For five centuries, Europeans and their descendants have tried to control the lives of people in Africa. If this was going to work out well for Africa, we’d know it by now.
And yet, the effort continues. Not only in Africa but in much of Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Latin America. And they want to continue forever.
In 2015 the United Nations announced that its 15-year Millennium Development Goals had been the most successful anti-poverty program in history – even though the African continent had more malnourished people than in 2000, and while more children attended school, everyone except the U.N. was alarmed that many of those children were learning little, or nothing at all.
Colonialism still shapes our lives, but today it comes with a friendly face. We call it karma colonialism. Richer countries try to control the others, for their own ends, and say they just want to help. This site looks at many aspects of karma colonialism.
Introductory pages about karma colonialism
Left: It’s still colonialism. Today’s foreign aid and charities look different from colonialism of the past. But the old goals and attitudes haven’t changed. Right: Karma colonialism always looks nice. Here, U.S. Navy Seabees build a school in Timor Leste. But they’re doing it to benefit America, not Timor Leste. Recent and Noteworthy
Left: “Bill Gates predicted the pandemic.” Bill Gates is eager to present himself as a visionary. But he didn’t predict the pandemic at all; he just knows how to work the media to hone his image. Right: Where should I give? How can you donate money to genuinely benefit people in the South, without unknowingly propping up karma colonialism? We offer some points to consider.
Left: Schooling vs. education. The United Nations has convinced much of the developing world that getting more children enrolled in school is the same as expanding education. The consequences have been devastating. Right: What can we do? If you’re reading this, you probably want to do something to stop karma colonialism. Here are seven suggestions. The first two are easy.
Left: Charity is not development. The aid industry promises development but does charity. They are opposites. That’s why aid projects so often achieve the opposite of what they promise. Right: The Lords of Poverty live well, on donations which they claim will help the world’s poorest. An NGO insider looks at who really benefits from aid.
Left: Proud graduates, No jobs. Institutions with no accountability generally do a bad job. By giving out scholarships in developing regions, NGOs make schools worse. Right: Are aid programs rooted in attitudes of racial superiority? Our poll on this question brought a lively response. Here are some comments made by voters.
Left: Attitudes of racial superiority: Westerners tend to perceive aid as an act of generosity. But in Africa and Asia, our poll found that an overwhelming majority saw it as rooted in attitudes of racial superiority. Right: James in Uganda asks: “How can we help our fellow Africans, especially the youth, understand how colonialism continues? How can we help each other grow, spiritually, economically and socially?” How would YOU answer?
Left: UNICEF preaches diversity. But for 75 years, it has ALWAYS had a USA citizen in its top spot. It’s hypocritical — and it leads UNICEF to push unsuitable Western-style approaches that often don’t work. Right: The Pandemic and the Debt Trap: The IMF and World Bank want to use the pandemic to draw developing regions deeper into a debt trap. Most countries in the South are refusing.
Left: Stop Patronizing Us! A Kenyan woman working in the women’s rights sector tells of her disappointment at the inequalities and hierarchical behavior she has found in that space. Right: Branding by UNICEF. More and more children display UNICEF-branded knapsacks as they walk to and from school. Does this improve the quality of their education? Or does it just increase the value of the UNICEF brand?
Left: Cellphones and literacy. UNESCO took money from big tech to publish a deceitful report claiming that cellphones increase literacy — thus benefiting the company that gave it the money. If an African president had done that, what would we call it? Right: The Shadow Government. UNICEF produces reports — not always good ones! — for weak governments to publish as their own. This ends up being even worse than it sounds.
Left: Blood Oil: A book review. “When I fill up my fuel tank, is my money supporting a corrupt dictatorship somewhere?” Very possibly yes, and you’ve got little way to know. But Clean Trade offers a way to end such support. Right: “Sometimes I feel like a sign board.” A Kenyan professional, working at a Western NGO, tells what it’s like: Pointing the way for an ever-changing succession of ex-pats who are paid much more, but don’t know what to do.
Left: Why do U.N. agencies fabricate data? Other stories show how they do so. Here we look at why. This data isn’t used for planning. Rather, it’s a means of controlling social policies in the global South. Right: Celebrities and Saviours: A UK charity vows to hire African filmmakers … but it continues using celebrities to get attention. That creates a focus on feel-good solutions — which often won’t get the job done.
Left: Where does the aid money go? Those that know best, aren’t talking. But various estimates find that 60-90% of “foreign aid” uickly returns to the donor country — or never leaves at all. Right: Out of thin air. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics produces lots of data. But based on what? UIS issues education statistics for the 47-country region of sub-Saharan Africa — but it has data for only 4 of the countries.
Left: One Laptop Per Child. U.N. agencies, with funding from big tech, endlessly pitch tech-based solutions to education problems. It doesn’t work — but the money is good. Here’s a look at the most famous of these. Right: Why won’t they hire local talent? World Vision, Unicef, Save the Children, and others issue frequent reports on how they’re helping people in distant lands. Why do they prefer to hire Western photographers for these reports?
Left: The paternalism never ends. “We are still waiting,” says this U.N. ad, which reflects the aid industry belief that development consists of rich nations giving handouts to the helpless, passive others. Right: The campaign against reading. The aid industry says it promotes reading. But its actions — such as dumping unwanted books from the USA — are motivated by self-interest, and consistently undermine reading in the global South.
Left: The origin of modern schooling: Worldwide, children attend schools that use rote memorization to teach for the test, and leave students unprepared for the real world. How did this system become so widespread? Right: How aid makes education worse. Too many children in developing countries enter secondary school unable to read their own name. It wasn’t always this way. Here’s how self-serving Western aid has contributed to illiteracy.
Left: GDP seems neutral. It is not. Why is GDP so often misused as a measure of a country’s overall well-being? Because that shapes policy to favor the global elite. Right: The SDG goals: What’s missing? The UN has 17 development goals with 169 targets. But a lot is missing. For example, anything that would cut into corporate profits.
Left: Garbage in… UNESCO takes garbage data, runs it through a fancy formula, and claims to show a picture of education around the globe. This merely disguises the fact that UNESCO really has no idea where things stand. Right: Unicef needs the “needy.” This photo is from a Unicef fundraising appeal for “needy families.” It is the very opposite of the “empowerment” that they talk about.
Left: Bribes. Unicef gave vehicles to Zimbabwean officials “to help review the school curriculum.” Nonsense. Thinly-disguised bribes ensure a warm welcome for foreign aid staff, who can then keep drawing big salaries. Right: Do African perspectives matter? The Global Partnership for Education shapes education policy in 70 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia. Its CEO, chair, and 7-member evaluation team are from the USA, Australia, and Europe.
Left: Masters of Deceit. Raising funds for “girls’ education” has become big business…. and remarkably often, the aid industry has crossed the line into deceit and dishonesty. Right: Boys thrown under the schoolbus. U.N. agencies and NGOs focus almost exclusively on girls’ education. But girls are faring better than boys, whose needs are ignored and who are falling behind.
Left: Groupthink has led to many disasters — from burning down ancient peat forests, to compelling children in the South to attend schools where they learn nothing. Groupthink helps the aid industry stay in business. Right: Why not just give them the money? Cash transfers — just giving aid money directly to those you wish to help — has a proven track record. Why does the aid industry dislike this approach? How karma colonialism works
Left: The Shadow Government. UNICEF produces reports — not always good ones! — for weak governments to publish as their own. This ends up being even worse than it sounds. Right: The high cost of meddling. Aid organizations claim they want to “fix” problems, but they’re really driven to create jobs for themselves, while pleasing foreign donors. They end up meddling, and it carries a high cost. Other stories of interest
Left: High-level hypocrisy. Coca-Cola pushes a harmful product on vulnerable children. How can Warren Buffett be a trustee for the world’s biggest health foundation, and also Coke’s biggest investor? Right: Schools in the global South are getting worse. The aid industry doesn’t ask why, and for good reason. It created much of the problem.
Left: Cash transfers. Why not just give aid funds directly to the people you want to help? This approach has been done, results have been studied — and it proves quite effective. Right: What would make a better future? There are ways that wealthier countries can genuinely help others, if they want to. Give the aid money directly to the poor, for example. Here are ideas.
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