>Catastrophe looms, and the solution has to be bigger than Live Aid.

>Do you remember the crisis in East Africa that prompted Live Aid? Live Aid brought tremendous benefits. But it was only ever going to be a temporary solution. Now we are faced with a problem even worse than before.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says famine is going to be worse than ever! And where does the famine strike? Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Central Africal Republic.

What do you think should be done? Is this the world’s problem? Africa’s problem? Or just East Africa’s problem?

6 comments

  • >In the fact that it efects so many countries it is impossible to argue that these problems stem from mismanagement. This is 100% the world's problem and we need to act together to fight it. We need to create a a fund similar to the Marshall Plan. Under the Marshall Plan the US gave large grants to European countries, and total aid amounted to over 2% of GNP. Today, we pride ourselves on a commitment to 0.7% of GNP from the world's richest countries. Economists like Jeffrey Sachs say we can achieve the end of poverty on merely 0.7%, if they are realised. But we are not matching this promise. Instead, in the light of such disasters rich coutries are being even less generous than usual. The UN's World Food Programme says it has only $24m of the $300m needed to feed hungry Kenyans over the next 6 months. And if these Kenyans cannot afford to feed themselves, how can they help themselves? Could they pay for an education? No. Could they find a job? No. They are in a poverty trap.I say we need to commit not 0.7% but 1.2%. If such an amount was entrusted to a UN body from every rich country then we could solve not only the problems of the poor countries but also of the rich.The present recession has occured in part because of the world political and social culture at present. Both at government level and on the high street it is seen as ok to get into copious amounts of debt. Every single G7 country entered the recession in debt, after one of the world's biggest booms!If UN institutions such as the IMF and World Bank were entrusted with funds enough to always keep some aside for a rainy day (and were forced to do so by international law) then they could continually invest in poor countries and at the same time maintain capability to support rich ones when they enter a period of crisis. Had the rich world received an injection of capital when the recession was beginning, along with advice for reform, then perhaps we could have avoided this recession and brought a true end to 'boom and bust politics'.If we do not act together then the disasters in East Africa and the world economy will re-occur, perhaps even being worse next time. How long must we wait before action is taken?

  • >I agree that something radically needs to be done to stop this humanitarian disaster in the making. I also agree that this is the world’s problem and that those of us in the developed world have a duty to provide for those in the developing world. However I do not believe that creating a central body to distribute this kind of aid with an arbitrarily appointed staff and policies is the answer. I am no Economist and no mathematician but having a quick look at the figures on the internet. In 2007 the worlds GDP was aprox $54.62 trillion the 1.4% of this would be aprox $1.95 trillion. According to economy watch the UK GDP for the same year was $2.773 trillion think of how worried we are about who is looking after this money especially now in the current climate. What you are suggesting is the centralization of a vast sum equal to 71.4% of the GDP of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to a body completely without regulation (who can regulate the UN the world’s regulator) and in the hands of completely unelected people. Let’s just try to imagine the amount of administration required to handle this amount of money. The sending it in budgeting then sending it to the correct place. I don’t know what the solution is one possibility (not sure how feasible this is or how difficult it would be to organize administrate etc) is each country pledging the money for example the 0.7% already pledged or robs 1.2% then the united nations acting as a central hub directing where it should go and what it should be spent on. This could then be agreed by the democratically elected officials from the donor country. With a possible stick of trade sanctions for those who do not meet there commitments. What do people think is this a good idea as I said before I am not an economist, I am also not a politician, Dietitians do not often have to think about where the money comes from just how to spend it.

  • >Firstly, I said 1.2% not 1.4%. Also, I did not mean to imply the creation of a new, arbitrarily created body with no accountability. I believe that such world treasury functions can be established from reform of existing institutions, or at worst the creation of a new body within the UN.The UN is already accountable to the world through the General Assembly, but you are right to worry about the UN's management. The people of the world have a very small, indirect power over the UN. And neither do we recieve much information about them. As part of a new set of reforms I recommend that some direct accountability is established, and direct democratic links forged to people all the way around the world.You have to remember that International law, the media, and the scrutiny and advice of every country's best economists would also guide this money. International law would regulate the body, and ensure that a reserve is always kept in case of emergency. The advice and scrutiny of the best economists, bankers, etc in the world would steer our money in the right direction. And the direct democratic links, together with renewed media interest and priveleges thanks to the reforms, would ensure accountability and combat corruption.Next, what about the administration needed? There would be no additional administration needed for financial purposes. That framework is already in place to handle the 0.7% that states have already committed to. The only extra administration would be to handle the new democratic links. But I think you'll agree that such links, the associated reduction in corruption, gain in accountability and increase in global education is well worth the price.Your new proposal is in effect the same one in existence today. And while it is very similar to that that I proposed, it is not enough. If we spent the money wisely we could do great things. But although spending all the money could get the world out of poverty, it does not solve solve the cycles of booms and repressions in the world economy. By keeping some funds in reserve to spend during natural disasters, or at the beginning of economic slumps, we can help not only the poor but the rich as well.In addition, giving the donor countries control over where the money is spent is a mistake. They should absolutely input and advise. If they object to how money is being spent they could even threat to remove their finances, so they will always have a bargaining chip. But history has shown us that we need a central organisation that can see the big picture, knows exactly where to invest, where the real problem areas are, and how to prioritize without pandering to the money seeking whims of the rich (when the rich donated in the past, money has usually gone in the way of loans with huge interest rates). The accountability must be directly to the people. Only that way can the UN be effectively accountable, and people be comforted about the aid.

  • >first i got my summs a little mixed up and i apollogise as I said i am not an economist all the maths i do these days is based on set out formulae. However i feel the general principle stays firm we would be giving vast sums of money to unelected people.First for the walming comforting notion of the worlds best economists and bankers looking after this vast sum of money. Please note it is the advice and scruteny of the best bankers and economists who have got us into this current economic depresion. All G7 countries who are supposed to be the most advanced with the best people started the recesion in debt what does this tell us? Do i trust them to look after a massive pot of money and not to make mistakes? No i dont i would much rather spread the risk arround the world not concentrate it in one place.You sujest setting up some democratic system. How exactoaly would you propose to give these new democratic links? A direct election is out of the question as the cost would be to high and to difficult to organise, the only solution i can think of is voting in the general asembely, but wate there is a problem the general asembaly is not an elected house it is basicaly a forum for bargening. Surely under this system the bigest most powerfull countries will hold sway for example if you look at the US aid agency it directly says that one of its goals is to further US foreign policy this is one ethos that may be transfered to the new body in this system.I never said give the donor countries control over where the money is spent i said have a central body tell them where to spend it or face investigation leading to possible sanctions. This body could be set up within the UN and be guided / regulated by a council made up of the heads of major humanitarion charities e.g. cafod, chirstian aid, oxfam, save the children etc who have direct experience and expertiese of bringing aid and development to the developing world. This would ensure that the money got to where it needed to go whilst staying under direct control of democraticaly elected persons.

  • >On the matter of giving money to unelected people, some manner of democracy already exists. Most world leaders are elected in some manner. And the General Assembly of the UN, made of world leaders, is the main body of the UN. However as I said in my previous comment I do agree that the UN lacks democratic links. I do not propose that we simply hand over our money to the UN and say 'it's yours to do what you wish with'. Greater financial contributions need to be made in return for: new democratic links with every willing country; a UN assisted crackdown on corruption within the UN; new media rights to ensure greater education and accountability; new international law guiding UN action, ensuring that some savings are kept to deal with disasters/recessions and that recipient countries have a say in where money is and isn't spent.As to the criticism of the General Assembly, the Assembly actually uses a system of 'One Member One Vote'. So in actual fact the third world wields a far greater power in the General Assembly than does the US. However the US does wield an unjust level of power in the UN as a whole, and addressing this problem must be a matter of negotiation for the UN member states themselves. It will be a difficult problem to solve as the US holds this power A) because they are the most powerful country in the world; B) because the UNHQ is in the US; and C) because the US gives a huge amount of funding that can be withdrawn. But remember no money would be going to the US or even the General Assembly directly. Perhaps the answer to this problem is to means test each country for contributions to this fund so that the US gives more money to the fund and therefore is rightfully able to claim more when/if they enter the next recession. You must remember that money spent on the US economy (as the biggest economy) helps the world in ways that spending on no other country could.See next comment (I rambled on a bit too much)

  • >As for your doubts about whether democracy could work on a global scale I admit that this would be one of the greatest and therefore hardest achievements of all time. However every single time a new democracy has arisen, even dating back to the ancient democracy of Greece, people have said that democracy could not work. We do have the money and it can work! It will create jobs and therefore stimulate the world economy, and it does not have to cost a great deal. The form this new democracy takes does not have to adhere to existing structures. We could even ask for only one representative for every 14 000 000 people. This would mean near to 500 representatives. We could even ask for volunteers to count the ballots so that each country is entrusted to deal with its' own elections, and local people only get to vote if they are able to organise some volunteers to help. Sure we'd have difficulties, but is that any reason not to try?As for you argument that spreading money about is more risk free than consolidating it in one place, it is. But the same argument goes on every level. Do you think we should take all money from the state and give it to councils or neighbourhood watches? Do you think we should disband all big banks and only allow neighbourhood control? Or perhaps this too is too risky? My point is simply this: you cannot blame this recession on the world's best bankers and economists, for most have done nothing but help. If you want to level the blame somewhere then level it at our economic structure. It is an inherent feature of capitalism that fiscal cycles cause booms and slumps. Competition and risk taking are also inherent features of both our world economy and society. This is precisely why I am proposing changes to the structure. Without these changes the recession will come again. And believe me without the world's best economists and bankers the next recession will be a lot worse! Your point is valid in that we need to ensure we do not give too much economic power upward. But we must also ensure that we do not give too little! And as for your ideas about the heads of major humanitarian charities taking some part in the decision making I absolutely agree, as long as that body can ensure that the big economic picture is always taken into account and that charities from different areas stay in full communication with each other for reasons of transparency, help and agreement on prioritisation of aid.

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