- Jun 28, 2016
The exhibition provides an insight into the history of international development cooperation and current relevant issues in the field. It focuses on substantial success stories such as the reduction in extreme poverty, while highlighting that high-income countries still clearly benefit more from “developing countries” than they “help” them.
The exhibition is available as a poster or object exhibition. Setting up the object exhibition requires more time because it contains a game and other interactive elements. Both exhibition options can be complemented by a 4-minute animation movie.
Who is in need of development?
Today the term “development aid” has been replaced with “development cooperation”. The idea behind this is that wealthy countries should not set requirements for “developing countries” but rather work together with them.
The term “development” is controversial as it is based on the one-sided assumption that poor countries ought to develop, while wealthier countries are already developed. Considering that high-income countries endanger the planet with their wasteful ways of life, the question of who should learn from whom emerges.
In 2015 the UN member states adopted the “Sustainable Development Goals”. These goals are guided by the idea that all countries of the world need to make a contribution in order to improve the living conditions of the world population in a durable and sustainable way. For sustainable development is development “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland report, 1992).
How has global poverty changed in the last 25 years?
Although today more than a sixth of the world population live in extreme poverty the number of those people affected has been substantially reduced in the last decades. In 1960, 20 million children died before the age of 5, while in 2010 there were less than 8 million deaths. In the last 25 years the number of people who live in extreme poverty has been halved. The UN has set the goal to eradicate poverty and hunger worldwide by 2030.
What strategies should be used to tackle poverty?
It is a relatively new phenomenon in human history that rich countries want to fight poverty in other countries. One reason for this is the awareness that poverty leads to political instability and that it may have a negative impact globally and also therefore on rich countries. At the same time, with the technical advancements of the 20th century, the eradication of global poverty seemed for the first time to be possible.
For this purpose different strategies for tackling poverty have been used since the end of the Second World War. Many failed, not least because the nations giving “aid“ often placed their own interests in the foreground. The conclusion is that there is no easy recipe to fight poverty and that it can only be fought in collaboration with the countries and the people who are affected.
Do high income countries benefit more from developing countries or the other way around?
The strategies to fight poverty are not universally agreed upon. However, one indisputable fact is that money going into development cooperation is only a small part of what actually goes to developing countries. Migrants alone who have moved to high-income countries send back three times as much as goes into development cooperation. Direct foreign investments in the economy also substantially exceed the subsidies sent by high-income countries.
All this flow of money is however outshone by the money which makes its way from developing countries into high-income countries: for example black money, business profits or money reserves in foreign bank accounts. Black money alone that disappears into Western tax havens exceeds state aid by a factor of nine.
High income countries also benefit by employing qualified workers from developing countries whose educational costs they don’t have to pay for, or from raw materials which are cheaply bought and then manufactured, sold and taxed in high-income countries.
For every Euro flowing into developing countries, two Euros flow back to high-income countries. Herein the morally questionable but legal tax practices of international corporations are not yet taken into account.
Should I donate money directly or through intermediary organisations?
The fight against global poverty is only possible if big organisations with trained professionals take part in it. These organisations are able to coordinate and monitor long-term programmes and improve them by means of evaluations. Overhead costs serve the purpose to guarantee professionalism, to allow for transparent reporting and to collect more donations.
There are small organisations who are able to pass the donations directly to people in need thanks to voluntary work. Ideally they have experts at their disposal who ensure the sensible use of funds and monitor the projects. However, the impact radius of small organisations is limited.
Future generations will not measure today’s efforts by how much money we will have spent on overhead costs. On the contrary, the question will be if we have made any progress in the fight against poverty. We should therefore not only ask about the overhead costs, but rather what contribution an organisation makes to the global fight against poverty.
Why are you involved in helping other people?
Many people engage themselves on a daily basis in order to help others. It is however not always easy to decide where it makes sense to become involved. The history of development cooperation shows that deeds carried out with good intention do not always have a positive outcome and can also cause harm.
Despite this, it is worthwhile to show solidarity. To be born into a rich country has nothing to do with achievement or performance but rather it is down to luck. And also within small communities we have different opportunities based on sex, ethnicity, where we were born or the educational background of our parents. These are opportunities which in high-income countries are much more pronounced than in developing countries.
Is a person’s dignity compromised by receiving development aid?
Global poverty is not an unexpected situation. Many people are born into poverty and hardly have the chance to receive proper nutrition, medical care or education. Due to this a sustainable improvement of living conditions is more difficult to achieve. Through the provision of aid money or goods, there is the danger of only achieving a temporary improvement to people’s lives and eventually creating dependence. The fact that the perspective on independence and self-determination might get lost is a problem for both the donors and the recipients of aid.
Since the 1990s, the focus in the politics of development has shifted to the idea of “helping people help themselves” and to the collaborative partnership of donor and recipient countries. What sounded good in theory has been difficult to put into practice. The principle however remains the same: the goal of development cooperation is to make itself superfluous.