Unintended consequences – “Your help is hurting,” government to government version

Previous post described how development aid can sometimes cause hurt.

Part 2 of that discussion describes how government-to-government aid can sometimes make things worse and prevent development.

Jerry Bowyer interviews Peter Greer in Your Help Is Hurting, Part II: The Unintended Consequences Of Giving Dictators Foreign Aid.

Mr. Greer uses the example of the president of Zimbabwe distributing food received as a part of international aid only in the areas that vote for him.

Want to eat? Vote for him. Want to oust the dictator? Your family and community starve.

Not quite what was intended when governments approved the grant.

Mr. Bowyer repeats a story from Mr. Eggers – a homeless shelter run by nuns had requirements to attend worship and sobriety classes. The facility was full and creating changed lives. A government shelter opened nearby with no requirements. Shortly thereafter that no-behavior-change-needed facility was full and the faith-based-get-your-life-together facility was empty. As you can guess, there were no more changed lives.

Mr Greer cites surveys showing how people in poverty define poverty. His organization..

… asked people that we serve in places of financial poverty how they define poverty. The answers that we got back were that it’s an empty heart, it’s voicelessness, it’s powerlessness, it’s a feeling of inferiority, it’s a feeling of being dirty. So all of these things are ways that people define poverty. Just going in and providing a pair of shoes is not going to address the way that people define their own poverty, much more emotional and spiritual and in psychological terms. The disconnect of faith, the disconnect of our ability to go in and talk to a heart and not just to address the surface needs because of some fear of offending someone, I think takes away the power of the model of help and philanthropy. 

There’s more to life than having shoes and several changes of clothes. There is an innate need built into a human for the spiritual dimension.

Mr. Greer says about 100 years ago that is how charity was provided in the U.S. About that time, the spiritual, emotional, and growth-enabling was removed from our charity model.

If you want a more detailed discussion, you could check out some of the books they mentioned:

  • Dambisa Moyo – Dead Aid
  • Bill Easterly – White Man’s Burden
  • Bill Eggers – Revolution at the Roots

Please check out the full article. It is great.

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