I hate aid. I hate what it means. I hate that it exists today. So I’m fighting to make sure it no longer exists.
Hardly something you’d expect to hear from someone volunteering for an international NGO and who has recently been campaigning with ONE in Brussels to make Europe fulfil its target to spend 0.7% of national incomes on aid. But it is true, I hate it.
I hate aid because it means there is something seriously wrong in the world. For example, more than 1 in 9 people go hungry each day. Yet we live in a world of unparalleled prosperity, there is enough food for everyone. Aid only exists in a broken world. No utopia has development NGOs.
My dream is to be out of a job because there is no extreme poverty to fight.
But right now I’m fighting tooth and nail for aid because it makes a difference. Almost 13 million people are receiving lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment today, compared to 300,000 in 2002. And between 1999 and 2011, 54 million more children in sub-Saharan Africa went to primary school for the first time – how amazing is that! Life changing some might say. I could also reel off stats about vaccines, nutrition, or access to clean water.
But what about corruption? What about ineffective aid?
In one sense it’s funny that people raise these issues as a challenge to people like me who are campaigning to end extreme poverty. Yes these are both big and serious issues. There is corruption in many developing nations and some aid has been ineffective, or even worse, harmful at times.
Take a step back for a second: why am I spending so much of my time working on these issues? Don’t you think that those who tirelessly speak out in support of the world’s poorest people are some of the most concerned when the solutions don’t work? The most concerned that corruption undermines people who want to help themselves out of poverty? The most likely to want aid to be effective and accountable?
Hopefully a few pennies are dropping.
I am deeply concerned that aid makes a difference. There is nothing more important than knowing the policy changes we campaign for actually make a difference to real people living in poverty. If they don’t, I’m out.
So I’m going to keep on fighting for aid, but also for more transparency on corporate transactions for minerals, oil and gas in developing nations – a huge blow to corruption. I’m going to keep on fighting for tax justice to stop developing nations losing $160bn a year, a figure far larger than the global aid budget.
I don’t fight for aid for aid’s sake.
I don’t fight for change for change’s sake.
I fight because I believe they help people live full and free lives, rather than ones determined by a lottery of where you happen to be born.
Aid needs to change the world into one where aid is not needed. Aid has to be self-defeating. Otherwise nothing changes.
So join us in ending aid today, sign the ONE VOTE petition to urge MEPs in Europe to do everything in their power to end extreme poverty by 2030 and hopefully one day I’ll have to start looking for a new job.