Why are people still starving?

The death of international development

‘Development’ has failed to deliver. The reason, Jason Hickel argues, is that development organisations have failed to address the structural drivers of poverty

International development is in serious crisis. Charities are worried about the fact that public support for development is waning – that people just don’t seem to ‘buy it’ any more. According to a recent report by the development umbrella group Bond, ‘Efforts to eradicate poverty appear to many members of the public to have failed, and scepticism about the effectiveness of aid and global development initiatives has risen.’ People are less and less likely to believe that foreign aid is some kind of silver bullet, that donating to charities will solve anything, or that Bono and Bill Gates can save the world.

What lies behind this growing scepticism? NGOs find the trend almost impossible to understand. As far as they’re concerned, development has been an outstanding success, scoring improvements in areas such as child and maternal mortality and inching us toward the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. NGOs want the public to accept that these piecemeal gains – however impressive they may be – are tantamount to overall success.

But the public isn’t going for it. On the contrary, people increasingly believe that, despite billions of dollars of investment in aid, global poverty is not getting better, and may even be getting worse. The development industry has repeatedly failed to deliver on its grand promises to End World Hunger or Make Poverty History – so why give them any more money?

This crisis of confidence has become so acute that the development community is scrambling to respond. Bill Gates’ most recent annual letter scolds the sceptics and enjoins them to accept that ‘by almost any measure the world is better than it has ever been’, a claim illustrated with handy before-and-after pictures. In addition to delivering reprimands, the Gates Foundation, along with a number of major organisations – including Oxfam, Save the Children, and ONE – has commissioned research to devise more effective ways to ‘market’ development to the public.

These efforts miss the point: development doesn’t need better marketing; it needs a total overhaul. The present crisis presents a monumental opportunity to allow development as we know it to wither away and leave space for the evolution of a new approach: an approach framed not in terms of charity but in terms of justice, and focused not on symptoms but on systems.

A failing project

As a general rule, most people don’t have a clear analysis of why global poverty persists, but they are correct in their assumption that it does. In fact, this intuitive assessment is more accurate than the official narrative. The Millennium Campaign has done its best to convince us that poverty has reduced dramatically over the past decades, but independent watchdogs have shown that this claim rests on statistical sleight-of-hand: the metrics have been massaged by focusing on proportions rather than absolute numbers, by shifting the poverty line downward in real terms, and by claiming China’s gains against poverty in the 1990s. But if we look instead at absolute numbers, and if take China out of the equation, we see that the global poverty headcount is exactly the same today as it was in 1981. And that’s using the Campaign’s own poverty line of $1.25 per day……

Read on at:-

Tenenbom sees all of this and is amazed, and eventually angry. He exposes diplomats who behave the exact opposite of how diplomats should act, journalists who don’t ask the simplest questions, and NGOs who pretend that they care about oppressed people yet would never, ever give a dime to a poor or oppressed Jew (or Egyptian or Yemeni, for that matter.)

The entire situation is quite literally theater, where everyone plays their parts and everyone denies the obvious - because the truth would destroy the illusions that so many people have invested their lives in. Tenenbom’s genius is to expose the obvious to the players themselves, who react with anger or denial. 

Their world is surrounded with like-minded unthinking drones and they cannot abide a truth-teller, often reacting by accusing Tuvia of being a Jew. It is very clear that they would not act the way they act  or say the things they do initially if they knew he was Jewish. 

(At one point, a Norwegian asks him “Are you a J-” and Tenenbom lets the question hang there for a minute before saying he is German. The man, who had claimed that he is there because of a long tradition of Norwegian care about the poor and downtrodden, then admits that his country collaborated with the Nazis and deported their Jews, who were presumably not poor or downtrodden.)

Every page has examples of malicious Europeans, lying Arabs and clueless (or self-hating) Israeli Jews. Here are only a tiny percentage of the many anecdotes that Tenenbom mentions - each of which would be worth an entire blog post or article.:

  • An Al Quds University professor tells Tenenbom that Israel won’t allow the university to paint a small spot on the ceiling, and hours later he sees that the Israel is allowing the EU to spend 2.4 million euros to refurbish a Turkish bathhouse in east Jerusalem.
  • As he walks from the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane, he sees the remains of thousands of Jewish gravestones lining the road, with Hebrew letters still visible.
  • Hanan Ashrawi says that Palestinians have lived there for “hundreds of thousands of years.” She also gets upset when Tenenbom asks her why the Christian population has diminished so quickly under PA control.
  • A PA spokesman, when asked for his definition of Palestinian culture, says “Tolerance and coherence.” Tenenbom then asks him why he cannot smoke in public on Ramadan. “It is about respect.” Tuvia then tells him that Ashrawi said that twenty years earlier, Christians could smoke on Ramadan in the daylight.
  • A Palestinian woman describes how Israel oppresses her but then mentions that she got free university education in Israel.
  • He relates to a Jewish liberal lady how intolerant the Arabs in Ramallah are, She insists that he is lying. He asks her how many times she’s been in Ramallah and the answer is zero.

Read full article here

I worked to send Dr. McKinney and a team of scientists to Nepal to check out the stability of glacial lakes at the foot of Mout Everest. They left last week, will trek for two months, and are cooridating with the Napali Army, USGS, USAID-Nepal, and some local NGOs. 

The government, communities, and scientist worry that several glacial lakes lost stability and could burst and flood villages below. The recent string of earthquakes may have damaged the walls of the natural lakes. The lakes were once giant glaciers. Hundreds of glaciers have melted in recent years, mostly evaporating and melting into rivers and ecosystems. Several melting glaciers, however, left behind lakes. Glacial lakes are dangerous as they’re held together literally by wall of rocks glued together by ice. These walls are called terminal moraines. If these moraines crack or break, the lake washes out and floods the valley below, often killing many people and wiping out small villages. 

Dr. McKinney’s work to assess the status of several new lakes is critical to the safety of the Nepali people.   

Viyana’dan ve Haziran’ın ilk gununden selamlar : )

Her ay yapmaya calıştıgım gibi yeni bir ayın ilk guneşini karşılamak için sabah 7′de düştüm yola, kaldığımız yerin 100 metre kadar ilerisinde tuna nehrinin üzerine yapay bir adadan kocaman bi park yapmışlar, oraya gittim. 

Allah’ım! Tam tefekkürlük bi yer! 

Şehrin içinde kuş sesleri duymak, bir banka oturup dakikalarca tunayı seyrederken dün uçaktan kalan sandiviçi kemirmek… Aslında huzur bulmak için ihtiyacımız olan şey doğada ama nedense daha “gelişmiş” olabilmek için kendimizi gri binalara gömüyoruz.

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Bugün çok şeker insanlarla tanıştım, gün içinde bir sürü şey öğrendim. Bir de kendi kendime şunu düşündüm, eger estonyadaki o berbat hostel, berbat organizasyon ve zekasında bi sorun olan organizatör kız yüzünden sonraki projelere katılmaktan vazgeçseydim çok şey kaybederdim. O proje (inşallah)yaşayabileceğim en kötü deneyimdi ve ondan sonraki projeler belki de bu sebeple hep “elhamdulillah ne güzel geçti” ile bitti

Birazdan Ngo’ya gidip cultural night düzenleceğiz, bir de kendi ngo sunumlarımızı yapacağız inşalllah

Şimdilik bana müsade, “tuna nehri akmam diyor” eşliğinde sunumun son düzeltmelerine çalışmam lazım : )

Join Fairtrade America at  Green Festival DC & Welcome Our New Outreach & Events Manager

Fairtrade America is growing! As the availability of Fairtrade certified products in the United States expands, we need more staff to help connect us with consumers and stakeholders. Margot Conover, our newest staff member, has joined the Communications team as Outreach & Events Manager. Coming to us from a public health NGO here in Washington, DC, Margot has experience in business development and grassroots organizing. She also spent two years working in Ecuador with smallholder sugarcane and cocoa farmers, helping them prepare for fair trade and organic certification audits and managing the internship and volunteer program of a local NGO. Outside of Fairtrade America, Margot sells locally produced pickles at a DC farmers market and is involved in a variety of social justice and sustainable food activities in the city. She’ll be working to empower consumers to advocate for Fairtrade products, hosting Fairtrade events, and connecting with partners in the labor and sustainable food movements. Her first big event will be this coming weekend, June 5-7, when she will represent Fairtrade America at Green Festival DC.

Green Festival, a national series of consumer trade fairs, showcases innovative green lifestyle products. For 11 years, Green Festival has been committed to its mission of “inspiring and empowering consumers, communities, and businesses to work green, play green, and live green.” Green companies come to the trade show to connect with their customers and educate the community on how to live a greener lifestyle one small step at a time. The show has something green for every aspect of life – food, pet supplies, clothing, cleaning products, energy, and more.  At Green Festival DC, you will also find inspiring speakers and workshops, live music and performances, green fashion shows, yoga classes, pet adoption, fun family activities, and plenty of free samples. Check out the full schedule of events here.

Fairtrade America is very excited for our upcoming participation in Green Festival because environmental responsibility makes up an important component of our certification. When you buy something with the Fairtrade mark, you help support farmers making enough money to stay on their land, empower younger farmers to continue farming in the face of increased urban migration, and promote practices that protect soil fertility and water resources. 

If Green Festival sounds as exciting to you as it does to us, stop by our booth next Friday-Sunday (June 5-7) at the DC Convention Center to learn more about Fairtrade certified products and to welcome Margot to the team! You can use Fairtrade America’s vendor code XDC15XVEA for $5 off your ticket price.Click here to buy your ticket. Attendees who bike to the DC Convention Center can show their helmets to receive FREE admission! If you’re not able to join us in DC, but are interested in learning about other players in the green economy, check out Green Festivals in other cities around the country – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and New York.  We look forward to connecting with Fairtrade allies both old and new at Green Festival.

Having worked out how to manage governments, political parties, elections, courts, the media and liberal opinion, there was one more challenge for the neo-liberal establishment: how to deal with growing unrest, the threat of “people’s power”. How do you domesticate it? How do you turn protesters into pets? How do you vacuum up people’s fury and redirect it into blind alleys?

Here too, foundations and their allied organisations have a long and illustrious history. A revealing example is their role in defusing and deradicalising the Black Civil Rights movement in the US in the 1960s and the successful transformation of Black Power into Black Capitalism.

The Rockefeller Foundation, in keeping with J.D. Rockefeller’s ideals, had worked closely with Martin Luther King Sr (father of Martin Luther King Jr). But his influence waned with the rise of the more militant organisations—the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers. The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations moved in. In 1970, they donated $15 million to “moderate” black organisations, giving people grants, fellowships, scholarships, job training programmes for dropouts and seed money for black-owned businesses. Repression, infighting and the honey trap of funding led to the gradual atrophying of the radical black organisations.

Martin Luther King, Jr. made the forbidden connections between Capitalism, Imperialism, Racism and the Vietnam War. As a result, after he was assassinated, even his memory became a toxic threat to public order. Foundations and Corporations worked hard to remodel his legacy to fit a market-friendly format. The Martin Luther King Junior Centre for Non-Violent Social Change, with an operational grant of $2 million, was set up by, among others, the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mobil, Western Electric, Procter & Gamble, US Steel and Monsanto. The Center maintains the King Library and Archives of the Civil Rights Movement. Among the many programmes the King Center runs have been projects that “work closely with the United States Department of Defense, the Armed Forces Chaplains Board and others”. It co-sponsored the Martin Luther King Jr Lecture Series called ‘The Free Enterprise System: An Agent for Non-violent Social Change’.

—  Arundhati Roy, “Capitalism: A Ghost Story”

Kenya’s first mockumentary takes on the NGO world

Finally, a new TV show exists to highlight some of the absurdities of the international aid sector. The slyly named The Samaritans is a comedy about the perils – and pleasures – of the “NGO world”. Created by a Kenya-based production company, it chronicles the work of Aid for Aid – an NGO that, in the words of its creator, “does nothing”

Armed with their billions, NGOs have waded into the world, turning potential revolutionaries into salaried activists, funding artists, intellectuals and filmmakers, gently luring them away from radical confrontation, ushering them in the direction of multi-culturalism, gender, community development—the discourse couched in the language of identity politics and human rights. The transformation of the idea of justice into the industry of human rights has been a conceptual coup in which NGOs and foundations have played a crucial part. The narrow focus of human rights enables an atrocity-based analysis in which the larger picture can be blocked out and both parties in a conflict—say, for example, the Maoists and the Indian government, or the Israeli Army and Hamas—can both be admonished as “human rights violators”. The land-grab by mining corporations in India or the history of the annexation of Palestinian land by the State of Israel then become footnotes with very little bearing on the discourse. This is not to suggest that human rights don’t matter. They do, but they are not a good enough prism through which to view or remotely understand the great injustices in the world we live in.
—  Arundhati Roy, “Capitalism: A Ghost Story”

“To live under neoliberalism also means to accept or submit to that bundle of rights necessary for capital accumulation. We live, therefore, in a society in which the inalienable rights of individuals (and, recall, corporations are defined as individuals before the law) to private property and the profit rate trump any other conception of inalienable rights you can think of.

The rise of advocacy groups and NGOs has, like rights discourses more generally, accompanied the neoliberal turn and increased spectacularly since the 1980s or so. The NGOs have in many instances stepped into the vacuum in social provision left by the withdrawal of the state. this amounts to privatization by NGO. NGOs thereby function as ‘Trojan horses for global neoliberalism.’ They tend to be elitist, unaccountable (except to their donors) and by definition distant from those they seek to protect or help, no matter how well-meaning they may be.

The universality presupposed in ‘rights talk’ and the dedication of the NGOs and advocacy groups to universal principles sits uneasily with the local particularities and daily practices of political and economic contexts.

This appeal to the universalism of rights is a double-edged sword. It may and can be used with progressive aims in mind. But the limited objectives of many rights discourses makes it all too easy to absorb them within the neoliberal frame. Universalism seems to work particularly well with global issues such as climate change and other such issues. But its results in the human rights field are more problematic, given the diversity of political-economic circumstances and cultural practices to be found in the world. Furthermore it has been all too easy to co-opt human rights issues as ‘swords of empire.’

—  David Harvey, ‘A Brief History of Neoliberalism.’

Arundhati Roy Discussing Funding, Capitalism and NGOs 

In this speech excerpt, Arundhati Roy describes the intersection between foundation and corporate funding, capitalism and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

The following text is an excerpt from Capitalism: A Ghost Story | Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare…. How long can the cardinals of corporate gospel buy up our protests? by Arundhati Roy. Published March 26th, 2012:

“Mischievously, when the government or sections of the Corporate Press want to run a smear campaign against a genuine people’s movement, like the Narmada Bachao Andolan, or the protest against the Koodankulam nuclear reactor, they accuse these movements of being NGOs receiving "foreign funding”. They know very well that the mandate of most NGOs, in particular the well-funded ones, is to further the project of corporate globalisation, not thwart it.

Armed with their billions, these NGOs have waded into the world, turning potential revolutionaries into salaried activists, funding artists, intellectuals and filmmakers, gently luring them away from radical confrontation, ushering them in the direction of multi-culturalism, gender, community development—the discourse couched in the language of identity politics and human rights…“

(Read More)


outtakes from shoot for hooligan mag with bao who took me to coney island for the first time.

photoshoots always feel weird because like, i’m a musician, i don’t mind being observed when I’m playing music because i’m doing what i do, but when someone’s taking my pictures while i’m not doing anything it’s like why are you looking at me? i’m not doing anything? what is my body?