Dave Algoso, a second-year student at NYU Wagner, studying international development, sees problems with New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof‘s D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution and makes his own case for why amateurs are not the future of foreign aid. The full article appears in Foreign Policy.
Don’t Try This Abroad
Nick Kristof is wrong. Amateurs are not the future of foreign aid.
Many globally minded, can-do Americans these days have come to believe that the world’s major problems have solutions, and that these solutions are within reach. This feeling often leads to frustration: Why doesn’t someone just do something about these problems? Are the NGOs and foreign aid agencies lazy, incompetent, or both? Why can’t we end poverty?
Last weekend, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story about people who have taken matters into their own hands. The piece, Nicholas Kristof’s “D.I.Y. Foreign Aid Revolution: The rise of the fix-the-world-on-your-own generation” offered several aren’t-they-inspiring stories about Americans who have run off to save poor people in developing countries from whatever afflicts them. A woman from Oregon begins fundraising for community work in eastern Congo, and later shifts her attentions to conflict minerals. A recent high school graduate from New Jersey uses her babysitting money to start an orphanage and school in rural Nepal. You get the idea.
The stories sound lovely. I admit to feeling a little warm and fuzzy inside reading them. After all, this is what drives me to do development work: to make the world just a little better. (I study international development at New York University‘s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.) We all want to tell ourselves the story about fighting through hardship — each of these women made personal sacrifices for their work — to make the world a better place.
Unfortunately, such stories don’t reflect reality…