Monday, April 16, 2007

Nothing better to do

The Global Philanthropy Forum is one of those high-powered organisations that supports the international philanthropic community. It matches grantmakers to vehicles for overseas giving, and addresses international issues of concern.

At their recent Forum, President Clinton was one of the inspirational speakers. He closed his remarks with this thought:
Who needs to be involved in changing the world? You do. After all, you don't have anything better to do.

As he had spoken of the "unequal, unstable and unsustainable" nature of our world and exhorted us to consider the powerful contributions all of us can make toward building "integrated communities with empowered people," his final words rang clear.

I have also been listening to Jeffrey Sachs who is giving the Reith Lectures for the BBC. Transcripts, webstreaming and MP3 downloads are available here.

In the first lecture, Sachs points out that this year the US will spend $650billion on defence, compared with $4billion on assistance to poor African countries. He suggests that climate change is already causing famine and war, and he notes that throughout history, when people have to choose between starving or raiding their neighbours, they always choose to raid the neighbours.

He notes that while peace-keeping is part of the solution, a deeper part of the solution is to address the systemic factors that cause starvation. In the news today there are reports that the tussle between subsistence farmers and nomad grazers in Darfur is spilling over into Chad. Dozens of villages have been destroyed. Libya is stationing troops along their border in a bid to prevent raiders moving into that country too.

I wonder what would happen if the US directed a large chunk of its defence budget to providing basic resources as a foundation for sustainable living for Africa's most vulnerable people?

All in all, I’m glad to offer my assistance to a project like the School of St Jude, which gives free education to bright children from the poorest families. I really don’t have anything better to do.

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