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: AidSpeak: The U.N. and NGOs talk of being “transformative.” In doing so, they reveal the arrogance and top-down mentality behind their smooth facades. 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: 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: 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.
Left: Stop Patronizing Us! A Kenyan woman working in the women’s rights sector tells of her disappointment at inequalities and hierarchical behavior she has found in that space. 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: “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. Right: Half the story. Save the Children boasts that children who got its Literacy Boost showed a three-fold improvement in reading skills. It doesn’t mention that those who did NOT get the program showed a FIVE-fold increase.
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: 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.
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: The paternalism never ends. “We are still waiting,” says this U.N. ad, which reflects the aid industry belief that development happens when rich nations give handouts to the helpless, passive others.
Left: “Free” sounds generous — until you look carefully. It’s a way that wealthier nations keep others poorer, and dependent. Right: 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.”
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: 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.
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: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it wants to “support programs developed by Africans, for Africans.” Instead, it funds Western-run agencies, businesses, and universities to do things for, in, and to the global South.
Left: 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. Right: Cellphones and literacy. UNESCO took money from big tech to publish a deceitful report that benefited the company that gave it the money. If an African president had done that, what would we call it?
Left: 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? 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.
Left: 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. Right: Funny numbers. “Aha!” Sherlock Holmes exclaims, examining a UNESCO chart that shows education levels by region. “This isn’t a statistics institute, it’s a propaganda department!” How did he know?
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: USAID funds a new education program in Pakistan. But the problem isn’t a lack of funding, the problem is that those who should be improving schools, are instead keeping an eye on the money.
Other ways to stay informed: Follow us on Facebook to hear about our newest stories. Sign up for our free monthly newsletter to get announcements of recent stories, news, and action ideas for how we can end karma colonialism.