Debate on aid and development


Madam, - Is Donal Conlon (August 9th), writing from Mozambique, seriously suggesting that we should stop sending aid to Africa? Like him, I am familiar with Africa. So when he makes a sweeping, derogatory claim that Africans have "low self-esteem" to back up his argument that aid organisations increase dependency, I can only presume that he and I have been meeting very different people.

More to the point, I know from personal experience that the very nature of how we work with numerous small partner organisations throughout the continent (indeed, how Christian Aid and similar agencies operate around the world) is both transparent and extremely efficient.

And yes, Mr Conlon, we have - with the help of our supporters in Ireland over the last 60 years - successfully empowered many of the very poorest of people directly to start living their lives with renewed dignity. - Yours, etc,

ADRIAN HORSMAN, Communications and Media Manager, Christian Aid Ireland, Dublin 2.

Madam, - Greg Rosenstock (August 9th) believes an opinion poll would show that a massive majority of the Irish people favour meeting or exceeding our target for aid spending. He is probably right. Unfortunately, a massive majority (composed of much the same people) might well also request more spending on health, education, public transport and many other things, while at the same time not being terribly keen on increased taxes.

While I agree that the Government should improve its assistance to the people of the third world (though I would lean more towards the methods advocated by Donal Conlon in the same edition), government by opinion poll would result in a raft of irreconcilable measures. A government must plan a package of policies, and not individual desirable goals. - Yours, etc,

JOHN HARVEY, Carndonagh, Co Donegal.

Madam, - Donal Conlon argues that Western aid to Africans can result in a "lack of belief that they themselves can achieve something", and that instead of empowering the people they help, aid agencies leave recipients with "an even greater sense of despondency" and low self esteem.

Self Help Development International believes it is essential to involve local communities and government agencies in the development process, and that a "bottom up" participative approach to project activities is crucial to long-term sustainability.

Our organisation employs no expatriate staff in the field, but instead recruits appropriately skilled indigenous people in the African countries where we work. A commitment to involving local people, providing communities with a very real sense of ownership of the development process, and employing local staff, can in a very fundamental way avoid the particular problems referred to by Mr Conlon. - Yours, etc,

GEORGE JACOB, Self Help Development International, Hacketstown, Co Carlow.