During the summer of 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic and the worst economic recession in living memory, you would be forgiven for thinking that the British media might have better things to do than whip up animosity towards people desperately fleeing war and persecution.

Unfortunately, you would be wrong for thinking that.

“I can see there are some women on board that boat as well; majority men…”

It’s become something of an annual tradition, when images of small boats making their way across the English Channel once again start to appear on our TV screens, to rehash…


Originally written for The Royal Commonwealth Society, October 2018

Trade is back on the agenda. Following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump in the USA, trade policy has moved from the fringes to the front and centre of contemporary geopolitical discussions. The erosion of the consensus around global trade was unthinkable even five years ago, yet it continues to unravel before our eyes. Discussions as to how this could have happened have become increasingly framed around the sinister rise of reactionary nationalism, as contrasted with the enlightened, forward-thinking proponents of free trade fighting to protect the status quo.

To some, for…


Source: Tasnim News Agency

The Rohingya Crisis continues to make headlines, as more and more evidence of shocking human rights violations comes to light. Gender-based violence has been prevalent throughout the crisis. ActionAid’s country director in Bangladesh spoke recently about her experience visiting refugee camps in the country, ‘to speak to the women and girls who have borne the brunt of the crisis in many ways.’

Many Rohingya women arrive in the refugee camps alone, or are now the heads of their families. In fact, it is now estimated that 70% of Rohingya refugees are women and girls. Reading the accounts of these women…


Global citizenship is under attack in the UK. Attitudes are hardening towards those living in poverty overseas, and it is becoming increasingly common for members of the public to suggest cutting the foreign aid budget as an easy way to generate revenue for public services. Watching any episode of Question Time or reading the comments below any online newspaper article on the subject provides ample evidence of this attitude shift in action.

It’s not just the assistance provided by the British government which is under threat; the entire international development sector has come under sustained attack by the right-wing press…


Originally written for Development in Action for the Foreign Aid FAQs campaign

There is a widespread belief that overseas aid money is either handed over to corrupt dictators and never reaches the people it is supposed to help, or is wasted on extraordinarily expensive projects which have little or no benefit for people living in poverty. These are perfectly understandable concerns — all public spending should be scrutinised and accountable to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best possible value for money. But do these accusations hold up?

During an episode of Question Time in January 2017, the former UKIP donor Arron banks declared that:

‘We have to start working out our…


Originally written for Development in Action for the Foreign Aid FAQs campaign

A common attitude nowadays is that people are rich because they work hard and deserve to be wealthy, whereas people are poor because they are lazy, feckless and incapable. Does this idea hold up?

Many people living in developing countries actually work far harder than their counterparts in the developed world. For example, Mexico and Costa Rica have the longest average weekly working hours of the OECD countries at 42.9 and 42.6 hours respectively. Compare this with the average working week in the United States of 34.4 hours, and in the UK of 32.3 hours.

People living in poverty aren’t…


Originally written for Development in Action for the Foreign Aid FAQs campaign

The fight to eradicate global poverty has been going on for decades. Yet despite all the money that has been donated and all the work that has been done, international development charities are still running adverts showing how horrendous the situation is in some countries around the world and asking for money to help. This is understandably frustrating — What on Earth did they spend all that money on if not to solve this problem?


Originally written for Development in Action for the Foreign Aid FAQs campaign

Widespread concerns about dodgy and unscrupulous overseas aid charities not sending donations where they’re supposed to have led some people to instead express a wish to donate money, clothes, food, etc. to those in need directly, thereby bypassing the charity ‘middle-men’.

These concerns have been fuelled by negative coverage of international development charities in the press, which has claimed that these charities spend a lot of money on wages and so hardly any of the money actually gets to where it’s supposed to. However, these claims are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what overseas aid charities actually do. In…


Originally written for Development in Action for the Foreign Aid FAQs campaign

It is without a doubt true that governments should help their own people. However, this phrase is often used to mean that the welfare of people living overseas is a problem for their own government to deal with and no-one else.

The problem with this idea is that the concept of each government having absolute responsibility for taking care of their citizens only really works if each state is equally capable of doing this. In reality, because of accidents of geography and the course of history, some states have more capacity to look after their citizens than others.

For example…


Originally written for Development in Action for the Foreign Aid FAQs campaign

Concerns about overpopulation, or the ‘population explosion’ as it’s sometimes called, are widespread at the moment. The logic surrounding these concerns is understandable — it seems as if there aren’t enough resources to go around in developing countries, therefore sharing them out amongst more people is only going to make the problem worse.

From this perspective, it appears that overseas aid is fuelling the problem of overpopulation by ‘artificially’ keeping people alive whose environment can’t support them, who then go on to have even more children whose environment can’t support them, and so on.

However, aid spending is actually helping…

Mark Normington

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