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Midterm_Do You Think You Are a Global Citizen?

We live in a generation where people can go almost anywhere on earth within 24 hours. The world has gotten smaller as it is called ‘Global Village.’ Nevertheless, a lot of people in the world still suffer from inequality and unfairness. Approximately half the world live less than $2.50 a day and the world’s 1,210 current billionaires hold a combined wealth half as much as the total wealth of the 3.01 billion adults around the world. What does this have to do with being a global citizen? The goal of global citizens should be to make our world  a better place with more equality. This can be achieved by being more aware, sacrificing, and doing actual actions rather than just discussing in a table.

First, global citizens should be more aware about current issues. As our world has gotten smaller, we see people suffering more frequently around the world through the media. People can’t just send their money away after they watch some emotional videos from humanitarian organizations or from NGOs. The TOMS shoes that people bought to help children eventually made more people in pain and in worse positionsIf people really want to help, they have to keep their eyes open and be more aware of where their money actually goes.

Global citizens have to think critically. Their emotional but impulsive actions should not surpass their logical thoughts. Having a good intention itself will not help anyone. Wealthy people will try their best to keep their status. They will do anything including manipulating the media and playing with money behind the scene. In Emergency Sex, the three main characters reveal the ugly truth about the United Nations and its corrupted status. Although there had been reports about the UN’s corruptions including the oil-for-food program, hearing stories from actual employees from the UN is realistically surprising and disappointing. The three main characters, Heidi, Cain, and Thomson have sacrificed what they have and decided to fight against the corruption by spreading the truth. More people will know about the corruption and the point of the fight was not just blaming everthing on the UNThey argue that the UN and their framework and organizational structure have to be reformed. If more people are aware of their weaknesses, the UN will be more likely to fix their problems and become a better organization for the humanity as it ought to be. Somebody has to sacrifice.

I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name — if ten honest men only — ay, if one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever (Thoreau).

Last but not least, a global citizenship should not be ended at a table. A lot of people can have broad knowledge about international matters, but not many of them actually seek to do anything about the matters they encounter every day. In The Crisis Caravan, James Morris, the executive director of the World Food Program quoted, “Occasionally, I have thought the worst place for a hungry child to live in Africa today is a country that is at peace with its neighbors and relatively stable” (Polman). Our media doesn’t cover a peaceful town in Africa. They rather report on the potentially profitable regions where a lot of stories can be made. No matter how many poor children dying in a peaceful town, people will not even know they exist while they know who is Joseph Kony. Being a global citizen is like being a bridge. A bridge that connects different people, cultures, and beliefs. A bridge that helps connecting a small town in Africa where the media never covers, to people who want to help. It’s the movement that tries to narrow the gap of our world, to make our world a better place.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

References

Arcaro, Tom. “Beyond the Pledge of Allegiance: Becoming a Responsible World Citizen.”

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Polman, Linda. The Crisis Caravan. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010. Print.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and “Civil Disobedience”. New York: Signet  Classics, 1980. Print.

 

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Midterm

Selena Gomez, among many celebrities, attended the Global Citizen Festival in support of international humanitarian efforts. Although celebrities are notably some of the most generous donors to the aid industry, does merely donating to UNICEF make you a global citizen? What more does it take? The United Nations Academic Impact Hub defines global citizenship as a “term for the social, political, environmental, or economic actions of globally-minded individuals and communities on a worldwide scale” (“Global Citizenship”). According to this vague definition, most Americans probably consider themselves global citizens. Based on the pitiful standards set by society, global citizenship can be as simple as donating $1 to an international charity after making a purchase at your local Target. But true global citizenship is much, much more. After my personal exploration of the term, I have found that there are three vital components to being a global citizenship: being informed, being critical, and being humble.

Being informed takes much more effort than simply tuning into the nightly news or reading the occasional newspaper article. To truly be informed, one must search past “normal” forms of media and always question the reliability of the source. Unfortunately in many occasions, untruthful reporting has lead to the ineffective distribution of humanitarian aid. In the book, War Games, Linda Polman critically examines the role of the media in the aid industry. Polman reveals that in many cases, reporters do not truly investigate the work of aid industries. Instead, they inaccurately exaggerate certain qualities of crisis to gain more funding while embellishing stories of success for the aid organizations. Polman specifically refers to the incident in Sudan in which the media reported on “victims of drought” (177). In actuality, these victims were being strategically relocated and starved by the Sudanese regime. Once the word got out about the “starving drought victims”, aid organizations flooded the site, just as the regime hoped. The Sudanese regime took advantage of the aid organizations by taxing food and controlling the distribution of aid. Polman explains that “the government army was feeding itself on food aid” (118). Donations to these aid organizations were helping to fund and support war. True global citizens should demand accurate reporting from the media about how aid money is really used. To do this, global citizens must get informed about the real issues and pass on the information to their local communities.

Although aid organizations have good intentions, this does not mean they are beyond criticism. There is far too much corruption and too many lives at risk not to investigate the aid industry. Take, for instance, the refugee camp in Goma constructed to provide aid to the victims of the Rwandan genocide. Instead of giving food and aid to the Tutsis, the victims of genocide, the camp supplied and funded Hutu extremists, the initiators of genocide.  Polman argues that as global citizens, we must insist that aid organizations have some accountability. She states that “we should demand they [aid organizations] explain exactly what they think they are going to achieve there and how” (164). And if the aid organizations do not meet these standards, they should not be providing aid. An excellent role model for investigating the work of humanitarian aid organizations is Caroline Abu-Sada. In her book In the Eyes of Others,  Abu-Sada reflects on a group she is a part of, Doctors Without Boarders. She reveals that a lack of unity and ineffective communication with the local community are among the problems that have let this organization to provide ineffective aid. These kind of critiques will allow aid organizations to improve their overall effectiveness. As global citizens, we can not let ineffective aid or misuse of aid money go unnoticed. Unless the flaws of the aid industry are exposed, the cycles of corruption will be allowed to continue.

MFS (Doctors Without Boarders) worker providing aid in the Congo

Possibly the most vital aspect of global citizenship is humility. Many times, Western aid workers approach crisis situations believing that they know what is best for the crisis victims. In these cases, the victims are never even asked about what goods and services they would find most helpful. Instead, the personal interests of donors dictate how aid money is spent. Polman cites specific examples of when aid organizations have made donor interests a priority over victim needs. She explains that organizations have “been known to ship frostbite medication to tropical disasters, and starving Somalis received laxatives, slimming cures, and electric blankets” (49).  In the article “The White-Savior Industrial Complex” Cole argues that the needs of the victims need more attention. He explains that “there is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them” (Cole). In Abu-Sada’s book, contributor Donini remarks that “most will accept food aid and the new school even if ti is not what they asked for, many will wonder about the patronizing attitude of the outsiders who were here one day and gone the next” (189). As global citizens from a privileged nation, we must push the ethnocentric tendencies of our culture to the side and focus on the true needs of victims. This is the only way to truly provide effective humanitarian aid.

With selflessness, compassion, and curiosity, true global citizens have the potential to reform the aid industry. They can highlight the flaws of humanitarian aid and pave the way to a more effective future. As global citizens, we owe this much to the countless victims of crisis worldwide.

Sources:

Abu-Sada, Caroline, ed. In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. MSF-USA, 2012. Print.

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 June 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/2/>.

Donini, Antonio. “Humanitarianism, Perceptions, Power.” In the Eyes of Others. Ed. Caroline Abu-Sada. Doctors Without Borders, 2012. Print.

“Global Citizenship.” Global Citizenship. Web. 20 June 2013. <http://unai-globalcitizenship.org/global-citizenship>.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

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Midterm

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself” – Leo Tolstoy (88)

Being a global citizen means a number of different things. Global citizens believe that everyone on Earth should be given an equal opportunity to reach his or her fullest potential. It’s being able to view humanity as a whole, picking out what parts are better off than others, and working to level the playing field for everyone. Many people travel all over the world giving humanitarian aid to different third world countries in order to help those in need. This is the easier part though; in order to become an effective global citizen, one must adhere to a mindset where they truly believe in everything they work towards. They don’t judge someone based on their age, race, class, etc, because they see all humans equally. This is much easier said than done. Becoming a true global citizen demands a person to be in touch with their surroundings; it’s a full-time job that demands a lot of effort to successfully achieve.

A global citizen should be able to look at past aid projects to use as models for the future. Functionalism constitutes that every person’s action has a number of different positive and negative consequences that are manifested throughout society. Most times the negative functions, called dysfunctions, are latent until someone realizes them. For example, after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, people came from all over the world to help. One positive function was that thousands of people were provided food and shelter by these aid organizations. A latent dysfunction was the spread of malaria throughout the region that resulted from the Haitians being exposed to all sorts of pathogens their immune systems weren’t ready for (Polman).

The goal of a global citizen, when taking on new aid projects, is to act as a functionalist for the region. Ideally an aid project would have no corresponding dysfunctions, but that’s highly unlikely. A global citizen should be able to seek out the positive functions of a project and work to minimize the dysfunction caused by the project. Latent functions should also be used to the global citizen’s advantage in learning how to model future aid projects.

One major latent dysfunction that we’ve become more aware of in the past decade is the ethnocentrism of many aid organizations and how it affects the perceptions of those being helped. When going to another country and viewing their culture for the first time, it’s near impossible not to judge it based on one’s own. Ethnocentrism is a huge problem among humanity, especially with providers of humanitarian aid. MSF (Doctors Without Borders) recognized this problem of ethnocentrism among their aid workers and did a study on how they are perceived by other cultures, and how it affects their aid. Called the “perception project,” MSF did something many organizations and aid workers would be too afraid to learn about, let alone publish for the world to see. In Abu-Sada’s book, “In the Eyes of Others”, she brilliantly outlines, “what ‘we’ experience is not what ‘they’ experience” (Donini 188). There will always be miscommunication and bias when different cultures come together and exchange customs.

One of the greatest obstacles in becoming a global citizen is overcoming ethnocentrism. Everyone is born with a certain biases engrained in themselves. It affects the way we think, the way we process information, and how view the world around us. It’s not our fault – blame human nature. For example, as humans, when we meet someone new and we don’t like one of the first things we learn about him or her, we subconsciously begin to pick up on every small thing we don’t like about that person to model their personality around. “At some point you will encounter another culture that will drive you crazy, and it will not be pretty” (“Tales from the Hood”). Ethnocentrism is just another form of bias that a person needs to learn to cancel out when providing development assistance to countries with vastly different cultures.

The first step to becoming a global citizen is education, and then comes the service portion. To properly be educated, one needs to experience the world by working on a global scale with those less fortunate. It’s a catch-22, which is partly why it’s so challenging. It’s also a huge responsibility, and forces a person to see, first hand, how unforgiving the world can be to those in third world countries. It’s tough to stay optimistic as a global citizen, something Kenneth Cain struggled with a lot in “Emergency Sex.” Being able to look back on his past experiences, and past failures, helped him build a more positive future. “The very notion of global citizenship is a challenge: it suggests big responsibilities into a small world” (British Columbia). Even when they aren’t doing work around the world, being a global citizen demands that one weighs the large-scale consequences of their everyday actions. Global citizenship is a full-time job.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Febfj41cBmg

Anonymous. “Confronting the Demons Of Ethnocentrism.” Tales From the Hood. WordPress, 17 June 2011. Web.

Arcaro, Tom. “Beyond the Pledge of Allegiance: Becoming a Responsible World Citizen.”

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. “Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures.” London. 2004. Print.

Donini, Antonio. “Humanitarianism, Perceptions, Power.” In the Eyes of Others. Ed. Caroline Abu-Sada. N.p.: Doctors Without Borders, 2012. 183-92. Print.

Polman, Linda. War Games. London: Penguin, 2010. Print.

The University of British Columbia. “Defining – and Modeling – Global Citizenship.” – UBC 2004 / 05 Annual Report. N.p., 2004. Web.

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Humanitarian Aid’s Global Problem

Your money is being wasted. It was wasted a decade ago, it’s wasted now and it will continue to be wasted for the foreseeable future… unless you stand up and demand accountability.  This is the age of transparency; emails are hacked, confidential memos are exposed and whistle-blowers seem to be more numerous by the day. So how does a high profile, multi-billion dollar industry elude mainstream scrutiny?  Each election cycle there are countless hours of debate and media attention covering national debt, the education system and wealth distribution, three seemingly broken areas that cost taxpayers’ money.  The failure of the humanitarian aid industry struggles to reach this level of awareness because of money, corruption and geographic separation.

 

You may be asking yourself, “Why should I care about what happens on the other side of the world?”  If you care about your money being wasted then you should keep reading.  The USAID budget request for 2014 is $20.4 billion dollars.  Everyone knows about the national debt crisis at home, so wouldn’t it make sense to make sure taxpayer money is spent efficiently and effectively? USAID money goes to a variety of organizations across the globe, yet so many of these organizations lack accountability, underperform and in some cases prolong conflicts in other nations.  However, ill-advised spending isn’t the only reason you should care about the welfare of foreign peoples.  We are in an age of emerging global citizenship.  Limiting carbon emissions, conserving resources and protecting those who cannot protect themselves are only a few examples of how nations are acting together to better humanity’s place in the world.  Modern technology now gives individuals the ability to affect global welfare in a way never previously possible.  You can donate your time or money to the cause of your choosing, yet the reach of your resources and your nation’s resources are held back by the failings of the humanitarian aid industry.

 

aid_corruption-232x300

The aid organizations themselves mostly have grand, well-intentioned goals like “reduce world poverty” or “provide malaria medication to every child in Ghana.”  This idealistic, top-down approach is part of the problem. These types of abstract missions, ones that lack step-by-step specifics and attainable goals foster an environment of corruption.  Where is the accountability? There are reasons investors in publicly traded companies demand transparency: investors spend money and want to know how it’s being used and how that will further the company’s success.  Why, in an industry where preserving human life is the goal, is there less accountability and less transparency than literally any publicly traded company?

 

Political contributions to the corruption of the aid industry are readily apparent. Humanitarian organizations attempt to remain neutral in order be able to enter countries that might traditionally be hostile to their host nation.  This way people from an opposing nation can still help those in need.  However, this lofty ideal has been repeatedly pulled back to earth.  The fact that the US used humanitarian aid as a ‘force multiplier’ not only puts those humanitarians at risk for helping the military, but also ruins their perception as neutral in the eyes of other local governments that hold the key to opening the door for local aid.  Local governments can then use this as additional leverage to essentially charge tariffs for delivering aid to their domain.  Imagine you donated 1 dollar to humanitarian aid, but the local government charges you 25 cents just to get your money into the country. Linda Polman describes in her book, War Games, how local governments siphon off additional resources even after these entry charges.  All of these local and national political influences further corrupt and degrade the entire process.  Money is being wasted, but more importantly so is the ability to help those in need. So how have these corrupt practices escaped mainstream attention?

 

The media, a supposed bastion of objectivity, is the yet another step in this vicious cycle of deceit.  Polman writes of how amputees take off their prosthetics, look downtrodden and exaggerate their stories at the direction of the foreign photographers.  Why would the media do this? First, these sensational stories garner more attention. Second, the steady stream of stories provided by embedded reporters in these aid groups provide more value to the media than a large story exposing corruption in an industry most perceive as selfless.

 

I don’t know how to fix global humanitarian aid, but I do know that it is broken.  We need to demand more accountability from these organizations and the government.  I don’t like having my money wasted, and I certainly don’t like when those doing the wasting are fully aware of the problem and doing nothing to fix it.   This is an issue that affects every taxpayer, not just those that choose to donate.  We need to make this a mainstream issue before more of our money is squandered.

 

 

Anthony, Andrew. Does humanitarian aid prolong wars? The Guardian. April 24, 2010. Web. June 11, 2013.

 

Arcaro, Tom. Exemplary Global Citizens: Training for Trusteeship Address 2011. Elon University, September 2011. Web. 5 June 2013.

 

Israel, Ron. “Global Citizenship: A Path to Building Identity and Community in a Globalized World.” The Global Citizens Initiative. Web. 5 June 2013.

 

Kopink, Janice. Humanitarian Aid: Are Effectiveness and Sustainability Impossible Dreams? The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance. March 10, 2013. Web. June 11, 2013.

 

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. Penguin. London. 2010.

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Midterm

Everyday in this country we are given something that an overwhelming number of people in the rest of the word are not…a chance that we will see the sunrise tomorrow. Take a moment and make a list of what you are grateful for. Sure, you can jot down your family, a roof over your head, a job, an education. All of these are reasonable things to put on this list. But what do all of those add up to? The chance at living another day on this planet, without having to really ever worry about it. The standard of living in this country is absurd in comparison to a large number of the earth’s inhabitants.

Still Complaining?

So what can we do to help promote global citizenship and increase the chances that more people in this world have a chance to see tomorrow? It starts with education. Globalcitizen.org cites that 1.8 billion people are deprived of their basic rights and opportunities. The future lies with the people who have not yet impacted the present. It is essential that young people are educated in programs and awareness in turn that will affect them as they enter the workforce in the United States or other developed countries. Because of the current atmosphere of a global economy where borders no longer restrict what a business, corporation, or individual for that matter, can do to reach somebody; there is no reason why we, the people of tomorrow cannot affect the people that will be struggling tomorrow.

Once we have sufficient education on how to raise underdeveloped countries to a 1st world standard, we come to awareness. In much the same way that a business can be a global enterprise, a campaign to raise awareness can also be global. A good case study in the effectiveness of global awareness campaigns is Kony 2012. As of this writing, 97,805,419 people have viewed the KONY 2012 video on YouTube.

Kony 2012

The campaign’s goal was to make Joseph Kony famous enough, to raise enough awareness about him, in order to bring him to justice. While it only took four days for the video to garner 70 million views, Kony still evades capture. Can it be argued that this campaign was successful? Currently with almost 100 million views, awareness has no doubt been raised. But the goal of the campaign was to capture this S.O.B. This is where the link of raising awareness for global citizenship and actually being global citizens must be made in order for the movement to work.

The final step is implementation. Before executing the plan of increasing global citizenship, one needs to take a look at the steps other global plans took. The eradication of smallpox without a doubt is one of the greatest human achievements in history. A global killer, smallpox was declared dead in late 1979. Over 5 billion people on the planet had one less thing to worry about. From the early 1950’s till the end of the campaign, the World Health Organization vigorously implemented vaccination programs on every continent. Through the WHO’s efforts, the goal was reached before 1980. This proves that a global campaign, if strong enough can be successful. While the goal is not to eradicate a disease, it is to eradicate the perception that global citizenship is impossible.

This is possible. But it starts with the people of tomorrow. So be thankful while you read this, it’s up to you now to let somebody else.

 

-HCJ

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A. Nicot – Midterm: Is Humanitarian Aid the Real Danger?

This course is ostensibly about being a global citizen, but so far (we are about half way through the course), we have neglected to talk about any aspect of this except for the one involving humanitarian aid. Global citizenship is a concept tied in with so many other facets of the world we live in, and I believe it would be a shame to not explore these. Globalization is a force which is acknowledged by the world and is even encouraged by many, and global citizenship and similar initiatives and developments in society are just one part of globalism. Since we are learning about being a global citizen, it is imperative that we approach other topics than humanitarian aid in order to understand our place in the world and the roles we are to play. There are political topics, moral topics, philosophical topics, economic topics, social topics, demographic topics, environmental topics, and so many more that overlap with global citizenship, and they are unduly neglected.

So let us talk about at least one: global migration. Movement of peoples is occurring on an unprecedented scale across the world, both within countries (urban migration in China is the largest migration in human history) and from one country to another. Is this perhaps not the real danger which affects human cultures and civilizations, the more pressing danger, the more alarming change, and not the potential consequence of an misapplied humanitarian donation? I would propose that migration causes more problems than it solves, for either host countries or migrants themselves. The combination of cultural, ethnic, and geographic changes the migrant endures do not allow them to live entirely comfortable lives in their adopted homes and do not contribute positively to either the identities or the material well being of their hosts, be they temporary or erstwhile.

One possible reason migrations from the economic/geopolitical South to the North (as the issue is often framed) is encouraged by entities such as the European Union or the United Nations, and indeed national governments themselves (the United States of America always makes sure to encourage immigration from the “Third World” to European nations), is that such efforts relieve the global strain of poverty. While individuals may benefit, them and their families, on a purely personal level from economic migration, there is no accountability for the imposition on host cultures or on existing migration cultures in these communities, or any accountability for the drain presented on the countries they are “escaping” from.

http://youtu.be/LPjzfGChGlE

I would argue that migrants in a European country cause a primarily “spiritual”, identitarian malaise both within the countries they exist in and in the communities they form in these countries. Descendents of these migrants, given the fact that they are enabled and not divested of their previous identity, will not integrate culturally in their host country and so feel foreign to it, while they will feel foreign to their supposed “homelands” as well, since they will not necessarily speak the language fluently nor understand the cultural mores. These are just a few of the most basic examples of why it’s important to treat the harm that migration does onto future generations and a broader context of immigrant communities in Europe (an easy example to use, but one could also go into the issues the United States faces with it’s increasingly large Hispanophone population). One could also explore more in depth the issues that native Europeans face as a consequence concerning their own “spiritual” well being.

The point here is not even to argue explicitly for or against immigration from the Third World to the First, but to provide some very basic examples of issues that I find are more relevant to the well-being of all populations concerned as far as globalization is concerned. Humanitarian aid as an idea is recent and it is always a temporary solution at best, an inconvenience and crutch at worst, as we have seen in numerous cases in this class. However, demographics are an issue that determine the future, decisively, and cultural cohesion and conflict is a central issue in the Western understanding of civilization and human society. It would be a terrible shame not to cover these topics as well.

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The Global Goal

In todays world of fast communication and cheap entertainment, what does it mean to be a global citizen.  While definitions may vary slightly, I think there are a few core components everyone can agree on.  Most of all, global citizens are compassionate.  They understand the interconnectedness of the world and seek to end the suffering of all people.  Global citizens are curious and look to dig deeper into any problem they see.  Yet a global citizen does not spend their entire day on a computer, they get up and experience all they can in the world.  Global citizens want the world to be better.

This desire often manifests itself in the form of humanitarian aid in some of the less fortunate parts of the world.  The aid provided by countless workers because of even more charitable donations has saved millions of lives from disease, starvation and death.  The time spent in these less fortunate countries has resulted in a second colombian exchange of ideas and culture that has without a doubt made an impact on the world.

Yet not all is well in the humanitarian sphere.  The aid system currently has systemic inefficiency that is stifling efforts to alleviate the suffering of mankind.  As I see it, this crisis stems from two major disconnects; between the aid providers and receivers, and between the charitable organizations and those that donate to them.

I think that the first disconnect I touched on, between the receivers and givers, presents the most problems at first glance.  This disconnect leads to inefficient and ineffective care for the recipients and more money spent than necessary for the providers.  Aid workers come marching in ready to give out blankets and food yet rarely go to community leaders and ask, “what do you need?”  They pass out water bottles with their logo on it and build houses while Haiti is devastated by cholera that aid workers brought.  This leads to aid that doesn’t help and does nothing to prepare the local community for the long term.  As Teju Cole writes “A great deal of work had been done, and continues to be done, by Ugandans to improve their own country, and ignorant comments (I’ve seen many) about how “we have to save them because they can’t save themselves” can’t change that fact.” (Cole)  This complete lack of respect is not conducive to long term success and is certainly not conducive to short term efficacy.

 

While slightly breaking from the disconnect theme, there exists another major problem between providers and their recipients.  As Linda Polman writes in her book, Crisis Caravan, aid is often used a political tool and cash cow for local militant groups.  She writes that “In their evaluations, some INGOs estimated that on average militias stole 60% of all aid supplies being distributed, partly for their own use, partly to sell back to civilians in their camps.” (Polman)   It is permitted under the guise of impartiality, the noble notion that suffering knows no political affiliation.  Yet this once lofty value is now used by murders and warlords for their own personal gain and must be stopped.

The other major disconnect is between providers and those that fund them.  Beyond the inefficient use of supplies, there is a systemic corruption and misuse of funds at home.  A mainstreet.com article highlights the 20 most inefficent charities by their administration costs.  These range from 42 to 68% and include some of the biggest names in American care (Emerson).  Misuse of funds is unacceptable and seriously holds back progress.

This issue stems from the growing trend of slacktivism that we see in this country.  People are too easily sucked into the fast and glitzy entertainment of American TV.  They watch a quick video about hungry kids, send off 15$ and change their profile picture, confident that they are saving the world.  These people never think to research the cause of the crisis that they have so graciously donated to, much less the integrity of those they sent the money to.  Some argue that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to spend that kind of time learning about problems that are an ocean away.  I acknowledge that that can be the case, but I cannot buy into it for most people in the United States.  The internet puts us 5 clicks from almost any information we can imagine, including charitynavigator.org, a non-profit dedicated to monitoring charitable groups.  If we all spent 40 more calories doing our research, the aid system would be in a far better place than it is today.  

The bottom line is that all of this would be solved if we were all global citizens.  Sadly this is not the case, and I don’t even think I can call myself one.  But there’s hope.  Being a global citizen is something you strive for, its a lifestyle or pursuit of a lifestyle that involves compassion, understanding and engagement.  Its a desire to experience the world and a dedication to alleviating the problems of humanity.  It is the moon we must all shoot for, and a title I would love to have.

 

Works Cited

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. N.p., 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 June 2013.

Emerson, Greg. “Charities With the Highest Admin Costs.” – MainStreet. N.p., 1 June 2010. Web. 20 June 2013.

Polman, Linda. “The Crisis Caravan.” Macmillan. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2013.

 

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Going Global

Advances in technology provide us with many of the conveniences we have today. Smartphones, tablets, flights spanning the globe, and social media. We have access to the Internet at our fingertips and the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere, in a moment’s notice. It has changed the world as we know it, but still many people don’t understand their place in this new world. We are living in a global world and we have a responsibility to be a global citizen.

A global citizen is defined as someone who is aware of the wider world, takes responsibility for their actions, respects and values diversity, and is willing to act to make the world a better place (OXFAM). Anyone is capable of becoming a global citizen. It starts with moving out of our comfort zone and embracing what makes us different. Whether its race, gender, or nationality, we have to be willing to open ourselves to new experiences, embrace other cultures, and respect the differences. We must also be willing to lend help to those in need.

A common way of helping others, in a global sense, is through humanitarian aid. Monetary donations, volunteering our time, or donating clothing, food, etc. are all forms of supporting a humanitarian aid organization. There are various organizations that can use these items in order to provide aid on a global level. The United Nations (UN) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) are just a couple of examples of global humanitarian aid organizations.

While it goes without saying that any form of support for humanitarian aid has its benefits, we must also consider the consequences as well. War Games, In the Eyes of Others, and Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures are a few books that can provide insight into such consequences and the repercussions of those decisions. Each of these books offers a glimpse into what aid workers see in the field. War Games deals with aid in war zones or conflict areas, In the Eyes of Others with the perception of MSF among the aid scene, and Emergency Sex follows the lives of three UN aid workers through the 1990’s. These books are not meant to demean, condemn, or disinterest people from providing support for humanitarian aid organizations. They are eye-opening reminders that, as global citizens, we have to take responsibility for our actions. With the advance in technology, we have the access to make informed decisions before blindly supporting an organization or a cause that might not have been available in the past.

Humanitarian aid and being a global citizen can go hand in hand. However, being a global citizen doesn’t just entail being a humanitarian or vice versa. Technology has led to us to the world we know today and as it continues to advance, the more in touch with the rest of the world we will need to be. The decision is whether we choose to reject or accept the global world and become a global citizen and find where we bELONg in this new world.

Works Cited:

Abu-Sada, Caroline, ed. In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. N.p.: MSF-USA, 2012. Print.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Globalzerochannel, . The World Must Stand Together. 2013. Video. YouTubeWeb. 20 Jun 2013. .

“Humanitarian Affairs.” United Nations. United Nations. Web. 20 Jun 2013. .

. Médecins Sans Frontières. Médecins Sans Frontières. Web. 20 Jun 2013. .

Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.

SincerelyChrisandKim, . Its a Global World. 2013. Video. YouTubeWeb. 20 Jun 2013. .

“What is Global Citizenship.” OXFAM. OXFAM. Web. 20 Jun 2013. .

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The Difficulties of Becoming a Global Citizen and the Trouble with Humanitarian Aid

The term global citizen is a phrase that is full of contradictions. In its most basic form, a global citizen can best be equated to a humanitarian, which is defined as being someone who, “is devoted to the promotion of human welfare and the advancement of social reforms; a philanthropist.” (American Heritage Dictionary)

But in order to promote human welfare, one must be willing to share the plight and hardship of others, be willing to give aid and support, and yet never assume to know what is right for another culture, or intervene in a way that forces one’s own ideas and perceptions on another. It is here that we reach a dilemma, however, because isn’t the notion of humanitarian aid simply a product of privilege?

The philanthropic nature of humanitarian aid work means inevitably that it is the haves taking care of the have-nots. Those who have something to spare, whether it be their money, their time, or their talents, are the only people capable of giving aid. This means that any type of aid could be construed as insulting or an act of pity for those less fortunate. Humanitarian aid efforts often times inadvertently force western concepts and values onto the people under their care.

So then shut down every humanitarian aid effort around the world, right?

We wouldn’t want to come across as a bunch of condescending, over-privileged know-it-alls, would we?

Although we must certainly be cognizant of how our aid efforts are perceived by native populations; the fear of being viewed as intrusive or overbearing does not justify simply becoming a bystander to injustice and disaster.

This kind of laissez-faire approach is perhaps the easiest and most convenient conclusion to reach, but denying aid to those in need goes against everything that a true global citizen is supposed to stand up for: the preservation of basic human rights, and a shared connection with, and compassion for, every creature inhabiting our shared planet.

So then if completely cutting off aid isn’t the solution then what is?

The first step must be to address complicated issues that inevitably arise when one country sets foot in another and establish a humanitarian presence there. Most everyone can agree that humanitarian aid, as a concept, is a very just and upright cause. In action however, humanitarian aid often falls victim to the flaws and weaknesses that come with any group of people working together.

It is important that we not forget the “human” part of humanitarian aid. People will make mistakes. Preconceived notions will play a role on which decisions are based, or how aid is distributed. Some of these things are unavoidable, and no matter how much we may try to open our minds to other ideas and other cultures, some beliefs will always be at odds with our own.

This does not need to serve as an excuse however, because as Talya Zemach-Bersin, a Wesleyan student who studied in Tibet puts it, “We cannot be expected to transcend historical, political, social, and global systems of power in order to become cross-culturally immersed “global citizens.” We can, however, be asked to become internationally conscious and self-aware American citizens who are responsible for thinking about those critical issues.” (Zemach-Bersin)

This approach works well for certain smaller concerns, but what about when human life is on the line?

In “Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit,” (a book written by a disaster response manager under the pseudonym J.) there is a scene where an aid worker named Mary-Anne discovers that a young woman’s child is dying of an unidentified disease and tells the woman that she must, “Take her daughter to the MSF clinic in sector 1-A immediately.” (J.) The woman seems concerned however, and eventually reveals that she is worried because, “The clinic is far, it is very hot, and her husband is waiting for her to cook.”(J.)

Mary-Anne understandably is outraged that the woman would even consider putting dinner ahead of her own child’s life, and is unable to come to terms with this difference in culture. She demands that the woman take her child to the clinic and the woman eventually complies, but Mary-Anne made her decision based on her own cultural views, not through the lens of her patient’s perspective.

These are the instances where whether or not a global citizen is overstepping their boundaries become more blurred.

Another example would be when people with life threatening diseases choose to refuse proven methods of treatment and opt instead for traditional healers (Polman)- something Linda Polman describes as happening frequently in her book “Crisis Caravan,” – how can humanitarian aid workers provide adequate care while at the same time avoid forcing western medicine onto patients? Is it more wrong to let a person die of a preventable disease, or to force treatment upon them?

A traditional healer using heated horns as a remedy. At what point should a patients right to choose their form of medicine, even if it causes them to die, take precedence over the use of available and proven western medical treatment to save their life?

A traditional healer using heated horns as a remedy. At what point should a patients right to choose their form of medicine, even if it causes them to die, take precedence over the use of available and proven western medical treatment to save their life?

Humanitarian aid efforts both past and present should be viewed with a keen and discerning eye, but they should not be condemned outright. Much the same way a few instances of exploitation by the recipients of aid (such as when militias use aid to regain their strength and prolong war) does not mean that aid should be cut off entirely, just because becoming a global citizen is difficult, and often times hard to accomplish perfectly, one should not give up on their duty to helping others. So long as the central tenet of humanitarian campaigns, and the foundation for medical ethics, “first do no harm,” is upheld, then thinking globally, and acting humanely across the world will always the right decision.

 

Works Cited:

“The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.” Fourth Edition. 2009. Houghton Mifflin Company. Print.

Bersin-Zemach, Talya. “American Students Abroad can’t be ‘Global Citizens” March 7, 2008. June 20, 2013. http://chronicle.com Section: Commentary Volume 54, Issue 26. A34

Linda Polman. “The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?” New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.

 

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The Shift From “Giving” to “Partnering”

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In 2004, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General said, “The aid we give them is not charity, it is their right.” (Polman 144).  I believe that as citizens of this world, we are bound to our fellow global citizens.  We have a duty and a responsibility to act on their behalf when they need help.  When writing about my views on global citizenship, I said, “Part of the definition of citizenship states that a citizen should be loyal to their fellow citizens within the nation.  If someone is a global citizen, then they should be concerned for all the people of the world.  We have the responsibility to act on the behalf of our fellow citizens.”  This is the foundation of the humanitarian aid industry.  To make our effort valuable to this noble cause, we must make the shift from “giving to others” to “working with partners.”

“The consequence is that the ‘otherness’ of the humanitarian enterprise undermines the effectiveness of assistance and protection activities.” (Donini, Abu-Sada 186).  The effectiveness of aid is limited by how much the providers of aid can connect and establish relationships with the populations they help.  People receiving aid often perceive aid workers as people who are there to deliver supplies without establishing relationships, decreasing the value of the aid.  In her TED talk, Jessica Jackley urges the aid industry to interact with people in need in a way that “validates their dignity, validates a partnership relationship, not the traditional donor-beneficiary weirdness that can happen- instead, a relationship that can promote respect and hope and this optimism that together we can move forward.”

Sometimes we view aid as something we can check off our to-do list, something that makes us feel good.  Focusing on the fact that we are helping our fellow human beings, rather than giving food to some people on the other side of the world, can help us realize the value of aid.  Effective aid must be given in a partnership mentality.  Many Western humanitarian organizations could take a page from the Chinese book.  Working with people in humanitarian territories, the Chinese never use “the term ‘donor-recipient’…using ‘partner’ instead.  China believes that assistance is not unilateral, but mutual.  Both China and Africa appreciate each other and cooperate with each other.” (Anshan, Abu-Sada 127).  For example, while providing aid services in Africa, the Chinese will “usually help local doctors by offering free lectures, training courses, and operations teaching.” (Anshan, Abu-Sada 129).  In this way, the Chinese help the African people become self-sufficient, so that the relationships formed are not built on shipments of medicine alone.

None of us are free.

None of us are free.

None of us are free, if one of us are chained.

None of us are free.

And there are people still in darkness,

And they just can’t see the light.

If you don’t say it’s wrong then that says it right.

We got try to feel for each other, let our brothers know that we care.

Got to get the message, send it out loud and clear.

These lyrics to Solomon Burke’s song “None Of Us Are Free” perfectly expound the importance of humanitarian aid.  We are all tied together, and until we realize this, we are all trapped.  If someone on the other side of the world is suffering, it is our duty to do what we can to help.  That is our brother or sister, and we must act on their behalf if they are not able to do so themselves.

 

Works Cited

 

Abu-Sada, Caroline, ed. In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. N.p.: MSF-USA, 2012. Print.

Burke, Solomon. “Solomon Burke – None Of Us Are Free (HD).” YouTube. YouTube, 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 30 June 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFkmRp_G2uo>.

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 12 June 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/?single_page=true>.

“Global Citizens.” United Nations Association Greater Seattle Chapter. UNA Seattle, n.d. Web. 30 June 2013. <http://unaseattle.org/programs/global-citizens-2/>.

Jessica Jackley: Poverty, Money- and Love. Perf. Jessica Jackley. TED Talks. TED, Oct. 2010. Web. 6 June 2013. <http://www.ted.com/talks/jessica_jackley_poverty_money_and_love.html>.

Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.

 

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