More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar in preparation for the World Cup 2022

More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar in preparation for the World Cup 2022

More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar in preparation for the World Cup 2022

black and white football net
Laoise Darragh
18th May 2021
 
 

 

The fact that migrants are being exploited in the building of the Qatar World Cup 2022 is not a new discovery. However, a recent report by the Guardian has revealed that over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar during the construction of Qatar World Cup infrastructure including stadiums, an airport, roads, public transport, hotels and an entire new city. The majority of these workers came to Qatar from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  

 

The Guardian report unveiled that an average of 12 migrant workers have died each week since 2010. The official cause of death in most cases was said to be “natural causes”.  Based on data obtained by the Guardian, 69% of deaths among Indian, Nepali and Bangladeshi workers were categorised as natural. Among Indian migrants, this increases to 80%. Despite the fact that almost none of these workers had prior underlying health conditions, the Qatari Government stated that “The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population. However, every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country.” 

 

As well as revealing the shocking statistics of the deaths of these workers, the Guardian report described a number of case studies of individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by the devastating data coming from Qatar. The family of Ghal Singh Rai from Nepal paid over €1,000 in recruitment fees for his job as a cleaner in a camp for workers building one of the stadiums. He took his own life less than a week after his arrival to Qatar. Ghal’s father had sensed that something was wrong and told his son to come home if he could not handle the stress and conditions of the job. Another worker, Mohammad Shahid Miah from Bangladesh, was electrocuted in his worker accommodation after water came into contact with exposed electricity cables. The family of Indian worker Madhu Bollapally cannot comprehend how the healthy 43-year old died of “natural causes” while working in Qatar. He had already passed away when he was found by his roommate lying on their dorm room floor. His family, including a 13 year old son, received around €1,300 in compensation and his salary was not paid. 

 

In an NPR Podcast Interview, the journalist who conducted the Guardian report, Pete Pattisson, explained that these figures do not include those who are injured or collapse on construction sites and died after they are taken off-site or those who die in road traffic accidents on the way to or from work in a company bus. He also explained that autopsies are very rare, and that although the long hours and extreme heat play a role in the high number of deaths, the picture is incomplete and there is more at play here. Often the workers live in terrible conditions in camps far away from work, with 8-12 people sharing a room. Pattisson described the World Cup as a “catalyst” for the history of abuse of migrant workers in the Middle East.  

 

Although there have been reformations of labour laws in Qatar that mean workers no longer need permission from their employer if they want to change jobs, the Shura council of Qatar have put forward a number of recommendations that would remove this and other reformations that have been put in place. In a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Amnesty International calls for FIFA to use their influence on the Qatari government to ensure that all of the proposed labour reforms are fulfilled. A spokesperson for Amnesty stated that FIFA “must act now to ensure that the 2022 World Cup is a tournament to be proud of, and not one tainted by labour abuses.” The European Parliament has questioned Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on his views surrounding the Guardian report, and what actions will be taken surrounding the report.  

 

“The company, which supplied grass for the World Cup in Germany (2006), the European Championship in Switzerland (2008) and the European Championship in France (2016), withdrew their services due to the inhumane conditions and human rights violations faced by migrant workers in Qatar.”

Dutch Company ‘Hendriks Graszoden’ was set to supply grass sod for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.  A spokesperson for the company explained that their decision to withdraw is “certainly a loss for the company. But sometimes you have to make a decision on ethical grounds. ”  

 

Football players around the world have stood in protest of the human rights violations evident in Qatar. Norway, Germany and Netherlands footballers have protested Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers. Norweigan players wore t-shirts stating “HUMAN RIGHTS” and “On and off the pitch”. The Netherlands team wore t-shirts with the words “Football supports change” written on them. German players wore black t-shirts with a letter each spelling out “HUMAN RIGHTS”. However, officials from its football association stated that it was opposed to boycotting the World Cup. Belgium manager Roberto Martínez  has also stated that boycotting the World Cup would be a “big mistake”. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) have been urged by Amnesty International Ireland and Bohemian F.C. to take a stance and put pressure on FIFA to use its position to protect migrant workers.  

 

Despite these protests and calls for reform, FIFA have not spoken up about this issue and migrant workers continue to be exploited and killed in preparation for the Qatar World Cup 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Shapelined on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Humanitarian Editor Amyrose + Programme Assistant Rachel

 

Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war

Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war

OPINION + WOMEN
Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war
Women and the military representation
parisa
Aoife Burke
4th October 2020
In recent years, the relationship between women and the military has become topical in countries such as the UK. In 2018 all positions in the British Army became open to women for the first time, and since then the army has been using increasingly feminist rhetoric in their PR and recruitment campaigns. However, during the same period, government reports and individual testimonies have shed light on the level of discrimination, abuse, and sexual harassment experienced by women in the British armed forces. These issues have fuelled important discussions on the compatibility of feminism and the military – or lack thereof. These discussions have been largely focused on the experiences of female soldiers, questioning whether army service can be empowering to women on an individual level. However, the stories of female civilians (the group that has historically been most affected by war) have been consistently left out of the discourse. Women who have witnessed the reality of imperialist military intervention and shouldered the true cost of war should be at the forefront in discussions about gender and the army. Instead, both historically and in the present day, female civilians in conflict have had their voices spoken over and their stories twisted and misused, for the benefit of imperialist powers.

 

As we can see in the British Army’s current PR campaign, particularly in their podcast episode with Laura Whitmore, feminism is being appropriated in order to paint military service as empowering to women. Another, perhaps even more dangerous way in which feminism has been misused is in the portrayal of Western military interventions as liberatory to civilian women. Both of these narratives are used to expand the military reach and both erase the lived experiences of women who have suffered at the hands of militarism. The image of Western military powers as an emancipatory force for women has been promoted for over a century, yet ultimately could not be further from the truth.

 

Historically, Britain and other European powers have attacked the rights and undermined the autonomy of women in colonised countries. In the process of colonisation, the social, legal, and economic structures of patriarchy were often forced upon native societies. For instance, in pre-colonial Canada, indigenous society generally valued women, and indigenous women often held leadership and decision-making roles. Furthermore, because of strong kinship systems, women were not economically dependent on men. However, colonial settlers ignored the position of women in indigenous culture, refusing to engage with female spokespersons and enforcing the patriarchal norms that had been well-established in Europe by that time. The lasting impact of patriarchal colonialism can still be seen in Canada today, where indigenous women face the highest rates of violence, poverty, and poor health.

 

“The image of Western military powers as an emancipatory force for women has been promoted for over a century, yet ultimately could not be further from the truth.”

The colonisation of Africa also saw the European ideals of patriarchy imposed on native women. The arrival of cash crops and the exclusion of women from the marketplace meant that African women generally lost power and economic independence during the colonial period. Because colonial authorities relied on the testimony of men to establish customary laws, the legal systems that developed under colonialism disadvantaged women. Furthermore, the pre-colonial political activity of women was largely disregarded and colonial agents worked exclusively with men in establishing political offices. For instance, in many parts of West Africa, associations run by and for women had deciding authority in disputes related to markets and agriculture. However, because these institutions were completely disregarded by European colonisers, they tended to lose power after the late 19th century. Overall, Britain, alongside other imperialist powers, has a long history of reversing the rights and freedoms of civilian women in colonised countries.

 

Despite this reality, the subject of women’s rights was used to defend British imperialism. This phenomenon relied on the portrayal of women in the Global South as victims, who need to be saved from their own culture by “civilised” Westerners. This paternalistic and racist narrative has been used time and time again to justify devastating wars and exploitative invasions, particularly in Islamic countries. As scholar Leila Ahmed discusses in her book Women and Gender in Islam, the late 19th-century British coloniser Lord Cromer used the veiling of women in Islam as evidence of the inferiority of Islamic civilisations, and ultimately as justification for the colonisation of Egypt. Lord Cromer actively opposed women’s suffrage in Britain and hindered the progression of women’s liberation in Egypt – yet none of this stopped him from using women’s rights as a pretext for his colonial endeavours. Disturbingly, a similar pattern is still playing out in the 21st century.

 

Since the early 2000s, Britain and the United States have used “feminist” rhetoric to help justify imperialist military invasions in the Middle East. In 2001, George Bush pushed the idea that war in Afghanistan would free “women of cover ” – reverting to the same patronizing portrayal of Muslim women that was used to defend British colonialism over a century prior. Concerningly, women were also complicit in promoting this storyline, with both Laura Bush and Cherie Blair being wheeled out to speak on the plight of Afghan women in the lead up to war – as though Western military invasions and bombing raids would somehow help liberate them. Yet in 2011, ten years into the war, Afghanistan was named the “most dangerous place in the world to be a woman”, with ongoing conflict and NATO airstrikes among the primary reasons cited. In a similar fashion, the narrative of rescuing women was used to legitimise the Iraq war. Bush repeatedly made vague, non-committal statements about women’s rights in the lead-up to the invasion. “Respect for women can … triumph in the Middle East and beyond”, he said in a speech to the UN in 2002 in which he urged action on Iraq. While Iraqi women were granted some benefits on paper during the war period, in reality, they were disproportionately harmed by conflict and left with less security and economic autonomy than before. The vast suffering of female civilians at the hands of British and U.S. military action highlights the utter emptiness of feminist language in this context.

 

George W. Bush gives a speech on war in the Middle East, focusing on the rights of women (videocafeblog, 2008)
The trend of world leaders appropriating feminism to sell militarism ultimately contributes to public ignorance about what war really means for women. According to the United Nations, war and conflict exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and leave women at a heightened risk of human rights violations. During conflict, women and girls are increasingly targeted through the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war. In late 2019, the British government and army were accused of covering up war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including sexual abuse. As well as a serious increase in the risk of gender-based violence, women are also disproportionately impacted by unstable access to essential services. Access to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, can often be disrupted during conflict, leaving women and girls at risk of unplanned pregnancy, maternal mortality and STI’s. Furthermore, due to additional domestic responsibilities and fear of targeted attacks, girls’ right to education is disproportionately threatened during war. Continued instability in post-conflict periods means that the threats posed to women’s rights can last long after war officially ends. These issues, and the immense suffering they cause, are too often swept under the rug in discussions about gender and the military.

 

In conclusion, despite the empty words of political leaders and the vague sentiments of military PR campaigns, war poses a threat to women’s rights throughout the world. The suffering of civilians has always been inherent in the military action of countries such as Britain and the U.S., and women have shouldered the brunt of this injustice. The use of feminist rhetoric in a pro-war context is not only hypocritical but serves to erase the experiences of civilian women in war, including those who have lost their lives.

 

Stay tuned for episode 3 of this series which will explore whether or not gender representation in the military actually promotes equality.

 

 

 

Featured photo by USA Today

 

Accepting and Adapting: A Note on COVID-19 Context

Accepting and Adapting: A Note on COVID-19 Context

Opinion
Accepting and Adapting: A Note on COVID-19 Context
berlin bar dublin wash your hands covid-19 2
olivia moore
Olivia Moore
3rd September 2020
 

2020 so far has been an absolute whirlwind – and not the good, refreshing, exciting kind. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown created a completely foreign world for people all over the globe, in which the daily practices and social norms we took so much for granted were completely demolishedWhen a system override of this magnitude happens, there is not much left to do but build again from scratch. 

 

This time last year, little did we think we would be in position of worldwide quarantine, rendered helpless at the mercy of a deadly virus. Even more socould we ever have pictured all that would go along with something that affects us and our lives to this scale 

 

This time last year, I would not have believed the fact that I would silently judge people for not wearing a facemask indoors in public.  

 

I would have thought it ridiculous that we all frequently wait patiently for forty minutes in a spaced-out queue right through the shopping centre just to get into Tesco to do our weekly shop, standing surrounded by deserted clothes shops and restaurants. 

 

I would have been shocked if I found out that, at different points in the lockdown, we could only travel 2 kilometres and 5 kilometres from our own houses, and only eventually be able to venture outside of our own county towards the end of the summer – and adhered to these rules. 

 

I would have been surprised (and probably delighted – praise the leg room!) if you mentioned that we were legally only allowed to sit one-per-row on buses and trains.  

 

When a system override of this magnitude happens, there is not much left to do but build again from scratch.”

I would never have thought I would be rolling my eyes at people choosing to go on or book leisure holidays abroad. 

 

I would find it utterly unthinkable that schools and colleges could take a six-month hiatus, or if I found out that I would matter-of-factly finish my final exams from my bed at 10pm. 

 

This time last year, I would have laughed if you told me that the European Commissioner was in national disgrace and was forced to resign after “merely” attending a Golf Society dinner along with 80 people in Galway. 

 

And yet, all these rules and all these instances we have just taken in our stride. Although it was certainly a shock to the system at the beginning, we got on with it. Now, most of us barely bat an eyelid; we keep an eye on the precautions and follow the rules, as if we have always lived like this. Throughout the coronavirus, the pandemic, and global quarantine, humans have proved themselves to be as flexible and adaptable as ever. A new world has been forced upon us – but we have created the new norms to go with it.  

 

 

Featured photo by William Murphy

 

The misogynistic reality of media interviews

The misogynistic reality of media interviews

The misogynic reality of media interviews

camera set up for interview
Emily Murphy

17th May 2021

 
 

From being asked about underwear and sexual relationships, to breasts, cosmetics and diet, it seems that being subjected to inappropriate questions is a standard procedure for women in the public eye. From the hills of Hollywood to the chambers of Parliament, misogyny rears its ugly head in the form of a media who incessantly seem to value the achievements of women based upon their physical appearance, their relationship status and their ability to balance family and professional life. 

 

For years, these professional, uninformed and outright sexist questions and remarks directed towards predominantly female interviewees were seen as the norm. All anyone has to do is watch the recent Britney Spears documentary Framing Britney Spears to get a grasp of the issue at hand. There were many shocking revelations made in the documentary with regards to the blatant misogyny Britney, and many other young female celebrities were, and still are, subjected to. Arguably the most disturbing moment was an interview clip with Dutch television personality Ivo Niehe and a then 17-year-old Britney Spears. During the interview, Spears was asked by Niehe to discuss her breasts because, as he informed the young teen, her breasts are something that “everyone is talking about”. Sexualised and objectified by a 52-year-old man, Spears’ monumental achievements and successes were diminished in that moment in favour of a wildly inappropriate conversation about her physical features.

 

In the wake of the Britney Spears documentary, interviews with various talk show hosts have resurfaced, demonstrating that sexism and double-standards during interviews is not an experience unique to Spears, nor is it limited to the early nineties. Several clips from David Letterman’s show The Late Show went viral and sparked fury amongst viewers. Perhaps most shocking was an interview Letterman had with Lindsay Lohan in 2013. Throughout the interview, Letterman made several attempts to pry into Lohan’s personal life, persistently prodding her about her journey with rehab and her “wild lifestyle”. Despite Lohan’s clear discomfort, Letterman continues to encroach upon intimate details of the actors’ life. While she remains calm and the two keep things relatively light-hearted, it is clear that by the end of the interview the relentless intrusion brings Lohan close to tears. But hey, all in the name of good TV, right?

 

The most alarming aspect of these interviews is that at the time, Letterman, and so many others who have done the same, escaped any form of accountability for their actions. He was not publicly criticised for his behaviour or glaring sexist comments and assumptions.

 

 

“Instead, Letterman was commended for his journalistic skills and for getting the “inside scoop” on Lohan’s personal life. No repercussions. No consequences. Just praise at the expense of a woman’s comfort.”

 
 

Scarlett Johansson is someone who has been at the receiving end of sexist interview questions time and time again, as she gets asked routinely about her attire, diet and makeup tips. In a press interview for an Avengers movie, Johansson’s co-star Robert Downey Jnr. is seen being asked a deep and thought-provoking question about his character’s development over the course of several movies and then, almost comically, Scarlett is asked immediately afterwards how she “got in shape” for her role. Most shocking perhaps is when Johansson was asked whether she wore underwear under her Black Widow costume for the Avengers movies. The same interviewer also made uncomfortable comments towards Anne Hathaway about how “form-fitting” her costume was for her role in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. The unsettling patterns of these interviews date back to as early as 1975 when Helen Mirren was asked if her “physical attributes” hinder her in her “pursuit of being a successful actress,” as interviewer Michael Parkinson states that having large breasts may “detract” from her performance. While today it is rare to directly hear comments like these thrown around, the truth of the matter is that these remarks have simply evolved to suit the times. As previously demonstrated, they may not be as explicit, but the thinking behind them reminds largely the same.   

 

Breaking away from the bubble of Hollywood, it seems that even the political realm could not escape sexism’s suffocating grasp. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has shown exceptional leadership since coming into office in 2017, in handling New Zealand’s deadliest terrorist attack which took the lives of 51 people, navigating a lethal volcanic eruption, dealing decisively with the COVID-19 pandemic, all while securing a landslide victory to guarantee her a longer term in office. Yet, it appears that gender-fuelled interview questions show no mercy, not even to New Zealand’s youngest ever prime minister. Only seven hours into her job, Ardern appeared on TV show The Project and was asked by interviewer Jesse Mulligans about her plans to have children. Less than a day later, the Prime Minister appeared on a different talk show where host Mark Richardson stated that the country has a right to know Ardern’s plans for having a family and taking maternity leave. 

 

“In the space of twentyfour hours, despite her success and historical achievement, Jacinda Ardern was reminded by two men that according to society’s standards, she was first and foremost a baby-maker and that her bodily autonomy was up for grabs.”

To some, the nature of these questions on the surface level may seem harmless – some throwaway remarks that do not run much deeper than a ‘bit of fun’. But this is a pitiful excuse used to cower under the glass ceiling of systemic sexism. The nature of the questions posed in these interviews perpetuate archaic, harmful attitudes towards women while simultaneously informing wider society that it is normal to objectify, sexualise and belittle women and their work in this way. Behind these questions are misogynistic assumptions of women’s roles in society and the hierarchy of their values. They reinforce the damaging idea that women should look a certain way or be a certain size, that they owe it to the public to discuss their private and personal matters. That somehow, they are public property.  

 

Female celebrities and politicians are not puppets that can be strung along by the mainstream media to perform in order to appease their viewership with superficial promises of scandal, gossip and personal life divulgence. They are real women, real people who are hard-working, committed and successful in what they do. The least they deserve is to be treated with human decency and acknowledged for their achievements. The fact that it took Britney Spears’ documentary being released to finally shed some well-needed light on the subject proves how deeply ingrained harmful gender assumptions and stereotypes are in society’s subconscious. While we may have succeeded in cracking the protective shell of these gender norms, we still need to learn how to shatter it.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Humanitarian Editor Amyrose + Programme Assistant Rachel

 

 

Kids in cages: Biden’s end to his predecessor’s policies causes surge in cross-border migration

Kids in cages: Biden’s end to his predecessor’s policies causes surge in cross-border migration

Kids in cages: Biden’s end to his predecessor’s policies causes surge in cross-border migration

US Mexican border
Emily Murphy

13th May 2021

 
 

 

“Kids in cages” is a phrase we are all unfortunately accustomed to hearing. The migrant crisis and border policies dominated Donald Trump’s presidency, and images of children crowded into tiny, wired confines have since been associated with the former administration. Throughout the past four years and the 2020 campaign, many, including Joe Biden, were incredibly vocal regarding their disapproval, calling for the closure of the facilities and the reunification of migrant families. Only a few months into his term, Biden has made the controversial decision to reopen many of the centers, citing COVID-19 and social distancing as the justification. The President has been accused of using the current virus as an opportunity to continue the policies he helped instigate under the Obama administration; but is this really the case or is Biden just cleaning up the mess that Trump left behind?  

 

According to the United States Border Patrol, the spring of 2014 saw an unprecedented rise in the numbers of Central Americans crossing into the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. When they turned themselves over to U.S. agents, many cited poverty, violence, and unemployment as the reasons for making the journey. It was not uncommon for many groups to include teenagers and children as people had been told by smugglers that having children present when crossing the border typically assured the avoidance of deportation and lengthy detention. At the time, those claims were accurate. By May of the same year, more than 4,000 people were arriving daily and Border Patrol was completely overwhelmed. The holding cells quickly filled and agents began using “sally port”, the areas outside the stations, as holding pens. At this point, it was standard to see women and babies left on concrete floors, in 95-plus degree heat (35-degrees Celsius) for several hours at a time. 

 

When the conditions at the McAllen station became public, the Obama administration quickly began expanding its capacity, building infrastructure to handle single adult men only.  In July 2014, the new “Central Processing Center” (CPC) opened. It was a large, air-conditioned warehouse with chain-link fencing partitions to maximize and designate space. The center quickly became known as “la perrera” or “the dog kennel” due to the industrial, livestock nature of the operation. The facility was criticized at the time, but when Trump instigated his zero-tolerance policy in 2018, there was an international outcry. The policy ended after only six weeks. When Trump declared that families would no longer be separated, smugglers began ensuring people that children were a passport to the U.S, and a new wave began.

 

“On 22 March 2021, Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar released images of a migrant facility in Donna. Some of these images included children sleeping on the floor under foil blankets. Concerns have been raised about the conditions of the centre, with activists suggesting that overcrowding and a lack of social distancing, as well as poor access to adequate food or soap supplies were major issues.”

Currently, the Donna facility is housing 1,000 people, and this follows a large increase in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border in the months since Biden has taken office. So far journalists have not been permitted to enter the facilities as they were during the Trump administration, however, lawyers representing the children, who have entered the facilities have described them as “cramped”. According to Cueller, migrants are supposed to be separated into ‘pods’ of 260 people, yet one of the pods in the Donna facility contained over 400 unaccompanied male minors. Cueller said that these children needed to be quickly moved from the facility into care and away from the “terrible conditions”. 

 

The surge in the number of migrants trying to cross the border has been blamed on Biden’s decision to end the policies put in place by his predecessor. Critics have said that this decision has only invited people to make the treacherous journey. Representative John Katko, R-NY, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, has said Biden’s rollback of policies that were working have “encouraged cartels to exploit the southern border”, and that the number of people being trafficked into America through Texas is only growing. While migrants have been turned away at the border due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is U.S. policy to take any unaccompanied minors into custody. These minors are to be placed in a migrant facility for a maximum of three days before being placed with a sponsor family, however, due to delays in the system, many children are spending significantly longer waiting for a placement. 

 

Many of the Trump-era facilities have been reopened at 100% capacity under the CDC (Center for Disease Control) advice, despite ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus disease, and the CDCs own recommendations that people remain two meters apart to reduce the spread of infections. As of 22 April, according to the New York Times, shelters for migrant children were 13 days away from maximum capacity. Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, has said that holding the children in the border camps is “in our view, the right choice to make”, the alternative being to send them back. The U.S. government has said that it wants to work with the governments of Mexico and Guatemala to address the poverty, violence, and other root causes of the mass migration. 

 

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy has blamed the conditions on the “mess and wreck” inherited from the former Trump administration, saying that the conditions are “better than what we saw in 2019”. It seems that this attempt to place blame has not shifted the attention of the general public, with activists continuing to lobby President Biden, calling for more action and a better response before the situation becomes any worse.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Humanitarian Editor Amyrose 

 

 

Philanthropy is great, but paying your taxes is better

Philanthropy is great, but paying your taxes is better

Philanthropy is great, but paying your taxes is better

hand putting red heart into box
Megan Carey

12th May 2021

 
 

My English teacher once told me “charity is not justice, politics is. Considering I was 15 and thought donating to a Trócaire box once in a while was my gift to the world, it did not register with me at the time. But now, it all makes sense. When we think of philanthropy, we think Bob Geldof and his Live Aid; we think of Chuck Feeny and his work with Amnesty; and we even think of U2’s Bono, who has involved himself in pretty much anything to do with giving back. Except, it seems, when paying his taxes. 

 

In 2006, Bono decided to move his tax affairs from Ireland to the Netherlands, and essentially committed tax avoidance. While you may put this down to his own personal choice, Christian Aid estimated that $160 billion is lost to the developing world when funds are moved from poorer countries to tax havens.  

 

This is a critical element that has been forgotten about in the narrative of poverty, a one-dimensional story of poverty, might I add, that makes us believe all African children aren’t educated, don’t have TVs, and have no quality of life at all except the strive to survive. So often, people refer to Africa as if it is one country and not made up of 54 different countries with different cultural identities. There is but one story we know of Africa and it was made up by us, for us. 

 

Don’t get me wrong – philanthropy saves lives. It creates awareness for issues that would never have made it to our media otherwise. It raises vital funds for people’s survival. It even assists in conflict resolution. These famous artists and creators that use their platform to spread an important social message is something people should always admire. The problem is it’s simply the wrong message. 

 

If you were to think about poverty, we often imagine a lack of funds for education, or perhaps lack of resources for healthcare, all originating from a corrupt government, civil conflict, or even resulting from environment disasters. However, the most detrimental consequence to the developing world is the unbalanced wealth distribution and extraction.

 

“Consider the 5:50:500 rule, in which $5 billion is given in voluntary aid, $50 billion is given in Official Development Assistance and $500 billion is taken from developing countries and handed back to developed countries.”

So, no matter the good intentions of these good Samaritans, who use their time and money to broadcast live events and massive projects that conjure up millions for charities, we still remain at only surface-level solutions. How do we become better and do better? 

 

This is the struggle. To become better global citizens, we must reflect on historical interventions of international aid. We must understand that throwing money at a problem only gets it so far. We must look at the aid that does work, like sustainable development aid, or development education programmes which provide new knowledge to these communities which our current approach is so deeply lacking. 

 

More often than not, we decide to help people without even asking what exact help it is they need. We think that we know best for communities we know nothing about. It is ethnocentric, and it’s wrong. Worse of all, people with privilege turn a blind eye to tax fraud or the movement of people’s investments to different accounts and countries. We brush it off as a mere business choice, but pay little attention to what it is actually doing to our world. It is making sure that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor and continuously widening the gap between these constructs. 

 

To become better, we must become  global-readers and become globally aware. We must understand the danger of single-sided stories by making ourselves aware that these narratives  are blocking us from recognising the true reasons why poverty thrives in our societies 

 

Yes, philanthropy is great. But paying your taxes is so much better. 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo created using Canva

This article was supported by: STAND Opinion Editor Olivia + Programme Assistant Rachel