The essence of karma colonialism is that it always looks nice, even as it undermines the societies it claims to help. These stories show some of the ways that the West allows itself to be deceived by the aid industry.
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: Experts vs. Chimps: Do “development experts” have any more wisdom than dart-throwing chimpanzees? Well, it’s a tight contest. It turns out, the experts who get in the news have a sorry track record, though they try to hide it.
Left: “Free” sounds generous — until you look carefully. It’s a way that wealthier nations keep others poorer, and dependent. 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: Snake oil. Many Western NGOs will say pretty much anything to get your donation. We examine Save the Children’s claim that an extra year of school will bring great wage increases. It’s snake oil. But it brings in donations. 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: 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: Fudging the numbers. U.N.-FAO hunger data abruptly changed in 2012. Why? In 2015, the U.N. needed to show great success for its Millennium Development Goals.
Left: Pygmalion and Golem. U.S. Navy crew builds a school in Djibouti. That seems nice. But it sends a deeply harmful message: “You can’t do anything without our help.” 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: 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: Mimicry. The aid industry collects piles of data about things that don’t really matter, while ignoring the things that do. To understand this, it helps to understand the concept of mimicry.
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: Where does the aid money go? Those that know best, aren’t talking. But various estimates find that 60-90% of “foreign aid” quickly returns to the donor country — or never leaves at all. Other stories of interest
Left: 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? Right: Effective altruism says that more data-based evidence will result in better foreign aid. The evidence suggests otherwise.
Left: Can aid be decolonized? Many people have proposed ways to address flaws in the aid system. It doesn’t happen, because the system is ALREADY working well — for those in charge. Here’s a look at why reform efforts won’t work. Right: 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.
Left: “Will they just spend it on beer?” Instead of aid funds going to governments and NGOs, why not give it directly to the poor? Here are answers to common questions about cash transfer programs. 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.