As a trustee of a charity, and one that has sent volunteers to visit the site in Kenya, it has been a very revealing time to watch the recent saga amongst UK aid agencies evolve. After being horrified hearing that Oxfam GB had covered up claims of sexual misconduct by their staff in Haiti it soon came to light that other aid agencies like The Red Cross, Save the Children UK, Plan International UK, among many other charities, have been caught in similar scandals. Even before this, British foreign aid has been a controversial subject, so I sit here posing the question: how effective is British aid in the developing world?
Most people relate to aid in terms of the government development programmes and annual fundraising on TV e.g. Comic relief and Children in Need, to mention a few. However, it is largely ignored that one of the biggest donors to the developing world is the diaspora community.
“Traditionally, first-and-second-generation immigrants have channelled their money home in the form of remittances - a $600 billion annual economy (World Economic Forum 2018).
The diaspora contribution is something that is hardly discussed and their views rarely heard. The aid given by them goes directly to support the needs of these communities as understood within a cultural context. The knowledge of this community is vital in dealing with issues at local levels. So with the benefits of cultural context on their side, the question remains, how do we get these stakeholders to be part of the discussion and decision making process for aid agencies? The World Bank research has shown that these communities are readily available to share their knowledge and this could be a bonus for this sector:
“Diaspora professionals - are people who share language, roots and cultural context - are best suited to offer their guidance and expertise, and the research shows that they are eager to do so” - World Economic Forum 2018.
It, therefore, looks like a promising decision to include the diaspora community within aid decision-making.
I first heard about Oxfam as a charity in the 1980’s whilst still living in Kenya. It has always been a charity I respect because of their bottom-up approach to working with communities. But now I wonder if such charities are best equipped and placed to understand the cultural nuance of the communities they serve? The loss of public trust both at the local level and in the UK will ultimately take years to rebuild. I now wonder, is their a future for Aid agencies is? These charities seem to have grown too big that the power dynamics have made them untouchable. It is evident as the perpetrators of these heinous crimes seemed to be so far removed from their moral duty to protect the vulnerable people they were sent out to serve.
Aid agencies have since signed a letter pledging ‘urgent and immediate measures, including more resources for safeguarding’ (BBC report). Which, while it does provide immediate relief to those concerned about the safety of vulnerable communities, it does not come without scepticism from me. It cannot be understated how much aid agencies have contributed to the welfare of communities in the past but this recent scandal has highlighted the problems with the western “saviour” mentality. Perhaps the diaspora community can provide a new model of aid giving that will bring forward a solution in overcoming the challenges within the development of communities.
So what do you think the future of aid is? Please comment below!