Monday, June 19, 2006

Children in Danger From the UN

This past Friday, June 16th, was designated “The Day of the African Child” by UNICEF and the Board of the African Union. CNN dutifully ran an agitprop piece from IRIN, one of the innumerable sub-sub-bureaucracies of the Mother of All Bureaucracies, the United Nations.

The children in Africa are vulnerable, see? And it’s your job to pour money into the coffers of the UN, UNICEF, NGOs, and the like, in order to save these kids from the daily horrors they face. The implication being, of course, that the money will solve poverty, and solving poverty will save the children. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Does anyone besides Bill Gates, the Left Coast film industry, and those white SUV-driving NGO employees believe the boilerplate manufactured on “the behalf of children” by quasi-media outlets like the UN’s mouthpiece, IRIN, i.e. The Integrated Regional Information Networks? Does anyone have the bottom line total on the billions that have been wasted on behalf of the eternally exploited children? Is there any way to quantify the superfluous rhetoric and mind-numbing bloviation devoted to The Children?

In May 2005 there was a conference entitled Violence Study: West and Central African Consultations, the immediate purpose of which was to “train journalists” in their reporting on children. According to one speaker,

Parents, traditional village chiefs, organisations and the media must work together to maximise children’s participation and emancipation. [my emphasis]

So they’re not going to protect the children, they’re going to “emancipate” them. A brilliant idea, first current in the 1960s. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Children are immature beings who need guidance and protection, not liberation. That is, unless the speaker meant emancipation from the long interfering arm of the UN, with its collectivist agenda and its pedophile peacekeepers.

But that was May 2005. This year, African children get a whole day set aside in their honor. And why June 16th? Because it is the anniversary of the 1976 shooting of children protesting apartheid in Soweto. But why South African children? Because the white people were villains, perhaps? Why not pick something less racially fraught, and more historically honest? Yes, white South Africa’s government was shameful, but it doesn’t begin to compare to what black Africans have done to one another — or white people, for that matter — in the name of tribe, religion, ethic group, or race. Whites aren’t even in the same league. After all, they let Nelson Mandela live, for heaven’s sake. And does Desmond Tutu think he’s alive because of his fellow black Africans?

Never mind. The UN soldiers on, dredging up busy work for itself as The Children continue to be exploited, used, abused, and then disposed of. And who is better at that than the UN peacekeepers?

Child beggars in SenegalMeanwhile, the MSM wallows behind, picking up these stories the UN drops like handkerchiefs, and they retail this news as though it were Truth. Sad vignettes of abused, exploited children rescued by NGOs (presumably funded by the UN) are accompanied by factoids about the African environment vis-à-vis its children. All of this is in turn followed by earnest exhortation about the “obligation” to find out why there is an increase in domestic violence against women and children.

Here’s M. Jean-Claude Legrand, the regional director of UNICEF, pontificating about several problems that West Africans face:

Q: And what are the main protection issues facing children in West Africa?
A: Last year, a regional consultation highlighted four problem areas for children: that of domestic violence; violence in schools including in Koranic schools; child trafficking and harmful traditional practices chief among them being the practice of excision.
Q: Why is the issue of domestic violence particularly of concern in West Africa?
A: In other countries it is clear that in the post-conflict environment domestic violence against women and children increases. There is no data, so we cannot be sure that that is the case here, but a number of countries — Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau and others – are in a post-conflict environment. That makes it our obligation to find out.
Q: Why is violence in schools here different to other regions of the world?
A: In West Africa we are not talking about bullying or violence between children; the main concern is the issue of sexual exploitation of girls in schools by their teachers. Our studies have also shown that in some countries teachers use rape as a way of disciplining girls. We have found examples of this in Ghana, but it likely affects a lot of countries.

There is the problem of abuse of authority by headmasters and teachers – few countries in the region have developed monitoring mechanisms so parents and children have no way to complain and get redress. There is no enforcement of law. Often teachers are just moved on if there is a complaint, just transferring the problem somewhere else, not solving it. We need to make sure that schools are a safe place for children, not a place of abuse.

The situation of children in some Koranic schools is also of concern. Not all Koranic schools, but in some instances children are being recruited not to learn the Koran but to be exploited as street beggars. Senegal is the main example, but not the only one, where we can see there has been a distortion of an existing tradition.

This needs to be resolved by Koranic scholars who must work out minimum standards and a minimum curriculum for Koranic schools, including limits on time spent begging. Traditionally, children would beg a few hours on a Friday to learn humility but now they are begging eight hours a day seven days a week and getting beaten if they don’t bring back enough money. Children are being brought to Senegal from Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and other West African countries to beg on the streets and be exploited, linking in with the problem of child trafficking.

And M. Legrand’s conclusion about all this? It’s because “poverty is on the rise.” Well, duh. However, even M. Legrand has learned that attempting to eradicate poverty is not sufficient. As he lamely attempts to explain it:

We need legislation, and enforcement of that legislation and all the necessary social services.

Yes, he really said that. What he meant was — surely, he meant to say — that Africa needs a society of laws, and consequences for breaking them. The laws need to apply from the top down, starting with the kleptocrats and the bureaucrats and the fatcrats who siphon off Africa’s resources.

Africa most certainly does not need more social workers. Please, God, no social workers to further gum up the works. Africa needs another layer of do-good bureaucracy like it needs more malaria, another plague like AIDS, or New Orleans needs another hurricane.

Africa has many child-hostile traditions and practices. IRIN has the stories here, here, and here. You can read them if you want, but know this: You’re being manipulated by charity-porn, which is meant to elicit your guilt and separate you from your money. Yes, the suffering is awful, but donating to UNICEF won’t change that, and the illusion of helping these kids can only prolong their exploitation.

What would be the best thing for African children? To have the UN disappear.


C. Owen Johnson said...

Good post, but why the cheap shot at Gates? Have you actually studied where and how he donates and traced its effects? If not, you are just engaging in a pointless "me too!" attack on someone people "love to hate" for reasons that are almost always entirely juvenile and base. The Bad Guys do that. I didn't think we did.

X said...

Bill Gates's philanthropy is used to extend his business most of the time, not something I would call particularly ethical. Donations are either in the form of software licenses or come with strings attached, requiring that the organisations receiving the money use some of it to purchase microsoft software. He only started giving to charity after bad press about how mean he aws with his money. As a p[ercentage of his wealth, his charity giving is virtually nothing.

I won't knock charities for taking it. In absolute terms he gives a lot of money, but the reasons behind the giving and the strings he attaches make me disinclined to actually praise him for it.

Dymphna said...

Actually, Archonix, if Gates would stick to using philanthropy to extending his business, we'd be safer. After all,The Business of America is Business (Starling has a link up today that Gates is easing out of Microsoft...haven't read it yet).

The problems begin when he, or other mega-rich folks decide to save the world based on their skewed understanding of economics.

I recommend as required reading Pundita's blog. Here's an excerpt of a recent post and her link:

Gates’ general idea is that if there is a communicable disease that hits hard at the world’s poorest, and which might be conquered by throwing money at vaccine research and mass inoculations, he’s willing to invest megafunds in the vaccine development and innoculations.

Sachs’ idea is that wiping out extreme poverty is a matter of supplying all the things – education, agricultural support, etc. – that the poor don’t have, then giving them whatever they don’t have.

Kamen’s idea is that a mixture of entrepreneurship and innovation can wipe out global poverty.

As to why Pundita readers should take up an interest in such generalities -- first because the annual G8 meeting is just around the corner. The ideas of Sachs in particular, which are supported to the hilt by Kofi Annan, will make much of the fireworks at this year’s meeting.

Second, because this kind of charitable giving is globalized, which means that individual donors and private charitable organizations in the First World are interfacing with Third World governments in unprecedented fashion.

To boil it down, several American charitable organizations are in effect running their own foreign policy. This means the American government will be left holding the bag when the charitable plans fall short of workability.

Realize there is no way to halt the situation, which will have to run its course until it blows up. This is because Gates’ organization is throwing around too much money for anyone to say no.

For example, suppose you’re a cash-strapped pharma. (Learn that buzzword for ‘big transnational pharmaceutical company’ – plural: “pharmas” -- because it’s used a lot in the brave new world of poverty eradication as envisioned by Kamen, Sachs and Gates.)

Along comes Bill Gates and offers to invest megamillions in your pharma for doing research into a malaria vaccine that will work.

What are you going to say to Gates? “Are you smoking opium to posit a direct cause-and-effect relationship between malaria and poverty?”

No. You’re going to hail Bill Gates as a paragon of compassion.

And Gates’ charitable giving comes at a time when USAID and even the World Bank are happy to see any private organization, so long as it’s not run by al Qaeda or the commies, pitch tons of money at situations that have long been bottomless pits for foreign aid and development loans.

On the Road to Perdition with Bill Gates, Dean Kamen and Jeffrey Sachs

Pundita is a wealth of foreign policy information you won't find anywhere else...


I don't think my disagreements with Bill Gates' foreign policy decisions are "cheap shots" at all. Give him a decade or so to interfere and you may be taking aim at the results of his "philanthropy" yourself. Africa is already a chaotic sinkhole. He will make it worse.

What is particularly offensive to me is the fact that we have a cheap cure for malaria: eradication by DDT. We did it ourselves but now we don't allow DDT to be used because of the Greenies -- another interfering bunch of do-gooders. There are protocols for the judicious use of DDT that would solve the problem. IOW, we already have a solution which we won't permit Africa to use...

Dymphna said...


BTW, just because I dislike -- contemn, even -- the foreign policy of supra-nationals like Gates does not mean I am being juvenile in my assessment of his economic philosophy.

Please refrain from name-calling when you ask a question. I'll assume your good faith in asking the question if you frame it courteously. And you'll save yourself from the bruises that accrue from jumping to conclusions about my opnions.

You inferred something that wasn't there and then took a potshot at me. So that puts you in the league of those you complain about, no?

Exile said...

I am inclined to agree with the Baron. I have been in Kenya and Tanzania. I have seen what can be done with vey little sums of money going into the right hands. We have thrown billions at Africa, more than compensating for whatever we took out in the "colonial" days, and Africa is not much better off for it. So where does all that cash go?
Strange, that all those lands that need constant aid have large and well armed "security forces".
We need a more direct aid system that bypasses all the bureaucracy, thereby bypassing all the corruption.
Real support? Try adopting a single farmer or small business and support them directly. Put the money directly into the hands of entrepreneurs, not governments or agencies. Believe me, I have seen that it works.

Wally Ballou said...

Dymphna is right, of course. Just mentioning Bill Gates on the web tends to draw you into a bitter theological debate (a lot more people feel strongly about MS vs Mac than do about supralapsarianism), but the truth is that Gate's "ruthless capitalism" did more in real terms to improve the lives of people all over the world, than his remaining career of disinterested philanthropy, however well-inentioned, could ever accomplish.

The irony is, that Gates himself is very much a product of his places and times - a conventional liberal (affluent Northwestern background and prep school, early 70's Harvard) of the most uninteresting kind. He undoubtedly feels the need to redeem his socialist soul by devoting himself to good works.

Wally Ballou said...

No discussion on foreign aid and international philanthropy should be without this definition:

"transferring money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries."

I thought it was original with Maggie T, but she was actually quoting Peter Bauer.

I might only add that a lot of that money makes one more trip - back to rich people in the rich countries, as contractors or vendors to the third world bosses.

Exile said...

Pardon me, Dymphna. I must redirect my comment...

"I am inclined to agree with Dymphna.."

Not the Baron.


bordergal said...

Real support? Try adopting a single farmer or small business and support them directly. Put the money directly into the hands of entrepreneurs, not governments or agencies. Believe me, I have seen that it works.

Exile, any suggestions for organizations that do just that?

dirty dingus said...

That isn't the only way Africans get poor service from the UN. At my blog I've linked to a piece from a Kenyan blogger about the oddities in the definition of "indigenous" in the continent whence, basically, we sprang from.

dirty dingus said...

BTW don't knock Gates too hard. Now that he is going to be doing this philanthropy lark full time expect him to start concentrating on results. I really pity the NGOs that take his money and then piss it away without delivering anything. I also expect him to really lay into the UN when it starts doing the same thing.

Certainly his major charitable investments (e.g. vaccines) are precisely the sort of things that the UN etc. could have funded but didn't possibly because vaccinated children will tend not to require as much care and attention later on in life

X said...

I'm of two minds about Gates, which might have been reflected in my previous post. I do like rich people to be philanthropic, but I don't like Gates. He isn't a capitalist, despite what people say, more of a crypto-statist. And I would dispute that he's improved lives at all. It's been estimated that Microsoft's dominance of the market has held back real advances in personal computing by about 20 years, and it's only now that they're facing tough competition from third parties that the advances are being made again. I'll stop here because it's not so pertinent to the post, and I don't want to start a huge argument. All I will say is, nobody who has even a remotely christian morality should touch microsoft products unless they actually have to.

For the record, I don't own a mac. Never liked the UI.

bordergal said...

Exile-thanks for the response. However, I'm not going to be in Africa any time soon, so I need a proxy with local knowledge to link me up with people in need.

That's what the aid agencies do, and why we use them.

I think Christian Children's Fund, Mercy Ships, and the Heifer Project are pretty good at getting resources to people on the ground.