that it makes people feel good and like they are doing something of value. But there is often little concern or care of where the money is often spent. As is often the case with charity. We give money and feel good about it regardless of where it goes

        Now, don't get me wrong, we need people/governments with funding to provide the financial resources for these projects. Money is needed especially for large and ongoing projects and someone needs to to provide it. But,it needs to be tracked from start to finish so that we know it is arriving at the right place and used for the right purpose.

        My thoughts with the use of troops, just as an example, is that we often forget that our hours served can often be more valuable than just sending money. If we send money, then we have to hire workers as well as purchase raw materials. If we send people to do the work, we are providing a far more valuable service. The skilled hands on the ground can complete a task and there is no issue of where the money is going. I only say this because to often, when we think of charity or providing resources, we think of money. But people to do the work are sometimes far more valuable than the dollars sent.

        We don't hear about it enough, but my experience with the military suggests that these projects do occur. Mainly in areas where the military is deployed in combat situations. The military all ready deploys during fire season and during times of natural disaster in our country. It would just be an extension of their mission.

        In these difficult financial times with and expanding global view, it is important to think out of the box and consider all alternatives for aid other than just sending money. This also benefits those who volunteer by better understanding the world.
    • Mar 30 2013: YES like what u say Everett. Military doing the projects or helping great idea hopefully would cut corruption and black markets. Cost/Benefit analysis absolutely.

      I say Family planning/contraception ..... less children born, less being abused and starving. Micro chip contraception Plantanon lasts 3 years. If 3rd world countries want to be seen to be helping themselves (which I believe they do) the days of 7 to 27 children per family must end. I think a lot of people in the Western World would say if I am only having 1-3 children is it so bad that I could expect 3rd w to do the same ?

      As we know the world is NOT infinite in arrable land, clean oceans, air we breath.......
      • Mar 31 2013: Karmel, wonderful comments. I appreciate your views on family planning. And, before I respond further, I want to say that I think you are right on with your line of thinking.

        I think what you are addressing is not so much an issue of sexuality and contraception education as a cultural shift. And, honestly, it will not be the shift for the women as much as it will be for the men. The wise person would educate the women about these issue and teach them about the family planning. Changing the view of the men would be, shall we say, difficult.

        Changing the culture of sexuality would be incredibly powerful and incredibly difficult. It would be a significant positive change though. The shift of culture, especially in relation to women's rights, would be very difficult and I think a tough road to take, but well worth it in the end.

        I would also add, as a caveat, that using the military was simply a suggestion or example of how an established force could be used. They are by no means the only group that could take on this task.

        Great comments.
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          Mar 31 2013: Hi Karmel, Hi Everett!

          As you've mentioned, the army are most definitely carrying out small projects on the ground to help rebuild poverty stricken countries. It's a shame that these initiatives aren't made more visible. We only really hear about these 'success stories' a few times a year in the UK when we hold national fundraisers such as 'Comic Relief' etc.

          Yes, it would be great to get the army to supplement a higher number of humanitarian aid projects which will in turn helps countries justify an army presence outside of the UK for those who do not approve. Their best work can come from countries where our other humanitarians / volunteers can't reach those who are in critical need as the the governments of the countries they are in are denying them access.

          Thank you both for your thoughts on this and also birth control as the way forward.

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