Should We Stop Giving Money To Other Countries?

Should We Stop Giving Money To Other Countries? » Propeller

I have been unable to get a straight answer from any of the local politicians that represent my district to a simple question. How much money is spent each year in foreign aid. Foreign aid to make sure other people of other countries get the medical treatment they desperately need. Foreign aid to building housing. Foreign aid to give food to those that are hungry. Foreign aid to build schools to educate their children.

Why is the United States trying to take care of other nations when it can not take care of its own people. We allow so many foreigners to come into our country both legally and illegally and we support them. The government helps them realize the ‘Great American Dream’. Yet that same dream is out of reach of the average American today. Scholarships are given to those coming here to study, when many of our own children can not read let alone pay for a college education.

A take on the aid business

Aid is all about helping the people getting the aid – right?

Not quite. Aid is a business, like charity is a business.

A week after the tsunami there was this woman on TV saying – please just send stuff, dont come here. Why? She said all the five star hotels were booked up and all the taxis had been booked up for months. So life was becoming difficult. Fair enough you say – but lets look at this situation in this way: aid is about employing people to go off to the far corners of the world, travelling business class and stay in five star hotels. Aid money is need to pay for these expenses.

Suppose you want to build a room in a slum in India using aid money from Australia. Here is what you would do. You would get people in your country to draw up the proposal and drawings. The  you would make a budget and go to a sponsor, charity or Aid agency to ask for money. What the aid agency will see is this – money to be paid to the project team in, Australia, for them to travel, pay for accommodation and to hire a research assistant. The since a report has to be submitted at the end some costs to do prinouts, cartridges or supplies and photocopies. Lets say you ask for 20,000 AUD – how much will actually be left for the room? Less than 50%. This is good business for another reason – you get to use volunteers so you cut out personnel costs. The money saved from this goes to the construction budget right? Ummm doesnt have to – it can pay for ‘necessary’ stuff.

If its a business who gets to make profits? You work that out.

Now lets look at the big picture – the total global aid project is worth 130 Billion US (see story at the end of this post). Half of this money is meant for the donors – so an infusion of 65 Billion. Good for the economy!

The above focussed upon the business strategy of ‘consultants’ and ‘experts’. That is not all that aid does – the story gets even more murkey – see what Oxfam and ActionAid are saying about aid.

Remember we ( all of us who supported charity) have destroyed the future of whole swathes of the planet’s civilization. Its too late for some. And ye we keep at it – and call it good intentions.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Global aid ‘failing poor nations’

Only one-fifth of global aid is actually going to the world’s poorest countries, say humanitarian agencies.

Oxfam and ActionAid, in a joint report, accuse the wealthiest nations of failing the poor with a “self-serving and hypocritical” system of aid.

They say up to 40% of aid is “tied”, forcing developing countries to buy overpriced goods from donor countries.

Philanthropy » Public Foreign Aid

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently issued a report summarizing the foreign aid activities of its 22 member countries – which includes all of the major foreign aid donors. A group of British PhD candidates who blog on International Political Economy give a very good rundown of the main points.

They focus on the fact that the major donors are not on track to meet the aid targets they set a the G8 summit in 2005. At that time, donors agreed to increase aid to $130 billion (for all donors) by 2010. As of now they are about $38 billion short of that goal.

The report also provides this chart, which tells us how much each OECD member is gave in 2007 as a percentage of their own gross national income.

On aid and charity

I was at a presentation of a project in India – funded from Australia and built in a slum in India. Very good yes?

But I listened to speaker explain the project – mainly the technical process – so far so good. Then the talk veered towards the narration of the experience of interacting with the people. Yes it was said that they were so friendly – you know Indians are so friendly. Such friendly people – and in case you haven’t got the point – really friendly people. So this was the ‘noble savage‘ take on India. I was beginning to feel I should not have been there. This for me is an aesthetic problem – its about feelings. I am like many others who cant stand the patronizing tone of the ‘expert‘ when they talk about ‘the other’. But these were architects – and so technical people, so they cant be expected to have a sophisticated take on the history of Aid and on the ‘missionary’ discourse. We will leave this for now – as I am a bit sensitive to hurting someone who is (was?) a friend.

Today I went on to the web and tried to find a out a bit more about the project and landed up at this blog – Bholu. I looked at it and was appalled – this is one face of fair trade and CSR – and one way to live a fulfilling life in Australia. I start a shop in Australia, and I get the things made in a developing country – its a business. I then say I am ethical – so I give back to the community by getting corporates to distribute toothbrushes to the slums and then I build child care centres. Good so far? Yes a fantastic livlihood project. And the text in the blog is enthusiastic – so simple, and gently patronising.

But I am not happy – nay irritated. For no I will leave this as a problematic discourse. I will leave you with an excerpt from an interview with Michael Maren – the author of a Road to Hell.

Michael Maren: The Might Interview

I had this picture of development and aid workers being often insufferably pious, a little sanctimonious about what they do. Sure, they inhabit this special zone of privilege, but at the same time, they view themselves as deliverers of a kind of civilization.

Well, it’s missionary work, essentially. The thing is, it’s more than pious. There are some really good people out there doing aid work, but I have to say-and this mostly comes from experience as a journalist-that without a doubt, some of the most sanctimonious assholes I have ever met in my life, some of the worst people, and I mean really bad people, work for charities and aid organizations on The ground.

Melting Human Flesh

This one is for Barbara – I was at this public event and someone comes up to you and says, ‘hey that thing, that bunker thing. I am watching that space for ideas’. It felt good. For the faint voice is committed to stay hidden and only talk about the small and the hidden.

If you have been reading the papers in Melbourne – I have collected the first ten days of the papers – you will see a few things happening, I will open up and explain what the ‘experts’ are saying. Now remember I am not an expert, just a voice (and a faint one at that).

What did the fire department person say? The stay and fight policy has to be reviewed – should we go the way of California and forcibly evacuate. Then we must not build in the bush – period. Not worth the loss of life and the continuous bushfire fighting that the CFA has to do.Head of bushfires inquiry abandons stay-and-defend policy | Herald Sun

THE head of the Royal Commission into the Victorian bushfires has already abandoned the stay-and-defend policy as fires rage near his property at Daylesford.

What did the Architects and Town Planners say? They told me bunkers – were such a knee jerk reaction. We need new building codes and building regulations for building in the bush.

Bushfire tragedy rewrites rules for architects – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

But at the same time, architects are starting to wonder whether any building could be safe in the sort of fires seen over the weekend.

We must avoid “knee-jerk” building: bushfire architect

Taking appropriate design measures might minimise the future damage from bushfires, but Victoria should avoid a “knee-jerk reaction” in rebuilding, Tim Whitefield, MD at the Collingwood-based practice Whitefield McQueen Irwin Alsop told Architecture & Design.

What did the politicians say? A bit of everything. Sometimes this sometimes that.

Bushfire management: where to from here – On Line Opinion – 13/2/2009

In the longer term I would hope for an honest admission that large, horrible bushfires are a consequence of failed policies, failed leadership and failed administration (at all levels), plus the fact that Australians still do not realise that the Australian bush is designed to burn. I have seen enough of politicians, academics and government agencies in my time to doubt any real admissions of failure will be made.

PM playing politics with Victoria bushfires disaster | The Australian

KEVIN Rudd has dragged politics into the Victorian bushfire disaster to put pressure on the Coalition to pass his politically charged $42 billion economic stimulus package.

What did the forrest department say? They said the environmentalists have caused this – by not lettig us do controlled burning. Or that we must control nature and not have pristine natural habitat. You would have seen Bob Brown on TV saying no – this is just a simplistic statement of the greens position. That they never advocated ‘do not touch the forrest’.
Greenies blamed for Victoria bushfires’ scale | The Australian

THE green movement was yesterday blamed for the severity of the Victorian fires that cost so many lives and ruined so much property.

And so it goes. Or in Vonnegut’s words – poo wee tweet.

This stuff I have reproduced below is the other fear that bunkers are not safe for they can be traps. And some have pointed to Dresden as an example- especially citing Vonnegut’s account where he says; “As the heat intensified, they either disintegrated into cinders or melted into a thick liquid–often three or four feet deep in spots.”. Well that is not a good example to cite. Dresden was a special case and not a fire storm at all. See the link below for the full story – or better still go out and buy Slaughterhouse Five.

The WWII Dresden Holocaust – ‘A Single Column Of Flame’

Others hiding below ground died. But they died painlessly–they simply glowed bright orange and blue in the darkness. As the heat intensified, they either disintegrated into cinders or melted into a thick liquid–often three or four feet deep in spots.

Shortly after 10:30 on the morning of February 14, the last raid swept over the city. American bombers pounded the rubble that had been Dresden for a steady 38 minutes. But this attack was not nearly as heavy as the first two.

However, what distinguished this raid was the cold-blooded ruthlessness with which it was carried out. U.S. Mustangs appeared low over the city, strafing anything that moved, including a column of rescue vehicles rushing to the city to evacuate survivors. One assault was aimed at the banks of the Elbe River, where refugees had huddled during the horrible night.

In the last year of the war, Dresden had become a hospital town. During the previous night’s massacre, heroic nurses had dragged thousands of crippled patients to the Elbe. The low-flying Mustangs machine-gunned those helpless patients, as well as thousands of old men, women and children who had escaped the city.

When the last plane left the sky, Dresden was a scorched ruin, its blackened streets filled with corpses. The city was spared no horror. A flock of vultures escaped from the zoo and fattened on the carnage. Rats swarmed over the piles of corpses.

A Swiss citizen described his visit to Dresden two weeks after the raid: “I could see torn-off arms and legs, mutilated torsos and heads which had been wrenched from their bodies and rolled away. In places the corpses were still lying so densely that I had to clear a path through them in order not to tread on arms and legs.”

Bushfire management: where to from here – On Line Opinion – 13/2/2009

To me, the most fundamental question is not whether we will have bushfires in the future. Of course we will. This is Australia, not the soft green hills of England. The real question is what sort of fires will we have.

2009 project

Theme: Social Innovation and Service Design

My practice is in the area of sustainability – which I articulate as the development of projects that look at material and systemic sustainability in Industrial Design Projects. A lot of these projects are speculative and propositional so located in the future. I work with a set of defined methods and strategies to think through the projects and develop the solutions. In recent years I have seen the amplification of the social dimension in my projects – and I have also seen the outcomes of the projects as social innovations. Often I have seen the projects become new, viable and self sustaining business ventures – which are social entrepreneurship ventures. I campaign for a dematerialised world and therefore privilege service design – which in recent days has seen me move towards interaction design which is needed in the development of and delivery of services.

And …
I see two kinds of students in the studio. One with clear projects ( developed in Research Methods) and others who can; one, quickly come up with a project idea in the area of sustainability, or two, work on a project within my Urban Laboratory research grant project. This latter is titled NGINGO and is a cluster of projects making up a full scheme for a ecologically closed-system university campus – this is a live project.

Therefore the topic spread will look like this:
1.    Individual project
2.    Ngingo Project (12 design projects)
Key aspects
1.    Student allocation: my preferred option is student centered and therefore student selects.
2.    Calendar – Week 3 (end research), week 6 (at risk check) and week 8 for closure (presentation of digital finals), week 8 to 15 is for execution/ making.
3.    Deliverables – digital-model, folio-report, 3D model-prototype
4.    Day – Thursday Morning
5.    Project – Individual project or Themed studio (Ngingo)
6.    Learning Contract – the student specifies their schedule (3-6-8-15)
7.    Online record (developing a byline) – wordpress ( this is web2.0 and develops students’ online publishing capability), firefox with addons (scribefire, delicious, vodpod)
ProBono Design (campaign 1)
Additionally – All students would volunteer for a design submission for a bushfire-safe bunker – full scheme to be submitted in week 2. This is something they do alongside the project – and is something I am doing with Architects for Peace.

This is the subject of a UL grant application and is a cluster of concerns in the area of modelling sustainable solutions. Sitting behind the application is a live project for a university campus in India – thus a potential trip to India to present the work/ exhibit it(sem 2 NID exchange student will work on the exhibition design ).

1.    Ecosphere (6 projects) – AUD in context, description of the campus environment in India
a.    No sewage pipe – extreme water use challenge
i.    Clothing care
ii.    Washing, cooking and cleaning
b.    Zero waste – no garbage out of campus
c.    Energy – self sufficiency
d.    Food – Urban agriculture
e.    Subterranean bunkers – cool room
f.    Transport – No personal vehicles and sharing
2.    Social Innovation (3 options) – entrepreneurship incubator
a.    Food – Local food, student food
b.    Health
c.    Sharing
3.    Car and car sharing (1 option)
4.    Bushfire Bunker (1 option)
5.    Diabetes (1 option)

Thesis Samples

You have to come up with a thesis at the end of your year and it may look like what I waved at you in class. These are examples from students who did their final (diploma) projects with me in 2008. Ask me to show you the hard copy.

The Writing Project – assignments list

The trick is to write early and keep writing as a thinking tool. Below are the writing tasks the student will be required to do over the coure of the year.


  1. Need statement (what is the problem, why is it an interesting problem, what is the design angle to the problem, and how is it different from what others would do): 1500 -2000 words
  2. Ways of immersion – ways of doing research, and why you have chosen to do it this particular way (explain method): 1500 words with PERT chart, process charts
  3. The research document – discuss what you found and what it meant: 5000 words, or 5 essays of 1000 words each. Images and endnote bibliography.


  1. Solution Mapping (ANT description of your area – what is going on, who are the actors) – discuss in 1500 words with network maps
  2. Annotated concept development (Exploration): Discuss each concept in 250 words min. 10 to 15 concepts – 2500 words
  3. Your final solution discussed in words: 1500 words


  1. How are you taking your idea forward – what is your intervention? Describe in words – 1500
  2. What is the result of your intervention – describe in words – 1500


  1. Demonstrate your project – as valid