Thursday, December 06, 2007

Give a little bit

Interesting post over at Passport, Foreign Policy's blog, asking the question that I'm sure has been on all our lips at one time or another: What if America was more like Sweden?

Dara has just realised their Humanitarian Response Index, and the US is ranked a pretty dismal 16 - about halfway down, but still beating France and Japan (they are very tight with aid).

Predictably, Nordic countries take out the top three spots, and Australia is only marginally better than the states at 14. What really lets us down is - of course - working with humanitarian partners, which we are totally shit at, preferring to go it alone in most cases (let the record reflect, there is a certain regional limitation here, but it still doesn't explain the shoddy overall score).

New Zealand manages to rank 7 (also not great with humanitarian partners). It makes me think of a fascinating little what-if scenario, given that around fifteen years ago, our countries were in quite similar positions regarding many policies, particularly welfare, and I've little doubt we would have scored as well or better than them with an index like this.

In some ways - and I'm sure the long white cloud 'twixt our islands manages to mist over quite a few things - I feel like as a nation, we decided to turn away from many of the commonalities we had with New Zealand, and pursued instead a more reactionary, populist, dare I say a somewhat easier way of doing things.

Passport's own little thought experiment gives rise to some depressing numbers; if the US gave as much aid as Sweden, many of the world's problems could be addressed.

The most disturbing thing was that large numbers of Americans think the country gives a whopping 25% of GNI as aid. The reality is 0.22%. I have seen a similar attitude in Australians regarding our own aid contributions. which is surely a slap in the face to libertarians who fancy that charities will pick up any slack. Clearly, people expect their governments to be more charitable. In all honesty, I'm surprised they aren't.

In Australia for example, with the ludicrous amount of spending going on pre-election, a billion here or there wouldn't have been missed - probably not even noticed - and I fail to see how being more generous and caring could be a negative in the electorate (well, most electorates). Then again, John Howard has been in for eleven years, and his platform wasn't exactly Mother Teresa's. Perhaps I'm being naive, over-expecting people to be more generous than they are.

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At 5:22 pm , Blogger Sarah said...

The most disturbing thing was that large numbers of Americans think the country gives a whopping 25% of GNI as aid. The reality is 0.22%

Perhaps they're confusing the amount their government spends on making war on foreign countries with foreign aid...

At 6:54 am , Blogger Justine said...

I think you would find Esping-Anderson's book The Three Worlds Of Welfare Capitalism really really interesting.
He really puts his finger on it. Very illuminating.



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