Select an issue in the field of development- for example, trade, aid, gender, children Essay

Select an issue in the field of development- for example, trade, aid, gender, children- and discuss how the key development agencies have engaged with the topic over the past 10 years.

“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin” – Charles Darwin (

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In the year 2000, 80% of the world’s population lived in what is known as the poor south and over half of the world’s poor lived in Africa. In the last 25 years, Africa is the only continent, which has become poorer; and therefore questions must be asked as to how this has happened.

Economists are quick to provide a variety of reasons for Africa’s lack of development over the previous 25 years including; borrowing money, growing cash crops, dictatorship, fighting, population growth, land ownership, climate change and dirty water- yet there is no mention of the human cost involved.

Darwin therefore may be correct in calling this lack of concern or justice as he sees it, “our great sin”.

It is this sense of injustice in the world, that has lead to the formation of various development agencies, or non-governmental agencies as they are known, whose purpose when formed was to highlight the extent of poverty in the world to those individuals (namely government officials) that could make a significant difference. These groups have become the leading figures, which presently assist in the combat of social injustice, poverty and supply both long-term and short-term aid to those countries that are less developed.

This essay, will therefore discuss how the development agencies of CAFOD, Christian Aid, Trocaire and Oxfam, non-governmental organisations which have all had a considerable influence on the domestic development of impoverished communities, have engaged in supplying aid to these communities over the past ten years.

With decreases in the contribution of government aid from major countries, such as the US, China and Germany- more responsibility has been placed on the non-governmental organisations to help put in place a means by which, those communities effected by poverty are able to sustain existence and develop a way which they can break free from the poverty cycle. (See appendix 1)

The type of aid supplied by these organisations can be described in two ways, long-term aid and short-term aid.

Short-term aid is that which is supplied to countries in most need after a natural disaster, and involves providing money, food, blankets or whatever is most urgently needed.

Although voluntary agencies such as Christian Aid, supply emergency aid, it is usually linked to efforts by the local community and would involve making sure the community had the means for their long-term development. Long-term aid provides the opportunity for the people receiving it to rebuild their lives, better than before and this is mostly carried out through education- because as the poverty cycle shows, an injection of quality education can help break the cycle.

The following is an extract from Trocaire’s website, and describes how they provide short-term aid in emergencies, which then leads to long-term support;

“At all times, Trocaire’s emergency and rehabilitation work is designed to build upon the existing capacities of local communities.

Together with a partner from the area, we work quickly to develop an appropriate proposal for emergency intervention.

Rather than the expense of importing emergency supplies from Europe for example, in so far as possible, all necessary inputs are purchased locally. In this way the local economy is supported and partners and communities become actively involved in the emergency relief effort. They develop long-term capacity which they can draw upon again into the future.”

A recent example of Trocaire’s operation is during the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. Through its local partners on the ground, Tr�caire made a long-term commitment in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Thailand. Tr�caire has also placed staff in Jakarta, Indonesia to manage the unprecedented �29.1 million that was donated following the disaster. Long-term recovery and reconstruction is the main focus of Tr�caire’s work in the tsunami affected communities of Asia.

Over the past decade Trocaire has been involved in numerous projects, mostly involving countries residing within the continent of Africa.

“Trocaire has been working and responding to emergencies in the region [Kenya and Somalia] since the early 1990’s and operates from an East Africa Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya.

In an immediate response to the current drought, Trocaire has established schools and therapeutic feeding projects in Somalia and general food distribution programmes in Kenya.”

In 1994 Trocaire opened its regional office in Mozambique, immediately helping in short-term with the food shortages among the communities in the north of the country, Trocaire then moved to develop on agricultural extension services to increase productivity, so to provide jobs for the local community and a structured economy for the country as a whole.

Trocaire are not the only non-governmental organisation to make an impact on overseas countries over the past ten years; CAFOD engage also in similar projects, and are supported primarily from the citizens of England and Wales.

CAFOD over the past 10 years have worked with more than 500 organisations worldwide to combat poverty. Though a diverse range of development work, CAFOD is helping communities build a better future for themselves.

One beneficiary of the work of CAFOD and its partners has said “What you are giving us is worth so much more than money. You are helping us to stand on our own feet” (Vicente Gomez Gutierrez, Coffee Farmer, Chiapas, Mexico)

Oxfam, another non-governmental agency has been engaged with development, most notably in the Southern Caucasus, responding to both humanitarian and development needs, since 1993. Oxfam and other development agencies have witnessed situations in which poor people have proven capable of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. For example, primary health-care projects, funded by Oxfam, have given people access to essential drugs and basic healthcare in places where health services previously provided by the State have collapsed.

Oxfam also provides micro-finance projects in the region of Southern Caucasus, a community initiative which make available loans and training to help poor people to engage in small businesses.

Christian Aid is another example of a non-governmental organisation that has been actively involved in the development of communities overseas in impoverished countries during the past decade. Their work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002, which caused terrible disruption in the Goma region after a volcanic eruption, is only an example of the work they have carried out over the past 50 years.

Christian Aid has also had a huge role to play in the development of India since its formation, and during this period, life expectancy has doubled and infant mortality halved.

It is, obviously important to acknowledge the importance of the work these agencies have carried out over the past decade, but it must also be recognised that without the support of the worlds governments, even if they’re contributions seem minimal in comparison to they’re GNP- their role is more important and influential than all the non-governmental agencies combine.

The majority of aid comes from governments, public institutions or international agencies and is known as Official Development Aid. About 75% of ODA is aid given by one country’s government to another.

The government’s reluctance to cancel the debt of all impoverished countries has been heavily criticised by all non-governmental agencies. A possible reason behind this may be more to do with the revenue gained from the interest repayments, rather than the fear of these developing nations becoming dependant on the “hand-outs” as apposed to “hand-ups”.

With the rise of globalisation in this modern age, governments have never had a better opportunity to combat poverty, yet as Gerard McCann rightly points out, “…they can see no profitable reason for a war on poverty, or an axis of deadly diseases to attack” (McCann, G, & McCloskey, S, 2003. P. 294).

This sense of greed, because essentially that is what it comes down to, the want for more-whether it be power or money- takes away from us, our sense of humanity. As John Berger puts it…”The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied…but written off as trash. The twentieth century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing”

In conclusion, the non-governmental agencies of CAFOD, Christian Aid, Trocaire and Oxfam have lead the way over the past decade successfully, with the help of various other organisations in the fight against global poverty. The combat of poverty, if it is ever to be completely successful, must be supported by all on a global scale, which would include the powerbrokers of western society, however the fear is that a war on poverty will never come about, while the leaders of such nations are wholly focused “on “making the pie higher” as President Bush called it in his own inimitable manner”(McCann, G, & McCloskey, S, 2003. P. 294).

Reference List


Bartlett, S, and Hart, R, Satterthwait (1999), cities for children- Children’s Rights, Poverty and Urban Management, London, Earthscan Publications

McCann G, and McCloskey, S, (2003) From the local to the Global, London, Pluto

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