Developing Countries

30 November 2020, 10:08 am
Speciality Bites by Paul Hargreaves

Triggered by the chancellor’s announcement this week that the aid budget is to be cut from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5%, I am writing this week about our attitude to developing countries.

In the West, we can have a paternalistic attitude to developing countries, due to the context in which they are talked about often being one of sending aid to them. We can end up thinking like many do of being a powerful superior nation giving hand-outs due to our better economy.

However, in my experience visiting poorer countries on many occasions, we can gain as much from them, if not more, than they can gain from us.

Those in less developed countries can teach us about community and relationships. They can also teach us about thankfulness even when they have very little. They can teach us about generosity, hospitality and truly welcoming each other into our lives. They can put us to shame with their veneration and respect for the elderly.

I remember the first time I visited Western Kenya to visit the community we support over there, and on arriving back to the office with everyone wanting to find out about the trip, I couldn’t actually talk about it without bursting into tears. In fact, in my nine other trips over there, I have often taken others with me and their experience is similar, profound emotion about encountering other humans with such love despite their lack of material wealth.

If anything, the global pandemic has emphasised our humanity as the Coronavirus knows no country boundaries and does not distinguish between rich countries and poor. If an incident in a food market in Wuhan can impact the whole world, then surely that makes us realise our inter-connectedness and interdependence more than ever before? My first book, Forces for Good, encouraged businesses to put people and planet before profits, and for many this is becoming the new modus operandi for business.

However, many of us tend to think of our own locality and community when we think of people, planet and profits. This is a good start, but if we in the West are not impacting positively those poor hundreds of millions in extreme poverty in the world, very few of whom live in the UK, then we will continue to see coverage on the news of people starving to death. In the West, impacting people and planet must have an impact outside our rather cosy and affluent existence in the UK, and I suggest we all start to find ways of doing that soon.

I have often heard it said when discussing the UK aid budget that ‘charity begins at home’, but usually this is by mean-spirited people who do not even support the poor and disadvantaged within the UK. They are often those who think of themselves first and others last.

As the world’s 5th wealthiest nation, it is simply no good our government saying we are giving more than most and need to cut our aid budget. We should be giving more than all other nations in the world, possible bar the four ahead of us in the chart. In a time when the more than 700 million in the world in extreme poverty are probably suffering more than most in the pandemic, there is a good argument for giving more not less.

Even at 0.7% it would have been less anyway as GDP in the UK will shrink at 11% this year. In difficult times, there is an obligation on governments and businesses to reach out more to the disadvantaged not less. Will you join me?

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