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!

  • Mar 28 2013: Yes or course. Let me first stipulate that the assumption of "first world" is rated. And behemoths like the US give a tiny present of their GDP .50% yet right ring media has convinced millions of dolts and dullards that this and the safety net are the reasons for the budget deficit they created. But that aside there is a book which points out how foreign aid is often the result of paternalistic theory and fundamentally throws money into waiting corruption traps whereas the smarter thing is to make funding available from the "ground up" to those who have discovered and can substantiate opportunity to fix problems of create economy. It's title is a bit scary: it's called "White Man's Burden- Why the west's attempt to help the rest has often done so little good or made things worse" or word close to that effect. It's by William Easterly and it gives a balancing view to the likes of a Jeffrey Sachs. I have all of Sachs books so I have been a fan. But Easterly's work is a worthy dissent.
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      Mar 29 2013: Hi James!

      Thanks for raising your view on this to us! We will most definitely read further details on the book online as it sounds as though its a culmination of thoughts that as you say, give a balanced view on what's been happening with overseas aid investment.

      Do you have any thoughts on how we can make sure the budgets donated go to projects from the ground up? This links back to a few other comments on how money is getting ultimately to those in need & investments need to be made more transparent.

      We'll do more reading around the book suggested and provide our thoughts on this too.

      Thanks James,
      • Mar 29 2013: Oh lord yes. I've devoted most of my later life (since the end of the Cold War when I was 35 years of age in 1990) to the ideals of the Earth Summit held in 1992 which was to develop long term measures to avert future conflicts by pooling national converting some war industries into cooperative development that would establish a new history of wasteful war prevention that would be a double-win by also achieving employment and higher standards of living in poorer countries that would last. I was not aware at the time I tried to be one of the leaders to fulfill this common-sense movement that the US would actually be against it and be under the mis-leadership of the first Bush and his petroleum-imperialist Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, who would cheerlead for the first Gulf war and then start the second 10 years later as younger Bush's VP.

        My main idea (this was before the Internet became the big phenomenon was to document the Earth Summit in a new form of digital journalism and cyclically follow the sustainable development movement so that the new medium would plug "corruption holes" that exist in print media and broadcast. I have invented models of political discourse which involve converting parts of education into bridging the "intel" gap where students could be empowered by a kind of "microfinance" to become journalists who would contribute to encompassing digital historianship which every modern person who have to buy into to remain "modern" and competent". But creating a new market, based on a new approach to journalism that brings about a sustainable development engine which has so many enemies in the arms trade and corruption circles is something venture capitalists shy away from. I need an "angel investor"--a lot of things have come along to make this affordable and it won't take year and years to produce a profit. But at that it takes still a lot of money and a lot less squabbling as to whose idea is better.
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          Mar 29 2013: Hi James!

          It's great for us to speak with someone who has been fighting this cause for a long while!

          Using a 'new media' that had not yet been corrupted by government influences is a great idea. Do you think we can use existing media, more specifically social media to drive change also? e.g. can we document initiatives like that of the Earth Summit on YouTube so that it is more visible to the wider public what is happening? Can we use Twitter?

          We can all be 'journalists' online but i guess the problem is driving everyone to see what you have created to then in turn communicate what you want with the right audience.

          We'll definitely be reading that book you recommended over the weekend!

          Thanks James,
  • Mar 28 2013: This conversation is very close to my heart... As an individual who comes form a '3rd' world country I have seen the amazing benefits that come from foreign aid. However the problem that I see developing is that there is no transparency for individuals from where the aid is originating. Governments offer this aid, but the individuals that work and supply the money through trade etc do not necessarily understand how and where the aid is being offered. It creates a repetitive cycle of why give when I don't see benefits. Pledging is one thing... how do we know that we are doing any good?
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      Mar 29 2013: Hi Bernie!

      Thank you for entering our conversation. Which ''3rd world country' are you originally from?

      Maddy will no doubt contribute her thoughts but the concept of the fact that the givers do not see the visibility of the goodness they are creating and in turn the beneficiaries of aid do not understand where it has comes from is an interesting one.

      Do you think we can easily bridge this connection?

      Thanks Bernie!
  • Apr 10 2013: What's the point of worrying about where the token aid goes and how it's distributed while we're:

    - invading and occupying countries for their natural resources
    - destroying the envoirenment and creating scarecity through over-consumption
    - allowing the wealthy elite to hide at least $21tn in tax havens

    We'd be better off demanding an end to imperialism, faster sustainable development and the closure of tax havens.
  • Apr 9 2013: I believe that investments should be targeted to sustainable change by finding opportunities to empower these communities to help drive their own future growth, rather than having outside aid temporarily thrown at problems. There are many organizations that are attempting to highlight this approach, which can range from nonprofits supporting "the girl effect" or investors supporting local business development through microfinance.

    I personally believe that women are a huge untapped resource for generating change. By providing women access to contraception, they can manage their reproduction, avoid the health risks of unintended pregnancies, limit their family size, and provide better health and education for their children. By ensuring women are able to stay in school, the knowledge and opportunities for the community grow as more members are able to read, contribute to a skilled workforce, and manage businesses.

    Now I'm not proposing that there is a single band-aid solution, but I do think that countries that provide aid should consider which "investments" will contribute to sustainable change in the long term and work towards this future.

    Here is an example video from The Girl Effect that helps visualize this approach:
  • Apr 7 2013: It's such a conundrum - how can we justify spending so much money on aid for other countries when we know that a) a large proportion of that money will actually not reach those who need it - either through corruption or simply the logistical costs of running that kind of operation; and b) when economic strife and social issues are already so prevalent within our own country, let alone abroad.

    I think at the end of the day, even if just one tenth of what is spent on aid actually gets to its intended destination then it's worth it. Why? Because lives will be improved and saved and you cannot put a price on that.

    The work that needs to be done now is to optimise and improve the channels through which the money moves from government to its intended destination. This of course is easier said than done for a variety of reasons - for a start, the exact people who are proficient in managing this kind of process are also the ones who expect larger salaries! Organisational costs for running a program like this effectively can quickly spiral to a substantial % of the original sum. There is also a high amount of awareness and indignation around corruption in certain countries, when foreign aid cash is pumped in only for a senior government minister to purchase themselves a nice new car. Generally this is the exception not the rule, but this perception fuels unease around upping the amount of foreign aid we commit to.

    I'd personally like to see the process of getting aid to where it needs to be streamlined and as much of the "fat" cut off from around the edges as possible. Continuing to work with other governments around the globe to ensure this happens is also paramount. I totally accept that this will be neither quick nor easy to achieve! Hopefully, given time and investment we will continue to improve the situations of millions of people around the globe in an increasingly effective way.
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      Apr 8 2013: Hi Louise!

      Thanks for joining our conversation. As Maddy said, it's great to hear that again, the giving of aid is not in question but more the way in which it is currently being distributed.

      Sadly there are many skeptics out there that would like to see the Overseas Aid budget in the UK reduced or completely cut off. As you say, there is no quick and easy fix to make the budgets that we send overseas 100% efficient but we can begin to evolve this process.

      I agree with your point that there will always be an element of government interaction that we cannot get away from when providing aid, even if it is without countries that are 'mis-spending' funds.

      As you say, if we can 'streamline' the giving of aid to the very people that need it most then we will go a long way to providing aid that is more effective. One idea was to build an independent global committee that would be responsible for deciding where all monetary funding should go (having investigated the individual plights of each country). Essentially, this would mean having one humanitarian body that was in touch with local needs of many LEDCs but at the same time this would need the backing of every country that contributes funding, which could prove difficult. However, the net benefit would be to ensure that certain countries were not given too much / too little aid vs. others.

      If you have any thoughts on how we can make things better, and potentially increase the amount of money given overseas (by optimising our existing investment) please let us know.

      Thank you for taking the time to participate in our debate Louise,
  • Apr 7 2013: I'm recommending if we used cultural anthropology when dispersing aid funds they may be better spent. but what's this about a film? I don't know anything about that Nik.
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      Apr 7 2013: Hi David,

      Yes, cultural anthropology... this is in line with Maddy's summary on how we should look to find sustainable solutions that work within a local context.

      Do you think it's up to a select few countries to take the lead in how to invest in overseas aid or do you feel there is the potential to set up an independent committee that is funded by everyone? Committee's often sound like a good idea but have sometimes failed in the past if not given the full backing of the nations they are part of etc.

      Oh, the film... sorry I was slightly confused, I mean't to say book (as in 'The Mission Song' published in 2006) but saw that it was also an audio book and one thing led to another...

      Thanks David!
  • Apr 4 2013: Used to be some TED talk's about informal settlements.
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      Apr 5 2013: Hi David,

      Do these TED talks still exist? It would be great to know the names of these so that we can all take a look.

      Thanks David,
  • Apr 4 2013: What about the emergence of the so-called "Silicon Savannah" emerging in Kenya. I think it quite possible with some economic success, a little military success in Somalia, and Kenya's favorite son in the White House they might not feel like rocking the boat. Hopefully and it doesn't look like there will be election violence which is a step forward.
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      Apr 5 2013: Hi David!

      That's good to know that the Kenyan economy is emerging. When you say 'rocking the boat', please can you elaborate further? Finally, can you tie this back to the original question we have set up to and answer?

      Thanks David,
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  • Apr 2 2013: I was born and brought up in Kenya, yes aid is generally never effective, in most cases aid is a way of ruining countries and stealing funds. So far till date the 2 trillion dollars poured in has made little difference. The trick here is to let the poor just be, they shall come up with their own methods to come out of it.

    Think of the many ways in which this has happened, it also allows for the poor to evolve, this is where the idea of persistent and diligent work can turn the poor around to middle income earners. Let the aid pouring nations figure this out, I mean they can figure out how to send men on to the moon then why can't they figure out why aid doesn't work??
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      Apr 2 2013: Hi Kunal,

      Thank you for entering the conversation. It's nice to hear yet another view from someone who is from a different part of the world and can bring another perspective.

      Although you have witnessed first hand that aid has not been effective where you grew up, do you not feel that although it's up to each country to solve their poverty issues, they may still require assistance from others (whether this is in the form of money or not) in executing their 'escape plan' into a better quality of life?

      Maybe there is not necessarily a 'yes' or 'no' answer to this. Perhaps it will depend on the individual situation of the country? What do you think?

      Thanks Kunal!
      • Apr 3 2013: If the country seeking aid is really making an effort then it might be worth sending in monetary and other forms of aid, if they are not making any progress then it is time to stop. The US has sent in over 2 trillion dollars till date over the past 50 years to different african countries, many of them have not really developed and the money has all gone in vain.
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          Apr 3 2013: Hi Kunal,

          So to Maddy's point below, it's less of a question on whether aid is needed but how to distribute it in the right way? (as you've indicated that quite a substantial amount of money has been waste in the past etc.)

          Thanks Kunal!
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    Apr 2 2013: It's been really interesting to read all the contributions and insights from across the globe. Thank you for all for sharing, your often very frank,opinions. It's good to see that amongst us foreign aid itself is not in question but how and where it can be best put to use. I completely agree with some of the points that volunteering, army initiatives etc are extremely helpful but it's important that whatever aid the initiative funds is a sustainable solution that works in the local context.

    What we keep coming up against in the argument against foreign aid is that foreign aid is taking money from poor people in rich countries and giving it to rich people in poor countries. Would aid be better spent if distributed through genuinely independent charities who support countries in developing the structures they need to help themselves?
  • Apr 2 2013: What areas has the espedrile the shoe picked up? maybe good for the flavella Brazil maybe that was a decade ago? I don't know would they wear it swampy, and if you've read the book Les Miserable shoes don't go well with the gamin.
    Somalia was mentioned you know Kenya has sent a force there with major victories, forcing violent Islamist warlord factions from cities including a notable port.
    I guess we are seeing a major failing in the Western aid plan is shown when Mali collapsed, it was held up as a model by Westerners. Should also consider Liberia coming out from under UN operation. I hear where their all based they defecate as close to the seashore as they want to walk. They live in a pit littered with excrement. Watched the Vice documentary on Liberia available via youtube. It might be something about cannibal warlords of Liberia.
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      Apr 2 2013: Hi David,

      Thanks for your thoughts on the Start-up project. Basically, the way it has been explained to me is that once enough monetary donations have been made from more economically developed countries (MEDCs), local business in the likes of Africa & India etc will then be commissioned to produce quality products for us then to purchase. So the products are made in areas of the world where poverty is being experienced, and they are used by the countries that can afford to purchase them, e.g. the UK.

      The system is a proposed way of ensuring that the money we donate to those less fortunate goes directly to the people that are in need / bypassing government that perhaps do not pass all of the money on.

      I'll need to find out more information specifically about this project as it was only recently brought to my attention over the weekend.

      Thanks David,
  • Apr 1 2013: G'day Nik + others,

    Look at this... YES please more more .....
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      Apr 2 2013: Hi Karmel,

      The link is now working, it's...

      So this is an article written be a doctor in Kenya, that explains how high in demand new methods of contraception are?

      Those are some powerful statistics in terms of the fact that 30,000 maternal deaths can be prevented as well as 280,000 accidental births. Also, to know that simple things like this can improve the quality of other children's lives significantly in terms of schooling & health is a great thing.

      The fact that this initiative with Bayer may save $250M USD in global health costs is obviously a universal benefit to everyone too.

      I wonder what everyone else's thought are.

      Thanks for sharing this with us Karmel,
  • Apr 1 2013: Hi Nik and all, Most important to upgrade status + health of women.

    Today in Melbourne Australia we hear of another woman raped by a male from another country (as she went for a walk to the shops) where they feel it is their right to rape and bash ! A tourist being raped in Brazil. Few weeks ago a tourist raped in India. These places desperately need tourism for their economies however are destroying their chances.

    Some of the immigrants we let into Australia are continuing to rape and bash and have 27 children. We just do not want this as it will undermine our better way of life for which our forebears fought and died to obtain for our country. We have a Commissioner for women now and she wants much harsher jail penalties for men who rape and bash, either strangers or their wives in this country. I (et l) agree. I'd go further and after the jail sentence the offending male is sent home.

    I hope others also share their views on this.
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      Apr 1 2013: Hi Karmel!

      Thank you for this update. Is it Sarah Cafferkey that you are referring to?

      Yes, this is indeed a sad situation across the globe - we did in fact have a similar situation last year to this in the UK. However, the consensus was that although some immigrants are involved in these activities, there are also natives in each country that are similarly involved and we should not necessarily point towards one section of people and point the blame there / single them out for additional punishments. Does that sounds fair? Personally, I do see some logic in the fact that someone should not be permitted to live in another country if they have committed such crimes as you say - but surely if they were in prison then either way the public are protected?

      Your overlying point remains and should not be forgotten, incidents like this are tragic and they do very much affect the economies of those countries that rely in tourism heavily.

      Our thoughts are obviously with the family of the girl from Melbourne.

      Speak to you soon,
      • Apr 2 2013: For sure some Australian men offend against women as well. Also Indigenous have a high percentage of offence. Unfortunately the immigrant males have the largest percentage of offending. Since the rape and killing of an Indian girl in India and those of Swiss & Korean tourists the Herald Sun newspaper tells us today Tourism in India has declined 35% in months since.

        The latest rape in Melbourne last week was done by an Indian male. In court is an Afghani man - it is his second rape charge. He + his Lawyers are trying to get him off by saying ...'cultural differences led him to rape a teenage girl' again (a second one). ' He did not have any clear concept of consent' was another inexcusable defence.

        He has cost taxpayers court costs and has won an appeal to contest the 11 yr. jail sentence he was given for raping 2 women ! More money ! Anyone wishing to come to this country must be given a clear concept NO RAPE. If he had been returned to his country the first time he would not have been free to offend again. No second chances and within 6 months pretence/ignorance will stop.

        A migrant advocate woman is wanting money for refuges for Indian Sri Lankan, African women in Australia to get away from raping bashing husbands. We are just compounding the problem with lax laws. Before they come it must be made clear - no excuses or cultural differences accepted.

        In the mean time we keep pressing for better status of women + children in all overseas countries.

        Ghana + Kenya are leading the way, Google Expanding-Contraception-options-for-ghanas-women
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          Apr 2 2013: Hi Karmel,

          Yes, if one does move to another country then they should without doubt be fully aware of the culture they are to live in. In the example above, if they have admitted to their crime and have used cultural differences as a defence, you would hope that they will punished severely for the crime they have committed. However, moving forward, maybe there needs to be an education process like that in America where those applying to live in that country are vetted and tested about the country prior to moving there (to ensure an easier integration into society etc.)

          I managed to find a working link to the contraception article you suggested to read. You can find it higher up in the conversation.

          Thanks Karmel,
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    Apr 1 2013: Hello, Nik,
    I agree that there have been lots of successful cases in which people have escaped poverty. But this is exactly the thing. How do you know that they have managed to do so by the use of aid? If you started reading the book, you know that Easterly compares planners and searchers. Therefore, the situation could very well have been improved by searchers, who are driven, in most cases, by profit. I am not saying it is so, I'm just skeptical.

    Second, I know that Bono has been highly involved in charity. To be fair, I didn't know anything about that documentary, but it seems very interesting. My question is the following: why has so little progress been made for Somalia and Congo since all these charitable actions take place? Is it because, although people start all these campaigns, they are not held accountable for a failure?

    Third, to be fair, I haven't even heard of such thing as aid in the Romanian rural areas. The best thing which could be done would be foreign investment, especially in the agricultural sector. I think that would beneficiate both parts the most (both Romanian people and investors), but I'm no expert.

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      Apr 1 2013: Hi Alex!

      I think it's natural that if many initiatives are occuring at the same time, they will all want to claim any successes that follow. However, I guess one way to really know what has had the most impact is to stop some initiatives and see what then happens. I can't see this happening though as all these projects have been set up pretty much in isolation from one another and will continue to work that way no doubt.

      I have a friend who reported on the plight of those in Somalia for a good while a year or so ago so I will get back to you once I hear from him. He is much more aware of what has occurred there having lived there for some time.

      With regards to Romanian Rural poverty, this is also a subject we are just beginning to learn about too. We found this website the other day which seemed dedicated to explaining why poverty is common in these areas...

      Thanks so much for your thoughts overseas aid so far,
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        Apr 1 2013: Hi, Nik!

        I also do not see some projects stopping, so that the actual effects could be evaluated.

        Please get back at me after you talk to your friend as I am so interested in what is happening there and how/if things improve.

        Also, thanks for the thoughts you shared!

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          Apr 2 2013: Hi Alex,

          Simon Allison sent me a message overnight as he's based in Asia now... his general thoughts are that while some countries benefit from aid, there have been major failings in both Somalia and Congo from Western efforts and this has served to hinder them rather than help them.

          He doesn't expect much more help to come from the more economically developed countries and his opinion is that there are many problems that need to be resolved within the countries themselves before they will be in a position to reach out and seek aid effectively.

          This goes back to an overlying point we have found that more economically developed countries (MEDCs) can only supply aid effectively by tailoring efforts to what each country is need of. While that remains unclear in certain countries and corruption is rife, it is maybe best to wait until conditions improve to best serve those people.

          This isn't a definitive view on what will happen in future, but more of a a hope from my friend that countries like Somalia will recover from the setbacks they experienced when initially receiving aid from Western countries. There should also be hope that the past failings of aid have not given these less economically developed countries (LEDCs) a permanently negative view on the help that they can receive from overseas.

          Thanks Alex,
  • Apr 1 2013: There are a lot of experiments in philanthropy watch The New Recruits from PBS spreading pay toilets, drip irrigation, and solar powered lights to move people away from flammable kerosene.
    I'm reading a book right now for an anthropology class about a peace corp recruit who assists a mid wife.
    Of course there are issues where they say grain has been destroyed to keep the price high I think we're coming an age of ethanol and a second year of droughts. Probably issues with the grain not getting out like Katrina fund I know the Red Cross building in the Central African Republic was just sacked. Still advances are made I heard about this bag Africans can shit in bio-degradable and it's got chemicals to make it more ready for compost.
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      Apr 1 2013: Hi David!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

      Are you from the US? Is that the country you are referring to when speaking of droughts? Also, is there anywhere where you can direct us to to view 'The New Recruits' show that you mentioned?

      Best regards,
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    Mar 31 2013: Cheers! I'll take a look!
  • Mar 31 2013: G'day Everett, My friend Peter from from his work in Vanuatu/Fiji and now Tibet says that contraception would be of benefit to donor and recipient.

    All these countries would be different of course in one's approach to the subject because of different religions.
    Yes as you say would have to be through the women firstly.

    I am sure female aid workers through an interpreter could just be upfront about the micro chip, and how it works, ditto condoms saw one Indian woman spreading the word by putting a condom on a small rolling pin ! and lecturing the onlookers it will stop Aids.

    Heard on radio BBC I think somewhere in Africa a group of women have been sent to learn about installing solar panels on roofs which they did, initially it was against 'culture' for women to be climbing onto roofs etc. However when rest of village saw the benefits the 'culture' stuff disappeared quite a lot.

    Initially sounds harsh but does Aid have to go the carrot/stick route ? i.e. suggest to them (tell them) micro chip after 3 kids and then reward village with solar panels or 30,000L water tanks, a school ?
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      Apr 1 2013: Hi Karmel,

      It's nice to hear of some examples of where back-dated cultures / trends are now changing with regards to the women in Africa...

      This is an interesting incentivisation policy you have raised in terms of providing conditional aid. It would be great to hear everyone's views on whether this type of route would pay dividends.

      Thanks Karmel,
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    Mar 31 2013: I am sorry for not reading all the other comments posted here. It might be a little of topic, but I just watched this video of Bono. He claims that tremendous progress has been made over the last years in Africa. Honestly, I am a bit skeptical.
    Bono is a singer. Does he know how the collection of data was made? It would make it worse to just shout out some encouraging statistics which could prove not to be true. Moreover, is is generally known that the worst off countries in Africa are Somania and the Republic of Congo. Why wasn't aid effective for those countries? Then again, how does he know that all the progress made was due to aid? It just leaves me with a big question mark. I am doing this module at university now and we had a topic about foreign aid. I had to start reading this book named "The White Man's Burden" by William Easterly. I found it brilliant. It is all about how aid should be done by people from the inside, incentivised by profit. He proves that Big Humanitarian Plans have failed constantly, since the '70s. I strongly reccommend reading at least the first 2 chapters. If anyone would like to continue this conversation, please send me a personal message ( . Thank you, Nik Gill, for starting this conversation!
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      Mar 31 2013: Easterly has one point of view in the field of economic development. Another book that might interest you that offers both the Easterly point of view and the opposite and itself sits somewhere between is Banerjee and Duflos' Poor Economics. They use randomized control trials to see what works on the ground.
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        Apr 1 2013: Hi Fritzie,

        Thanks for joining our conversation too! I am currently reading up on Easterly as per James' suggestion but will also read Banerjee's work too. Do you have any views on how best to develop economies based on both books? I guess this would be a general thing as each country is different on their own right.

        Thanks again,
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          Apr 1 2013: I have not made a study of this area, but I think skill-building and effective education for local populations is likely vital as well as insurance to mitigate some risks and mechanisms that facilitate saving and investment.
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        Apr 1 2013: Hi Fritzie,

        Thank you for those suggestions on skill-building, education & insurance. We're just creating a general overview of the key learnings we have found to date and hopefully we can push on our conversation from there!

        Speak soon,
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      Apr 1 2013: Hi Alexandru,

      Thanks for joining our conversation!

      With regards to the Bono video, there are a couple of things to note...

      Many charities focus their marketing on the fact that there is so much poverty that exists in the world and we need to help end this. When they do this it feels as though the scale of the poverty that exists is higher than it actually is because very little focus / promotion is given to the 'success stories' that humanitarian / oversea seas aid has had to date to date. Therefore, there could well have been great strides made in Africa during this past year...

      The other thing to bare in mind is that Bono has actually been involved in charity work since the 80s so when he presents his case, he is very mindful of what he is saying. Just to give you an idea of his previous work, Bono set up an Amnesty International benefit tour called 'A Conspiracy of Hope' to help war-torn Nicaragua and El Salvador in the mid-to-late 80s and then campaigned with Greenpeace against a nuclear power plant in the UK; he also created an award-winning documentary entitled 'Miss Sarajevo' that was based on conflicts in Bosnia.

      Yes, James McGuiness also mentioned Easterly's work, which I am reading up on at the moment. I will let you know my thoughts once I have finished the book (in the next few days).

      Do you have any insights into how aid has been either successful or unsuccessful in rural Romania?

      Thanks James!
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        Apr 1 2013: Hello, Nik,
        I agree that there have been lots of successful cases in which people have escaped poverty. But this is exactly the thing. How do you know that they have managed to do so by the use of aid? If you started reading the book, you know that Easterly compares planners and searchers. Therefore, the situation could very well have been improved by searchers, who are driven, in most cases, by profit. I am not saying it is so, I'm just skeptical.

        Second, I know that Bono has been highly involved in charity. To be fair, I didn't know anything about that documentary, but it seems very interesting. My question is the following: why has so little progress been made for Somalia and Congo since all these charitable actions take place? Is it because, although people start all these campaigns, they are not held accountable for a failure?

        Third, to be fair, I haven't even heard of such thing as aid in the Romanian rural areas. The best thing which could be done would be foreign investment, especially in the agricultural sector. I think that would beneficiate both parts the most (both Romanian people and investors), but I'm no expert.

  • 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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    Mar 28 2013: This is a difficult situation. It is one thing to have good intentions, it is another thing for the recipent nations to channel the aids to the right use. In the case of most African nations, this hardly happens. Corruption and mismanagement of such funds are discouraging occurences.
    Aids should only be given to nations with clear and realistic development plan.
    I think the fight against institutionalised corruption should be a priority. The progress of the fight against corruption and the transparency/accountability of governments should always be considered before a nation is considered as qualified to recieve aid.
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      Mar 29 2013: Hi Feyisayo!

      You are right, it's a tough predicament... do we pull aid in those countries where corruption is rife and neglect those in need?

      Or how can we bypass these governments and reach those that need help the most? We can't think of anyways at the moment but will revert back once we have!

      Thanks Feyisayo,
  • Mar 28 2013: Nik, the whole matter of overseas aid budgets allocation is quite unclear to me. Millions are being spent every year, by the main UN members, and issues like social insertion and birth control seem not to be working or evolving.

    Rather than helping less developed societies and more vulnerable people socially, it seems to me that in developed countries, this matter is more a political stunt to show societies that politicians are generous and they actually have a heart.

    For example, why did the US get involved in helping out countries like Libya and Iraq during conflicts and political crisis? And why aren’t they involved in supporting Syria presently, for instance? The answer for me remains in only one aim, which can be called by the name of petroleum reserve strategy. And of course, Syria is a place where this highly desired asset is not generous in quantity, and this equals to 0% of interest by first world countries to help this country where presently more than 33,000 innocent people have been killed.

    This type of situations makes people feel skeptical I guess.

    I think that society needs to have an overall clear view of how overseas aid budgets are being controlled, and exactly how this money is prioritized in supporting causes.

    I found this interesting link where you can calculate according to your annual income, how much it goes to Overseas Aid against other taxes you pay.
    At least it's a start!
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      Mar 29 2013: Hi Dora!

      This is a great insight. Myself and Maddy will take a look at the calculator and let you know our thoughts on it. It links nicely to Adam's point below on making investment more transparent.

      The political agenda's of first world countries is another theme that Simon brought up before and it's difficult to see how we can make a definitive change on what's been happening, e.g. the lower prioritisation of Syria etc.

      Is there anything that you think we can do to improve the current situation? Do we need an independent committee to decide how all overseas budgets (globally) are invested?

      We'll be in touch RE the calculator, it looks very interesting!

      Thank you Dora!
    • Mar 30 2013: The US didn't "help" Iraq--it destroyed it. Any "help" is a matter of token reparation for America's previous administration AND THE ONE THAT WAS IN POWER IN 1990's misdeeds therein. Iraq is getting help now from Iran thanks to the US--just what the US doesn't want to see as it's on the hook militarily for Israel if Iran achieves its nuclear ambitions. Why is America "helping" in Libya and not Syria. Firstly, American foreign policy changed with the election of President Obama. One of his objectives was to "repair" the "international community" and America's proportions place within it which Bush-Cheney had made a mockery of. So America play a support role in helping the Libyan rebels topple the long time dictator Kaddafi. It was seen as part of an uprising called the "Arab Spring" in which the people themselves were rising to overthrow tyrants--some of whom were long allies to previous US administrations. Our President, being half African and having an Islamic name, has been maligned by our old guard as being "one of them". That's crap. President Obama's foreign policy has been exemplary in may regards. Syria however is uniquely complicated--the Russians and Chinese have been strong supporters of Assad and the US no longer unilaterally jumps into war. Slowly however things have happened which have justified American support of Syrian rebels--one is the breaking of international law (war crimes) in which Assad has used chemical weapons on citizens. The Russians and Chinese have no leg to stand on to defend something the world has observed as a heinous crime for decades. It's all a bit ironic however in that the war in Iraq was a crime (and America's first Gulf War" was an action which brought the wrath of Al Qaeda down on them in two World Trade Center attacks--one successful which was twisted by the neo-con faction to "justify" a second Dick Cheney led war in Iraq. Take Cheney out of both Sr. and Jr. Bush admins, and I think the WTC would still exist and no wars.
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        Mar 31 2013: Hi James!

        Thanks for a a little more detail behind the US Foreign policy over the past few decades.

        This is moving off topic slightly but given your knowledge, do you feel the US will step in further to help Syria in future?

        Thanks James,
        • Mar 31 2013: Yes, more and more there are reports of preparations to help the Syrian rebels with arms, food and medicine. The US will not be entering that civil war as a combatant herself however. Perhaps America may lend air support to some sort of NATO-led effort to intervene, but at least for now while Obama is our President there will be no involvements of US troop forces in the affairs of others. (If only Bush(s)-Cheney hadn't had delusions of American Empire with the one "super-power" thinking she answered to no one. That will take centuries to repair and we can't even be sure we won't elect another cadre of villains. Their money and finger prints are everywhere and it is proving tough for the currently elected President to do what the majority of the people want him to. America is undergoing its own surreptitious coup d' etat where the right wing no longer observes the outcomes of elections and most of it's members in office are pledged to an "anti-tax totality" which places them in a conflict of interest with democracy itself. God help us all if they succeed in regaining control of America's military--they already bankrupted us once and we still haven't recovered. The money for more war can only come from the social systems that make us a developed country if the compromised totalitarians keep to this tolerated but un-American Norquist pledge.) Let's hope Assad wakes up to the fact that his day is not coming back. It's done.
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      Mar 31 2013: Hi Dora!

      The calculator is a great initiative and we wonder why it isn't often used by more charities to encourage further donations?! I guess all charities have to build that trust with the public before these types of initiatives can be trully successsful.

      Thanks Dora,
  • Mar 28 2013: G'day Nik ...I had wonderful parents. Bought up in the Methodist Church where we were taught 'do unto others'....treat people how you would like them to treat you. Life is about caring and those that can (must look after those that can't). I tell you it is a very satisfying life and am a happy person.

    Just retired I got training and work as a volunteer on behalf of Australia's Disabled and Senior people and my background has made me soo strong as I try and right the wrongs for disabled people in particular, keeping my promise to that little boy in Afghanistan all those years ago.

    I went to UK to visit my brother who had got a job as a Lecturer in pure maths at Cambridge. In my day (I'm 64) women were not expected to go to Uni. My brother insisted I sit for exam and I got into Cambridge to study Anthropology I only did 2 yrs. but did not finish degree.

    I came home to Australia via overland ..east.europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Singapore. Much more travel after.

    Yes having only 1 child (I separated from father)I was able to provide a roof over his head, food on the table, medical costs, schooling (his father paid for his university). He is doing the same for his daughter and grandson.

    Personally I believe every child should have what I worked (often 2 jobs) for to give my 1 child. Yes I did have to take contraception.

    Nik what did you think of you ask what next 1-10 yrs. Contraception to be seen as a GOOD word (not dirty) and more grass roots aid missions like Spirit is doing. Anyone reading please give a donation as the Tibet project needs $100,000 A.

    To have lived your life without compassion (for others) is to not have lived at all !

    Amen Blessings to all.
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      Mar 29 2013: Hi Karmel!

      Thank you so much for providing your thoughts on this through what you have experienced in life. It's great to the hear the views of those all over the world so that we can gain a holistic perspective on the issues we are currently facing today.

      It sounds as though you were raised very well and are extremely grounded! It is great that you have stayed true to your beliefs (e.g. keeping your promise to the little boy in Afghanistan)... and passed this onto your future generations... if everyone across the world has the same positive & determined attitude we will go far together on topics such as this.

      I really like what is doing as an initiative. I think they have tapped into one of the few things that often transcends race, religion & politics - which is sport. In fact, on Christmas Day during the First World War, the fighting stopped between England / The Allies and Germany and a game of football was played between both front lines. It ended 4-2 between Scotland and Germany. Sadly, the next day, the war then continued...

      Anyway... I have moved off the point slightly... by supplying these specific goods to young children, they are increasing their quality of life greatly from a social development point of view. We have talked about simple things such as clean water / rebuilding infrastructure... but this is the first time social / mental development has come up. My cousin is a social worker who deals specifically with children and has always said that social development at a such as a young age will greatly impact the way one grows up so I do honestly think the 'spirit of sharing' is a wonderful & worthwhile idea.

      I'm just trying to think of a way in which the general public (e.g. the UK people) could directly choose initiatives like this to donate their proportion of Overseas Aid (via Tax etc.) to...

      Hope you have a great day!
  • Mar 27 2013: French doctors developed a micro chip contraceptive lasts 2 years. Started New Guinea where women badly treated + too many children. Stop mistreatment of women. It's NOT a right for 8 men to rape to death (India) a woman on a bus.

    World poverty could be ended this century if contraception, - families only had 1 or 2 children or even make it OK not to have children as some in Western do.

    On Medicines sans Frontiere a doctor just delivered a Pakistani woman's 27th baby (this is not a typo). In developing countries girls are sold into slavery as Prostitutes, domestic slaves in other countries, or slaves unpaid in factories and boys sold as child soldiers committing atrocities on others to put food in their mouths. Disgusting and these darling kids should not have been born. It will be hard to change mind set of various religions against contraception, however the benefit will be the END of world poverty.

    I have been in Afghanistan and one little boy's plight has stayed with me all my life. He sat in the market place upon a 4 foot by 4 foot plank of timber with 4 wheels. He had NO legs and only one arm, was blind in one eye. He was born with one deformed leg they cut the other off and one arm so he would be more attractive to begging on the streets ... you see he had to get enough money to support his parents and 12 other siblings ! So wrong.

    More contraception use (or give men the snip) Western countries will need to keep helping via Aid money for a time (as these countries have heaps kids to beg/work to support the family). When western countries see the poorer countries trying to help themselves, more happy to give more. is a grass roots organisation but really getting in there educating kids making a difference. As yet they do not broach contraception that is my personal view having travelled to these places.

    I could only afford 1 child !!

    With blessings and hope for a new world order - ENDING POVERTY
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      Mar 27 2013: Hi Karmel,

      Thanks for the explanation for myself and then others who were not sure what micro-chip contraception was... so you feel that the key to ending future poverty is to regulate birth control in the less developed nations? Would that be a good summary? In terms of existing problems, do you have any thoughts on how we can help in the shorter / mid-term? e.g. those that will experience poverty in the next 1 - 10 years etc.

      These are some deep insights into the slave trade & then also Afghanistan. What is your background if I may ask? Did you experience this travelling or while working abroad etc? It would be great to know and thank you for all your thoughts to date.

      Also, having one child just makes them extra special :)...

      Best regards,
  • Mar 26 2013: The real question is - effective for who? International aid in its current form (with the exception of emergency humanitarian aid) has been shown repeatedly to be detrimental in the long term to the ability of developing world countries to develop systems of governance which can get themselves out of poverty. It has been exceptionally effective, however, in projecting the political power and influence of the countries giving the aid. It's no surprise that in most African countries, DFID and the FCO share premises. And, for better or worse, much aid is tacitly or explicitly tied to various conditions. Malawi is a good example of this - when the government there threatened to legalise homosexuality, suddenly the UK wanted to cut off its aid. This is not necessarily a bad thing (although it certainly can be), but simply illustrates that aid is a foreign policy tool. Another interesting development as far as the UK is concerned is Cameron's recent statement that he wants to use the overseas aid budget to fund British troops' emergency intervention capacity; in essence, using money designated for the world's poorest to fund his own army. Very fishy accounting practises there...
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      Mar 27 2013: Hi Simon!

      This is a deep and wonderful insight into another aspect of Overseas Aid. It sounds as though you have witnessed some of this first hand... what is your background if I may ask?

      So there is a feeling that countries are only investing in Overseas Aid for their own benefit / agendas. Do you feel this will ever change? Do you think there are ways in which we can deliver aid to those that need it the most without those countries in need having change the way they run their countries?

      That is a very interesting point on David Cameron and the British Government. Do you feel he has stated this to appease the skeptics who did not want to increase the overseas aid budget?

      Thank you Simon!
  • Mar 26 2013: I think it is USA, + UK + EU who have the most say on the United Nations and of course most population therefore most Foreign Aid. Australia has only recently been allowed after paying Millions to be members of UN.

    The above and us and all members of UN need to get the UN to encourage/enforce places like India + Indonesia and other countries who pay NO TAX to start paying tax to help their poor even tho they do NOT belong to United Nations.

    I do think places like Australia need to limit the Baby Bonus of $5,000 first child + $3,000 for all the children after. Limit this bonus to the first 2 children so it does not encourage people to come just for the Baby Bonuses.

    A friend of mine Peter started Spirit of and he does excellent voluntary work for other countries Fiji/Vanuatu and Tibet. Keeping people in familiar surrounds and with their culture not such a bad thing. Educating and helping the poor to have better lives in their own countries. More of this.

    Hopefully less babies. Some group gives out micro chip contraception lasts 2 years. I could only afford 1 baby. I would hate to be in a position of having 10 or 15 children only to put them in orphanages, sell into prostitution, child soldiers etc.
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      Mar 27 2013: Hi Karmel!

      Thank for your thoughts on this. There are two areas that you have delved into...

      So essentially you feel that birth control can be a major factor in helping all countries in future? I am unfamiliar with term micro chip contraception though, please can you elaborate on this?

      Also, I'd love to hear a bit more about the efforts of your friend in Fiji & Tibet if you can explain this further / what has been learn't from this initiative?. I will of course visit the website too!

      Thank you Karmel!
  • Mar 25 2013: I think the budget should be dispersed to as many countries as possible. Countries should bid for the monetary funding to show the money is going to a just cause and is money well spent. Though money should go to all causes, but larger sums those who are successful with their bid.
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      Mar 26 2013: Hi Gurminder!

      You raise an interesting statement that relates back to George's earlier point on whether we should we decide how to help other countries ourselves or listen 100% to what they ultimately want and provide this instead? This could ensure the money goes to the right places, lowering skepticism that overseas aid is not effective. It would also be interesting to see how a bidding system would work... very topical!

      Thank you very much for your thoughts
  • Mar 25 2013: It has cost Australia $7Billion in asylum seekers costs recently. We are only 22 million people and have hundreds of thousands who are homeless and live below the poverty line here already.

    United Nations needs to pressure other countries to contribute TAX to help their poor. A neighbouring country has 50 million millionaires and 170,000 million middle class who pay NO tax.

    Most all manufacturing has gone to China so there are very few jobs available unless you speak fluently and have a degree.

    Any more than 2 children a family will off course being poverty.
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      Mar 25 2013: Hi Karmel,

      Thanks for sharing the current situation in Australia! Which countries within the UN do you think should take the lead in this? What can we invest in within poverty stricken countries that will improve the quality of life? ... and hence lower the number of people leaving to seek asylum abroad?

      Thanks Karmel,
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    Mar 25 2013: Check out Crown Agents

    They are a procurement agency and they also administer UK aid - and the aid of other countries and NGO's.

    I used to work for them many many moons ago - UK businesses benefited greatly as a certain percentage had to be spent on UK good or services. I don't know what happens now. They appear to be a limited company.
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      Mar 25 2013: Hi Heather... this is great, thanks for the link!

      So what you are saying is that there are ways to support other countries in times of need but to also stimulate our own economy at the same time? If so, these types of projects are exactly what the First World countries needs to show skeptics of Overseas Aid that helping other countries can also be beneficial to their own.

      Did you feel that Crown Agents were able to make a big impact when you worked there? Were there many obstacles in the way of what they were trying to do?

      Thank you Heather!
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        Mar 26 2013: I worked for them for a short time over 25 years ago, so things will have changed considerably. However, Crown Agents was (and I am sure still are) a globally respected aid procurement agency - who also financially administered the UK (and other nations) aid budget. Originally a function of the crown, with "agents" representing the monarch (in colonial times), they then became a function of government - then a quango - and now a limited company.

        As a procurement agent Crown Agents have considerable expertise and experience and can gain significant economies of scale with large orders being placed to cover many global destinations.

        When I worked for them they were involved mostly with project aid - road, hospital building, water and sanitation infrastructure. There is no doubt they did considerable good. I note it is the Chinese who have taken up this infrastructure investment function now. The difference is that China invests to gain resource rights and market share.

        To my mind, sewage management and water protection are the most important infrastructural issues - even over roads, education and hospitals. Without clean water and sewage management no human population can settle in one place without the risk of disease. Humanity would still need to be nomadic without such infrastructure. It was the development of irrigation that allowed the neolithic revolution to occur. Education, health care, transport, roads, reliable power, cheap credit, birth control, law and order, environmental and resource protection, civil bureaucracy and equatable tax collection are then necessary. Please note Democracy does not make my list. If aid can provide clean water and sewage treatment - it is of value. If aid simply inoculates against disease it is like providing a fish instead of a boat and net - useful, but never ending.
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          Mar 27 2013: Hi Heather!

          This is a great insight... so essentially you feel that investing in the infrastructure of overseas countries is the best way to invest aid budgets... which links to Simon's comment (above) that helping in certain areas will only make countries reliant on us and cripple them for the future as they will not be independent / able to support themselves alone. However, obviously, if we help with their infrastructural needs, countries can then begin to build on a future for themselves.

          What do you think Heather?

          Thank you,
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        Mar 27 2013: It's what a country can do for itself vs what it can't. Be pragmatic. For example does the government of South Sudan have the skills, knowledge and resources to create it's own irrigation and sewage management systems? if yes, fine. If no, then this provision is essential before anyone invests in higher level investments such as schools or hospitals.

        If you put the cart before the horse e.g. open a school before establishing that an area has clean water and sewage disposal, you are providing resources that will encourage people to settle down - the next thing you get is an outbreak of cholera! Charities than send in a film crew to take horrific images of dying brown babies which are used to emotionally blackmail people in the west into paying £3 per month.

        If you assess a countries resources and attributes - water, soil quality, political stability etc and only sight populations in areas that can support those population long term - then you can invest in sewage and water infrastructure, roads, power generation, communication infrastructure, schools and hospitals... and when people settle they will thrive.
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          Mar 27 2013: Hi Heather!

          These are some well rounded thoughts. Thank you very much as always.

          I especially like the summary 'when people settle, they will thrive'. I guess we need to dissect each countries worst problems and build upwards from there. Do you have any thoughts on how we should decide which countries are most in need and hence prioritise the aid that we give?

          Simon Allison raised a very interesting point (above) on how we and other countries expect the countries we help to be politically aligned to us in exchange for aid...

          Do you have any thoughts on this too?

          Thanks Heather,
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        Mar 28 2013: Climate change and desertification are major global problems. Our soil and water resources are dwindling. Geo-political boundaries are also a significant problem since they constrain populations and the equitable allocation of resources.

        If a whole country is fucked up ecologically, it will have a very low carrying capacity! So what does the political world do with these populations? For example, the very low lying islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans - what happens to the people when their islands become drowned (in the next few years)? These islands support small populations - but what about Bangladesh - very low lying, but with a massive (Muslim) population - will India accept this population? I'm sure you can see the potential for war.

        I recommend you watch Allan Savory's TED talk "How to green the desert and reverse climate change". His research is counter intuitive but has produced amazing results.

        Our human population has out stripped the global carrying capacity due to our own abuse of its natural systems and unsustainable exploitation of its natural resources. We meddle with systems and processes either for blatant short term gain or from error or ignorance. If we don't collectively act to reverse this environmental degradation, pollution and over exploitation your generation is screwed (forget having kids).

        As regards the rationale behind aid - GB's reasons are varied - post colonial guilt, post colonial sense of duty of care, maintaining trade links with Commonwealth countries (which are post colonial states), political influence (and control), supporting GB business interests, national self-esteem / pride / ego of PM (Gordon Brown was big on this and now David Cameron can't be seen to down grade it).

        In my opinion global aid needs to focus on reversing ecological degradation, preventing further pollution and sustainable resource allocation. We also need to deal with the relocation of populations currently living in unviable areas.
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          Mar 30 2013: Hi Heather!

          Thank you for your thoughts once again. I've just watched the video you suggested and your ideas tie in nicely with a few underlying statements made by people thus far ...

          One of the common themes that myself and Maddy (who is also involved with moderation of this debate) have found is that more control of where overseas aid budgets are spent should lie with the countries in need. However, considering the video you have just shown us, do you think that they are best placed to suggest what is needed? Or is the onus on the first world countries to 're-educate' the poverty stricken countries before the right sources of aid can be administered?

          I really like you're suggestions on where aid should be focused in general, and think that these areas can be applied to the majority of cases. My thoughts right now are geared towards how we can facilitate a change in the way in which the overseas aid budget is spent (even if this will take time to achieve!).

          Thanks Heather!
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        Mar 30 2013: It's difficult to simply say re-educate people from the developing countries. People on the ground already know the issues they face.

        Soil erosion through deforestation or changes in traditional land management can be reversed - as can the problem of over fishing. People are the same all over the world - they always want what their neighbour has - and they will learn very quickly if they see others benefiting from new methods. Small projects introducing new methods - if they show significant benefits - will be copied by other villages without much aid support - and this method, almost by osmosis, is more empowering.

        However, some projects require large scale coordination and the backing of national or even international law - thus difficult decisions need to be made at the geo-political level. Don't ask be about that - it's beyond me!
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          Mar 31 2013: Hi Heather,

          Very useful comments as always! I like the idea of 'mini test budgets' as this appears a realistic way to bed in initiatives that will serve countries well in years to come.

          Perhaps the larger scale projects can then come into play once the trust has been gained on the smaller initiatives. Influencing governments / key decision makers & incentivising them to change is a taller order as you say.

          We hope to nevertheless come up with a few ideas to make this possible though :).

          Thanks Heather,
  • Mar 24 2013: Everything can be managed more effectively.
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      Mar 24 2013: Hi George! How so? Do you feel that we get the balance right between immediate aid ('plugging the hole') and investing in a sustainable future? How can children (our future) be best supported? Thanks George
      • Mar 25 2013: I know that isn't where you are coming from, but most people who say that don't want to do anything. I believe that Ernesto Sirili mad some good points in his TED talk. Leading by example would be a good thing for all leaders to do.
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          Mar 25 2013: Hi George! Your comment & video have actually been very useful!!

          Ernesto's talk is exactly how I feel the best ideas will come; by flying people out there to experience what the conditions are like and by asking the local people what they need. Someone also needs to 'shut up' as Ernesto puts it and lead by example, which is what Great Britain is trying to do by putting this new legislation in place. I hope as a nation we can develop some ideas that will reduce the level of poverty across the world and encourage other leading nations to follow suit!
  • Mar 24 2013: of course they can but the people making all the money off of it wont change it
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      Mar 24 2013: Hi Daniel! Who are the companies that are banking profits at the expense of those in need? Imagine this money was now available...where would you like to see it go?
  • Apr 21 2013: yes, they should make many countrys to bear out the consequence as they have been putting money in for years n there is no visual change. let countries self govern. lots of first world countries help and are not appreciated for their contribution as in this boston bomber
  • Apr 15 2013: Yeah.. First world countries could spend zero money in aid and that would be better. Just like welfare and any social program, governments Never give out money without strings attached... Politics are always there. I forgot exactly who said this, but there is a quote that goes; "The policy of Foreign aid is taking from Americas Poor and giving it to another countries rich" The best way to help a nation is through trade and other free-market solutions. Micro-loans are becoming a crucial asset to the third world. Economists need to think pf practical win-win solutions in utilizing The market productively in the developing world.
  • Apr 10 2013: Yesterday my teacher in anthropology class said that because people at the IMF and UN are political they emphasize high cost visible solutions. As Westerners they emphasize free market values and rules placed on loans such as where to buy with said loans. The result a landscape littered with complex broken down machinery and equipment. Say a guy comes along with a very affordable bicycle powered irrigation system they reject it, instead they sell tractors the people don't have processed gasoline or parts when it breaks down, bicycle easy to repair, tractor complex.
    Simultaneously you have to say what is Cadbury doing what about DeBeers, Firestone. The companies that owned countries through commodities, forced capital taxes, and are still buying the commodities. The landscapes changed now I think Russia flooded the diamond market somehow, free trade coffee movement sprang up, I hear Firestone gave a more favorable contract to Liberia when Obama was elected.
    One thing mentioned in class I think it was South East South America used to produce a lot more food than it does now could we invest along with Brazil, Portugal, Spain, IMF, UN to restore that maybe save Brazilian rain-forest. Part of what scares me about TED's move to city mentality is it seems Monsanto reliant.
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    Apr 5 2013: Hi everyone,

    Following on from Maddy's note & due to the general interest in our conversation, we have now extended our conversation to the full length of time possible, which is a further three weeks.

    Thank you Karmel, Kunal, James, Alex, Fritzie, Everett, Feyisayo, David, Adam, Dora & Bernie for your insights so far.

    We look forward to speaking with you all soon,
    Nik & Maddy
  • Apr 4 2013: Can I just recommend John LeCarre's- MIssion Song.
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      Apr 5 2013: Hi David,

      Thanks for the recommendation. Do you have any top-line thoughts on the film and importantly what the key takeouts would be regarding the question we have set out to answer?

      Thanks David,
  • Apr 4 2013: I think there's also a need to study what might be called tribalism, we in the West have bi -lineal descent meaning we trace our family through both mother and father side. This is not the case in much of the world where labor and legal obligation fall to a distinct family unit usually distinguished by uni-lineal descent through the matri-lineal or patri-lineal side. This results in how they produce herding and farming enclaves and even extended agreement some Kurds practice third cousin marriage or cross cousin marrying, some Kurds are very progressive the PKK's import of Communist doctrine brought in a lot of gender equality etc.. Terms like matri-local and patri-local came up for who you move in with after marriage and wouldn't it be better if the desperate people could go to a traditional family enclave in times of trouble rather than a UN warehouse. Sorry my cultural anthropology class was how the Westerners f----- the natural balance 1400-1600. How the Inca Empire produced more grain than the people living there today, then peanuts in Gambia, then cotton in Ethiopia, Rubber in Liberia culminating in Rhodesia modern day Zimbabwe colonized by Cecil Rhodes the founder of De Beer's and all along the way switching taxes from food staples to the elite to the foreign Pound Sterling. Suffice it to say racked with white man's guilt though I'm Jewish and Irish maybe a little Scot so colonized and foreigner in foreign Eastern Europe lands.
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      Apr 5 2013: Hi David,

      Thank you for your thoughts again! While this is an interesting insight into the past, once again... how can we apply this when thinking about how to better spend our foreign aid budgets?

      Thanks David,
  • Apr 2 2013: I'm listening to Al Jazeera while I typed that last one and they where talking about India and socialized healthcare objection by the pharmaceutical companies and they do have a strange relationship with aid work. Anyone ever watch The Constant Gardener? Use of the third world as a testing ground and a general misunderstanding of drugs under those conditions.
  • Apr 1 2013: Link didn't work.

    Just type into Google Expanding-contraception-options-for-ghanas-women
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    Apr 1 2013: Hi everyone!

    A friend just passed on details of a new start-up (non-profit) company that is designed to help local companies in the likes of North Africa. It's an interesting concept, please let me know your thoughts as I am sure they'd love any feedback you may have.

    Here's a video that may explain things clearer...

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    Mar 30 2013: Hi everyone!

    Thank you for all your wonderful thoughts & ideas so far regarding the subject of International Aid.

    Now that we are half-way through the conversation, myself and Maddy will be posting a summary of all the key learning's to date based on your great feedback on Monday / Tuesday.

    We hope through stream-lining all our thoughts at this stage that we can then all come up with a set of unified ideas on on both how and why Overseas Aid budgets can be spent more effectively.

    We will of course continue all of these great & insightful mini-conversations in the meantime and look forward to speaking with you all soon!

  • Mar 28 2013: Nik, I think the key here is *transparency*. Regardless of how much money is thrown (and I use that word deliberately) at overseas aid, you'll always have skeptics if no one can actually see where the money is going and the actual impact it's having.

    For this average Joe, foreign aid is a fantastic concept and I think as a developed nation we should contribute towards those who are less well off than ourselves but I have absolutely no idea where that money's going and what it's being spent on. Without that level of transparency it's easy for many skeptics to presume a high level of wastage. The solution? A greater level of openness which makes it clear where money is going and what organisations are involved at all levels of the process - then people can actually have an informed opinion about whether or not money is being wasted and if it turns out that there is wastage then those in power are in an informed position to try and action some change.

    As for those who believe that this money would be better spent in 'more important areas', maybe a better job should be done on demonstrating the positive outcomes that come about as a result of foreign aid. One of the many reasons why Comic Relief is so successful is because they show the human element to aid and the monumental impact it has on people's lives. If foreign aid is truly having an impact then this has to be communicated to get these skeptics on board.

    Even if such an approach highlighted a number of flaws in the current system (and I certainly believe it would) then at least we'll be more informed as a result and will be better placed to distribute aid more effectively.
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      Mar 29 2013: Hi Adam,

      Thanks for contributing your thoughts to this conversation! So you feel the key is 'transparency' which is a theme that has come up before from those living in other countries as well, which is good to know.

      It's an interesting thought that we should 'expose' the currently failings of Overseas Aid and perhaps start afresh in a way. Are there any examples, not necessarily charity related, where this has happened in the past and been successful? I'm just trying to think, I am sure there a few and this could potentially be a great concept for a documentary that could placed online for the world to see and react to.

      Thanks Adam!
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    Mar 24 2013: A great example of a technology that could be invested in / used more widely is the soda water 'light bulb'... they are relatively inexpensive and yet provide light for a large length of time.

    Would love to hear everyone's thoughts & ideas on effective ways to invest our Overseas Aid Budget. Together we can make a difference!