01 February 2011

Gates Makes the Case for International Aid

As a part of the Gates Foundation annual letter, Bill Gates gives a few short thoughts on some of the subjects covered in the letter.  To me, this is the most important as he makes his case for international aid saying:
I believe it is in the rich world’s enlightened self-interest to continue investing in foreign aid. If societies can’t provide for people’s basic health, if they can’t feed and educate people, then their populations and problems will grow and the world will be a less stable place.

Whether you believe it a moral imperative or in the rich world’s enlightened self-interest, securing the conditions that  will lead to a healthy, prosperous future for everyone is a goal I believe we all share.

One obstacle I have noticed when entering this conversation is that people within the industry call for it to remain (please excuse the broad strokes) while opponents will quickly point out that it is in their best interest to keep aid flowing as it provides a job.  In my very limited experience, I have yet to meet or speak with a single person who works within the field of international aid and development because it is just a job.  They have not worked themselves ragged to secure funds and provide interventions for the sake of keeping a job.  Self-interest does exist, but certainly not in the form of job security.  Just ask J:
The reality is that aid work is 99% supremely unsexy office work, usually carried out in supremely unsexy settings. Like offices. For every hour that I spend drinking tea with the noble savages, I’ll spend at least a month dealing with what Cynan very aptly describes as, “a grind of everyday issues and actions”, regardless of whether I’m in my cubicle in North America or under flickering fluorescent light somewhere in “the field.”
 That is not the kind of work that someone does just for a job and certainly would not lead many to ask for aid to maintain a part of governments.  How money is used and distributed is an entirely different conversation.  However, as Gates points out, it is in the interest of our national security to maintain aid and development programs.  It is no coincidence that volatile regions which threaten stability are also rife with poverty.