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Source: (consider it) Thread: International aid and how to implement it
mrWaters
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This topic on most forums would probably belong in hell or in dead horses, however as far as I know, we don't argue much about charities. We tend to be Christian after all...

Recently I've professionally worked with a few international aid charities and talking with them reminded me of why I'm not certain, whether support of just about every international aid charity is morally the right thing to do. Let me first say that I'm not a hater, I am not enraged that charities use 20-30% of their income on marketing or personnel costs. I also do feel that we are all human and those of us living in rich countries have a moral duty to help those less fortunate than us. Why then am I so skeptical about traditional international aid charities?

Let's start with a story of how aid destroyed a profitable industry in Africa. Couple of decades ago we began sending our used clothes for poor in Africa. Problem was hat over there, there have been a strong industry making clothes. Unsurprisingly, this industry collapsed because who can compete with free or next to free clothes? Similarly every time we send grain to a poor country, it drives down the prices for local farmers. Those farmers earn less money and are less likely to invest to increase production. Large food producers similarly will be inclined to decrease production. We both put those people into relative poverty and decrease their capability to produce more food.

Another major point is that poverty tends to be in authoritarian or dictatorial countries and their ruling class takes a cut from every pound. Look at how after a catastrophic earthquake in Burma several years ago, the junta's leader accepted only help in the form of currency. None of the money ever went to those in need. International aid is often used as a bargaining chip by western states. Look at US Aid to the nation of Pakistan. It is basically a bribe to make sure they're friendly. We, by donating, indirectly help authoritarian regimes (and no, I don't think the charities themselves are to blame, I don't think charities can do much to limit this).

It's a paradox but while international aid charities tend to help people, they help largely only in short term. Over the long term aid is likely to cause disruption to the economy and often support oppressors.

What I promote unequivocally is a very different kind of a charity. In developing countries there tends to be a huge problem in the economy. The financial sector exists only for those in power and those rich. You might not realize how much our economy relies on short or medium term borrowing for small businesses. How else would a shopkeeper buy equipment to sell? How would a farmer buy better quality seeds and land to increase production?

We should not give those entrepreneurs anything for free, giving anything on large scale disrupts economy. We should give them affordable loans for them to develop their businesses, buy seeds, buy store equipment etc. Due to my hesitance on other forms of help, this is the way I support poor communities (with help of kiva.org).

Am I crazy or international aid and its concept is flawed from the get go?
If it is flawed, is it morally right to support it?
How should we help developing countries?
If there is anyone who thinks that we should not support developing countries, I'd love to hear why is it the case.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by mrWaters:


Am I crazy or international aid and its concept is flawed from the get go?
If it is flawed, is it morally right to support it?
How should we help developing countries?
If there is anyone who thinks that we should not support developing countries, I'd love to hear why is it the case.

On used clothing: I think you are both absolutely right as well as absolutely wrong. The whole clothing industry is a total mess. Almost nobody can get their arms around their own supply chain (too many steps, too many conmen, too many places where people can be exploited as different things get sent around the world). But, saying that, the used clothing part is probably the most ethical part of the whole stinking shooting match.

It is true that used clothing depresses local clothing manufacturing. On the other hand, they do at least support a cascading form of micro enterprise in many communities which is actually quite efficient. Wholesalers in different countries get the bundles of used clothing, they divide it up to local retailers who sell it to local people. At least in that part of the rag trade nobody is really making an absolute killing from exploitation. So the moral question there is whether it is a moral good - or bad - that people have access to a variety of clothing that they can afford and that is higher quality than that which they could get from local factories.

But it is also true that there is a major problem with Rich People Throwing Their Rubbish At Poor People. Some particularly nasty and cynical wide-boys tap into the "compassion" of many people who think that it is a nice thing to send a shoebox full of junk to some kid somewhere. They even have the gumption to ask for a donation to pay for the flaming shoebox to reach the destination - almost anyone who has ever done any kind of larger scale international trade can tell you how inefficient it is. The money "donated" to move the shoebox would have bought and delivered better quality new products on the wholesale market, never mind what it is saying that you think some random kid in some distant country wants you cast-offs.

The rest of this is hard to discuss. Some say that trade is better than aid, although often it seems that the evidence for this statement is sparse - and comes down to the idea that rich people can consume poor people out of poverty. Which is also a problematic idea.

Others have tried various schemes and systems to get the most bang-for-buck, but these often end up showing that very unsexy projects like deworming and handwashing promotion have the most impact, and that's not quite as fun as giving a goat.

Some say that small charities with a few people with relationships with small groups overseas have the least impact and are most likely to be scammed. Some say that the reverse is true. Some say that there is almost no justification for someone from a donor country to ever go to the country where the money is spent. Some say that the only way to help people develop is to give them cash and advice in how best to spend it.

I'm not sure there is a good way through this minefield, but I am pretty sure that a very large amount of aid money is wasted, and a very large amount is only spent to finesse the conscience of the donor (and/or donor country if it is donations by the country) rather than the impact it actually makes.

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arse

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mr cheesy
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This is a recent news article about the effects of sending crap, rather than cash, to a disaster.

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arse

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Gramps49
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Mr Drump is proposing a drastic reduction in foreign aid while increasing military spending by $54 Billion. But even the generals say American foreign aid helps to reduce keep the peace better than the military.

For instance, we need Pakistan on our side in order to maintain our supply lines into Afghanistan. We need to keep Pakistan on our side to reduce the chances of a military confrontation with her neighbor to the east.

China would love to have more influence in Pakistan. It would put India in a box.

Likewise, we need to assure the nations of South East Asia we have their back when it comes to continued Chinese expansion in the Pacific ocean.

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mrWaters
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Seems like no one questions the idea that foreign aid tends to be problematic and often helps westerners feel better rather than helps poor people.

I do have another idea of how we can give foreign aid effectively in non standard ways. See, in developing countries agriculture is a stupidly risky business. There are no cheap government loans, there are no minimal prices, there tends to be no financial support for farmers. In most developed countries all that exists and it makes it a much safer investment.

Agriculture is often a guessing game of what to plant at what time and trying to predict the weather which is often very unpredictable. European and American farmers can risk plenty and still get ahead while those less fortunate need to plant mostly the safest, least profitable plants. Lack of affordable insurance limits their options and in effect decreases their production as they won't plant expensive, effective seeds as one cold would kill them.

Wouldn't it do more for relieving hunger if we spent the money on establishing insurance and making it affordable for the first few years? Later the insurance would pay for itself and keep being affordable.

I mean just British Oxfam spends annually 400 mln pounds on aid. This amount of money would establish insurance for farmers in a chosen country and within two years, it would probably lift more people from poverty (lift forever) than anything else they do. I know it's not sexy, but would it not be effective?

Does anyone have any other ways we could use our money to drastically improve life in 3rd world countries without having the same problems as the usual aid?

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rolyn
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If there was an effective Western long-term solution to the hardships of people living in 3rd World Countries it would have been discovered by now. Local conflict and a culture of corruption do not make good seed beds for progress

Throwing in vast amounts of money hasn't helped, military interventions haven't helped, do-gooders giving up there own time and money to deliver direct material aid hasn't helped,(apparently).

Targeted financial aid? Yes, sounds all fine and dandy but who is painting the targets and for what purpose? As Gramps says a lot of this stuff is political. No one wants to give up on this whole business but when it comes to simple solutions they simply don't exist.

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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cliffdweller
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The situation is much more nuanced than I think is being portrayed here. Certainly short-term aid has been counter-productive at many points along the way. But there have been successes as well. And there are situations that warrant giving-- whether to alleviate a particular crisis (epidemic, AIDs orphans, natural disaster, war/displacement) or to deal with long-term impediments to development.

The issue I believe for Christians is not "should we give?"-- I think Scripture is clear. The question is "how?". We can seek for greater accountability, and particularly seek out organizations that have lots of built-in feedback loops that are measuring the effectiveness of different strategies and looking for the dreaded unintended consequences.

I've found Jeffrey Sach's book An End to Poverty particularly well researched by a leading world economist, with a good exploration of what works and what doesn't, and a compelling argument for why targeted, well-thought out aid in the developing world is essential.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
If there was an effective Western long-term solution to the hardships of people living in 3rd World Countries it would have been discovered by now. Local conflict and a culture of corruption do not make good seed beds for progress

Bullshit. It has suited the west's purposes to destabilise the continent. We could do much good by industries, such as chocolate, rare metals and precious gems insisting on fair treatment of the workers involved. It isn't rocket surgery, but it is inconvenient to those industries.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
If there was an effective Western long-term solution to the hardships of people living in 3rd World Countries it would have been discovered by now.

Africa was apparently making strong overall economic progress, give or take the odd dictator installed with US or USSR or Chinese support, until the mid-1970s or 1980s. At which point the World Bank started to impose stringent free market policies as a prerequisite for aid, and Africa stagnated.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Africa was apparently making strong overall economic progress, give or take the odd dictator installed with US or USSR or Chinese support, until the mid-1970s or 1980s. At which point the World Bank started to impose stringent free market policies as a prerequisite for aid, and Africa stagnated.

That depends on who you ask and what measure you use. The late great Hans Rosling would disagree with your assessment, and frankly he was better at this stuff than you are.

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Baptist Trainfan
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I lived in a very deprived country in Africa at the very end of the 70s/end of the 80s, and times were hard.

Apart from any internal issues, two factors seemed to predominate. One was that the free and generous flow of aid to a newly-independent country seemed largely to have stopped. The other was definitely that the World Bank seemed to be clamping down as suggested above. I remember discussing this with colleagues at the time and thinking how disastrous this policy would be.

A few other thoughts, quite apart from the general ones about African inefficiencies and corruption (and I hope that comment doesn't sound racist).

1. Aid from foreign governments often seemed to be uncoordinated and unhelpful, with little sense of how it was being used on the ground going back to the sending countries. This led to waste.

2. Aid was often spent on prestigious and unsustainable capital projects when it should have been spent on small-scale self-supporting "artesanal" ones. There was neither the infrastructure nor the expertise and finance to maintain large industrial structures, for instance. The USSR and America were particularly bad at this, Sweden and Cuba particularly good.

3. I often felt that aid was often seen by foreign governments as a way of covertly extending their spheres of influence or, at least, gaining a good approval rating. We felt it unsurprising that one of the things which China seemed to do all over West Africa was build football stadia!

4. Linked to this was the feeling that a lot of the aid money never left the "sending" country as it was spent on either hardware (eg lorries) that were built there or on the salaries of the ex-pats who delivered the aid in the host country.

5. In our country there was still a semi-feudal relationship between employers and employees, dating back to colonial days. It was expected that the employers' prime duty was to care for their staff. This transferred into the mindset of many local folk who worked for aid agencies - the important thing was that they had a (good) job, the aim of serving the wider community often got lost - with some shining exceptions. We even found this in the Church, who found it hard to accept that aid from TEAR Fund was not for their use but to be distributed among the wider population. But, in a country where everything was in such short supply, who could blame them?

[ 04. March 2017, 08:21: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Arethosemyfeet
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My impression is that a lot of the big development charities likes Oxfam and Christian Aid are learning from past mistakes, and using money to buy locally and employ locally rather than sending people and goods from the west unless it's unavoidable (usually certain specialist skills). Yes there are some dodgy outfits out there as well like Samaritan's Purse but I don't think it's accurate to tar all international aid with the same brush.
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wabale
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
My impression is that a lot of the big development charities likes Oxfam and Christian Aid are learning from past mistakes, and using money to buy locally and employ locally rather than sending people and goods from the west unless it's unavoidable (usually certain specialist skills). Yes there are some dodgy outfits out there as well like Samaritan's Purse but I don't think it's accurate to tar all international aid with the same brush.

As another 'big organisation' I would hope Samaritan's Purse has learned from its mistakes too. I am interested in your characterisation of Samaritan's Purse as a 'dodgy organisation', indeed the exemplar of a 'dodgy organisation' whose tar other organisations need to be wary of being tarred with. I am obviously aware of some of the criticisms, but may I ask what yours is, and what evidence you have?

Last year I did a some research on Operation Christmas Child because for the second year running I was in charge of it for our parish church, primary school, and village. I ended up with a large list of 'pluspoints' and one or two problems, so I went ahead. The only other person locally who had a problem with it was a retired clergyman I know, and although he is generally very well-informed he acknowledged that in this case his information was based on one incident, some years ago. My support for it last year was influenced by the fact that one of the first American medics to be evacuated from Africa suffering from Ebola was from Samaritan's purse. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_Brantly

That said, I don't myself think that Operation Christmas Child has much to do with aid, although it is to do with how aid is sometimes perceived.

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rolyn
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When first getting enthused about Church life we spent a lot of time helping out a group which sent an artic lorry load of what has been referred to as "crap" to Africa.
Only thing is though it wasn't crap as the organisers insisted on quality items and wouldn't take bundles of leftovers from jumble sales. Our branch has since ceased operating as there did seem to be problems.

ISTM the trappings of consumerism are reaped by continually making shit and throwing it away. So when taking perfectly good stuff to to dump one should rejoice rather than despair [Waterworks]

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Arethosemyfeet
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My issue with Samaritan's Purse is their tendency to hide their proselytising in their campaigns in the west, to try and pull in shoeboxes from as wide a pool as possible, and then put tracts into the boxes before they're given and make out they come from the (evangelical, protestant) church. They're a missionary organisation masquerading as an aid organisation, and they see their mission field as including places where the vast majority of the population are already Christian, if they're not the right kind of Christian.
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Martin60
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Give them the money. In their hands. Set up supply chains. And then give them interest free microcredit. And then ...

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cliffdweller
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I'm with Baptist Trainfan-- his observations jive well with what Jeffrey Sachs has written in the book I linked above.

re: the Operation Christmas Child tangent: I, too, have looked into it due to it's use at our church. As many have noted, there are some significant inefficiencies in the model-- it would be far cheaper/ more beneficial to send cash and purchase gifts locally. And there's of course the problem of proselyting-- possibly in culturally inappropriate ways. On the plus for me is simply that it's such an effective way to teach small children about compassion-- it's tangible (raising money is far more abstract) and interactive. For youth & adults, there are far more effective models, and they should have the abstract reasoning skills to realize that and not need the sugar-coating of a fun project to dress up their charitable giving.

But for me the real problem with Samaritan's Purse is the boss: Franklin Graham. His frequent political demonizing remarks, particularly the Islamaphobic ones, put all of us at risk-- but particularly those who are doing Christian ministry, whether humanitarian or evangelistic, in the Muslim world. I can't imagine the hell of trying to work for the guy while working in a place like, say, Afghanistan, where every advance you make to build relationships would be undermined by yet another careless and self-interested remark from the boss. If they had a Compassion Fund to just buy bottles of gin to cheer those beleaguered workers, I'd probably donate to it.

I've done Operation Christmas Child every year thru gritted teeth, again, primarily for pedagogical rather than charitable reasons. But I don't think I'll be able to grit my teeth hard enough this year. I'm thinking of trying to organize something to put together boxes for local refugee families or children being held in the awful ICE detention centers.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
I'm with Baptist Trainfan-- his observations jive well with what Jeffrey Sachs has written in the book I linked above.

Thank you - although I'm sure I'm out of date.
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wabale
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
My issue with Samaritan's Purse is their tendency to hide their proselytising in their campaigns in the west, to try and pull in shoeboxes from as wide a pool as possible, and then put tracts into the boxes before they're given and make out they come from the (evangelical, protestant) church. They're a missionary organisation masquerading as an aid organisation, and they see their mission field as including places where the vast majority of the population are already Christian, if they're not the right kind of Christian.

It may be, Arethosemyfeet, your interpretation is correct. But looking at their website I don't see any attempt to hide 'their proselytising'. I don't personally see any deep moral problem with pulling 'in shoeboxes from as wide a pool as possible': when my former school used to do OCC my Year 7's competed in who could fill the most boxes, classes competed with each other, and generally it was regarded mainly as a bit of Christmas fun with the simple idea of sending a Christmas gift to a child who otherwise wouldn't receive one.
I believe what you describe as 'tracts' are mainly the invitations to the children to take part in a short course about the Christian faith which the local church runs using Samaritan's purse materials, which would suggest they are essentially helping local churches to plough their own local mission field (if that's the right metaphor.) As far as Operation Christmas Child is concerned they always operate through local churches. Your assertion that Samaritan's Purse are 'a missionary organisation masquerading as an aid organisation' could be said, in a sense, of every missionary society I can think of. That would include the early church, which had this habit of looking after the sick, including during plagues, and afterwards people were so impressed that they became Christians .. ah ha! the hidden agenda all along! But seriously, though, isn't your assertion that their aid work is a 'masquerade' somewhat unfair without producing some evidence? Is it not possible that they actually do an enormous amount of good?

There are all sorts of distinctions to be made about 'aid'. The word itself needs defining for a start. For example, a very common form of aid is actually military aid. This probably won't come into our personal consideration of an ethical and effective charity to support! Are we concerned with absolute poverty or relative poverty? Are we concerned with what is right this second, or with consequences? And most important of all – who are 'we'? Sometimes when we believe we are putting into practice a Christian principle regarding aid we are in reality putting into practice a national one. Most of us humans, Christian or not, respond to the needs of individuals and families.

But we don't respond so well to countries in need, and there are probably about 50 of these in Africa for example. We surely have a responsibility if we are citizens of a democratic country. Just as it isn't healthy for a country to have too wide a difference between rich and poor, and arguably it breaks clear principles set out in the Old Testament let alone the New, it is positively dangerous (and wrong) for there to be extremely rich and extremely poor countries. Relationships of dependency are a recipe for wars. In fact that's probably what many of the conflicts taking place in Africa today are largely about. So here is one big suggestion about aid. As far as countries are concerned it should be done on a multilateral basis, and combined with a recognition of the need for a strong African Union (who have recently expressed the aim of paying for themselves.) This could be also extremely important for military aid, which Africa actually needs badly, especially in the form of training. The willingness for this kind of arrangement is, I think, there in Africa, but not in the West, yet.

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Jay-Emm
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There is a distinction between the two, (even if it gets messy in practice), in that whatever the motive the aid came from early christians, distributed by christians and credited to christians.
In other examples the aid comes from everyone, is distributed by the church, and is credited to everyone*. It's a bit have cake and eat it and keep money.

I'd be a bit offended if I put some money in a collection box, and then someone put a badge saying how wonderful the National Secular Society was (even if I should have looked it up first), they can have the credit for arranging it, but not for the pennies.

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Ricardus
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Surely second-hand clothes to Africa has never been a form of aid?

AIUI, the most common pattern is that (for example) the British Heart Foundation collects cast-off clothing from donors, sells them at a market rate (which is fairly pitiful IIRC) to an exporter, and uses the money for the benefit of British people with heart problems. The exporter then sorts the clothes and sells them where possible in Africa, again at market rates.

I've never seen it suggested that the aid in this scenario is going to anywhere other than the British charity's British targets. In fact I thought British charities were traditionally cagey about the amount of donated clothing that ended up in the Third World, preferring to leave people in the illusion that their donations would all be proudly displayed in the local charity shop.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
I'm with Baptist Trainfan-- his observations jive well with what Jeffrey Sachs has written in the book I linked above.

Sachs has many critics, not least due to his objectively failing Millennium Villages Project. And, y'know, it might be an idea to read a bit wider than Sachs if one really wants to understand something as complicated as development and aid economics.

quote:
re: the Operation Christmas Child tangent: I, too, have looked into it due to it's use at our church. As many have noted, there are some significant inefficiencies in the model-- it would be far cheaper/ more beneficial to send cash and purchase gifts locally. And there's of course the problem of proselyting-- possibly in culturally inappropriate ways. On the plus for me is simply that it's such an effective way to teach small children about compassion-- it's tangible (raising money is far more abstract) and interactive. For youth & adults, there are far more effective models, and they should have the abstract reasoning skills to realize that and not need the sugar-coating of a fun project to dress up their charitable giving.
I'm afraid this just illustrates the depth of the problem here. SP is a horrible organisation, the methods it uses are horrible, inefficient and stupid. That we can even entertain the idea that there is some kind of "saving grace" in acting out a really stupid idea because it is showing our kids something - which turns out to be false - just goes to show how broken our Christianity has become.

It has become very easy for certain groups to weasel their way into churches by saying the "right thing". One way they do this is by playing to (a) people's innate sense of generosity and (b) giving them something tangible to do.

So the idea of giving a few ££ or $$ to a project to buy a container of essentials somehow feels less generous than donating something that is yours - or better still something that you've made. Even though the donors are miles away from the recipients and can't realistically understand anything about what the needs really are.

quote:
But for me the real problem with Samaritan's Purse is the boss: Franklin Graham. His frequent political demonizing remarks, particularly the Islamaphobic ones, put all of us at risk-- but particularly those who are doing Christian ministry, whether humanitarian or evangelistic, in the Muslim world. I can't imagine the hell of trying to work for the guy while working in a place like, say, Afghanistan, where every advance you make to build relationships would be undermined by yet another careless and self-interested remark from the boss. If they had a Compassion Fund to just buy bottles of gin to cheer those beleaguered workers, I'd probably donate to it.
For me that's the tip of the iceberg. Personally, I'm less bothered by the distribution of literature and the actions of the CEO than I am that they're perpectuating something that they know has very little value.

quote:
I've done Operation Christmas Child every year thru gritted teeth, again, primarily for pedagogical rather than charitable reasons. But I don't think I'll be able to grit my teeth hard enough this year. I'm thinking of trying to organize something to put together boxes for local refugee families or children being held in the awful ICE detention centers.
I think churches would do far better to try to address issues that they can personally understand than to be lied to by large organisations who are doing things that obviously make no sense to anyone who spends 5 minutes thinking about it.

Donating clothing or toiletries personally and directly to a local women's shelter, a homeless project, to a local seafarers mission etc is much more likely to be addressing a real need than sticking the same things in a shoebox to send overseas. Even there, taking time to listen to the requests and donating what is required rather than whatever the church might think is benefiting children in the church (even if that is money so that the port chaplain can buy an impoverished sailor the clothing that he actually needs) is fairly obviously the right thing to do.

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arse

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rolyn
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Used to bump into folks who vehemently felt that all charitable giving should be for Britain only. Seems these people might have been right all along.

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
Surely second-hand clothes to Africa has never been a form of aid?

I don't think it has been for some considerable time.

quote:
AIUI, the most common pattern is that (for example) the British Heart Foundation collects cast-off clothing from donors, sells them at a market rate (which is fairly pitiful IIRC) to an exporter, and uses the money for the benefit of British people with heart problems. The exporter then sorts the clothes and sells them where possible in Africa, again at market rates.
Yes, although you'd be surprised how much doesn't actually go to Africa. I saw some distribution statistics a while ago (I'll have to try to find them again) suggesting that a big market for British second hand clothing is now Eastern Europe.

quote:
I've never seen it suggested that the aid in this scenario is going to anywhere other than the British charity's British targets. In fact I thought British charities were traditionally cagey about the amount of donated clothing that ended up in the Third World, preferring to leave people in the illusion that their donations would all be proudly displayed in the local charity shop.
Well, now you're confusing things a bit. There is the normal distribution patterns of used clothing which you've described above. But there is also a massive problem with used clothing (and other things) being collected and sent abroad, particularly during disasters, when a lot of the time is needs to be thrown away. The former is at least addressing a real need, the latter rarely is.

On your general point, I think what you say might have been true maybe 10 years ago, but I don't think British charities are really pretending today where the vast majority of donated clothing goes. Unfortunately the sad reality is that few charity shops make much money* and even some of the massive chains of charity shops in the UK make less for the charities involved than other forms of fundraising such as money left in wills etc. Some even suggest that some of these charities keep the shopfronts as continual reminders to the public of their existence which in turn encourages donations in other, more valuable, ways.

* which, if you stop and think about it, isn't so surprising. The shops have some staff and volunteering isn't entirely free (training, insurance etc costs). There is a large amount of material to sort out and shift about, costs of heating and lighting and so on. It isn't unknown for individual shops to make a hefty loss, and in fact it is quite a juggling act to make any money at all, particularly if the staff are demotivated or bad at their job.

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arse

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Baptist Trainfan
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You forgot to include shop rent. However, charity shops do get business rate relief (80% mandatory, which can be topped up to 100% by the local authority) - this is a matter of some chagrin to the owners of small independent shops which are trying to survive commercially yet pay the full whack: see this, for example.

[ 06. March 2017, 07:44: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
You forgot to include shop rent. However, charity shops do get business rate relief (80% mandatory, which can be topped up to 100% by the local authority) - this is a matter of some chagrin to the owners of small independent shops which are trying to survive commercially yet pay the full whack.

Charity shops often don't pay rent because they're offered by owners on a "meanwhile" basis (ie until a paying business comes along).

There is actually a rationale which is perversely encouraging owners to give lets to charity shops rather than paying businesses even if they're not paying rent. Empty shops now attract rates to the owner, unless the building gets relief from having a charity use it.

In contrast, a local struggling business might have grand ideas but never really get going commercially (due to incompetence, inexperience, lack of market knowledge). This actually may be more of a cost and a risk than a charity shop.

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arse

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Baptist Trainfan
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Yes, that all makes sense and is born out by my own (very limited) experience. As a general point I suspect that a lot of new "commercial" businesses are under-resourced and fail because they don't have the ability to amortise their start-up costs and loans, especially in the first years when business may not have fully developed.

[ 06. March 2017, 07:55: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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mr cheesy
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In case anyone is interested, this 2016 report (pdf) gives some interesting detail about the British used clothing market.

I'm not sure whether anyone really knows how much of the exports to Eastern Europe ends up overseas.

Some years ago I visited a massive clothing sorting facility in the UK which was surprisingly labour intensive. It wouldn't be a great surprise if there was an advantage in moving that facility to somewhere with cheaper labour costs.

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arse

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
Used to bump into folks who vehemently felt that all charitable giving should be for Britain only. Seems these people might have been right all along.

Not really. Almost inevitably people who misuse "Charity begins at home" to mean "nothing for brown people abroad" don't give fuck all to domestic charities either.

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

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mr cheesy
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I think it is actually very difficult to assess what are really "valid and real" ways to donate to causes abroad and which are making no difference at all. It is much easier to determine the impact of local donations.

On the other hand, given that our standard of living and currency is worth so much more, it is absolutely true that money raised in a wealthy country can make a disproportional difference in a much poorer country.

Unfortunately many churches have a spectacularly poor record in supporting crappy overseas projects - and are in denial about it.

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arse

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Some years ago I visited a massive clothing sorting facility in the UK which was surprisingly labour intensive.

As is recycling in general: although there are some very fancy automated facilities around, much is sorted by hand.
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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider:
quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
Used to bump into folks who vehemently felt that all charitable giving should be for Britain only. Seems these people might have been right all along.

Not really. Almost inevitably people who misuse "Charity begins at home" to mean "nothing for brown people abroad" don't give fuck all to domestic charities either.
I fear you may well be right.
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wabale
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On a slightly different tack, but aiming I hope in the same direction: a century after the failed World Revolution marxism is still useful as an analytical tool. A marxist analysis of aid would presumably be that it is all wrong, and a distraction from dealing with the real issues involved. The real issue in my opinion is the need, acknowledged by lips but not by hearts since 1945 – and now beginning to be openly challenged even as an aspiration – for the world's nations to act as a community and not simply as competing tribes. It is a pity that Christian political thinking about world development tends to be unfocussed, or focussed on reactionary projects, or even too focussed on the Second Coming.
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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
In case anyone is interested, this 2016 report (pdf) gives some interesting detail about the British used clothing market.

I'm not sure whether anyone really knows how much of the exports to Eastern Europe ends up overseas.

I suspect that a fair amount of these exports are used in Eastern Europe itself - things like baby and children's clothes are a huge expense over there, both because kids don't use them for very long when they are small, and because the foreign chains price stuff as they would elsewhere in Europe.
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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
I suspect that a fair amount of these exports are used in Eastern Europe itself - things like baby and children's clothes are a huge expense over there, both because kids don't use them for very long when they are small, and because the foreign chains price stuff as they would elsewhere in Europe.

IMO those who sort and collect used clothing do a very useful job - they remove worn and dirty clothing and sort them out into various categories so the overseas wholesaler is buying the different types of clothing packed into bales.

fwiw, I think there would be space in the British market to sell these to consumers and the wholesalers may indeed look favorably on a British company/charity which wanted to buy a whole container - rather than taking the risk of selling abroad. If someone found a way to do that affordably, I think the export market would basically die and charity shops would become a thing of the past.

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mr cheesy
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I have also heard those who are involved in running British charity shops saying that they might well do better to buy particular things to sell rather than rely on donations. The problem with these things is that charity retailers tend to be rather averse to paying for things.

Which is understandable, I suppose. But used clothing seems to be a more efficient process if each step is paid properly, and I suspect charities would benefit more if consumers sold their used clothing to recyclers (and then donated the money raised) rather than attempting to support a charity shop on the high street.

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:

fwiw, I think there would be space in the British market to sell these to consumers and the wholesalers may indeed look favorably on a British company/charity which wanted to buy a whole container - rather than taking the risk of selling abroad. If someone found a way to do that affordably, I think the export market would basically die and charity shops would become a thing of the past.

I dunno, I think this already exists, at least with regards to baby clothes, and is called eBay. Our little one has been clothed almost entirely from boxes bought cheaply on eBay as 'mixed baby clothes, 6-9' or similar, and this seems to be a fairly common practice.

ISTM there is a glut of second-hand adult clothes because a.) people buy new clothes before the old ones have worn out, and b.) there is a cultural stigma against buying second hand clothes. If Westerners were more willing to wear clothes until they fell apart, or more willing to refresh their wardrobes from second hand clothes, then the export market may well collapse, but the overall demand for new clothes would also fall, which would presumably depress world prices and not be good for African producers either.

As for people selling directly to recyclers, there was a mini-explosion of 'Cash for Clothes' shops round here a few years ago, most of which seem to have disappeared. AIUI you had to give them quite a hefty bundle before you got any money.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
I dunno, I think this already exists, at least with regards to baby clothes, and is called eBay. Our little one has been clothed almost entirely from boxes bought cheaply on eBay as 'mixed baby clothes, 6-9' or similar, and this seems to be a fairly common practice.

ISTM there is a glut of second-hand adult clothes because a.) people buy new clothes before the old ones have worn out, and b.) there is a cultural stigma against buying second hand clothes. If Westerners were more willing to wear clothes until they fell apart, or more willing to refresh their wardrobes from second hand clothes, then the export market may well collapse, but the overall demand for new clothes would also fall, which would presumably depress world prices and not be good for African producers either.

Well I was just stating an opinion, I believe there is a big market for cheap used clothing in the UK - when I go to carboot sales, rag sales and £1 charity shops, I see a lot of people buying. I agree it would have to increase a long way before used clothing exports were completely cut out, but I believe as the economy slides and exporting to the EU becomes more difficult then local markets for used clothing will increase. But what do I know, I could be entirely wrong.

If used clothing finds a market in the UK, the used clothing price in Africa will likely increase.

African producers are not big players in the global textile supply chains, and (perversely) African consumers are often paying higher prices for new products than from developed, Western markets. I'm not sure that anyone really knows what will happen if the Western appetite for cheap clothing cools.

quote:
As for people selling directly to recyclers, there was a mini-explosion of 'Cash for Clothes' shops round here a few years ago, most of which seem to have disappeared. AIUI you had to give them quite a hefty bundle before you got any money.
Maybe it depends where you are. These kinds of businesses are still prominent around here, although I agree it does appear to be tough to collect enough to make money.

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