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. <>.

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 12 June 2013. <>.

“Global Citizens.” United Nations Association Greater Seattle Chapter. UNA Seattle, n.d. Web. 30 June 2013. <>.

Jessica Jackley: Poverty, Money- and Love. Perf. Jessica Jackley. TED Talks. TED, Oct. 2010. Web. 6 June 2013. <>.

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


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