Global and Local Development–Part 4

Community-to-community partnerships provide a remarkable opportunity for creating global awareness and citizen advocates for policies for accountable government and effective social change to lift the poor out of poverty. In The United Methodist Church, my own faith community, we have many partnerships like this. Local congregations sponsor mission teams to communities in the developing world and many of these return consistently to the same location. Similarly annual conferences, which are regional entities incorporating local congregations, partner with counterparts in the developing world. A relationship develops and continues over time.

These partnerships put a face on poverty. They build relationships. They provide an occasion for drawing connections to public policy and good governance in order to build advocates in the developed world for responsible use of foreign assistance and accountable government among the bottom billion. However, this intentional education at a deeper level does not always happen. Volunteers motivated by genuine goodwill and humanitarian concern do not connect with policies that trap their friends in survival-level existence.

Collier suggests goodwill and concern are insufficient. In fact, he’s critical of heart-felt motivations in the development community. I view it differently. As we care about people in the bottom billion and we are motivated by good intentions, it seems sensible to structure mission team experiences to include an understanding of the causes of poverty and the policies that allow it.

Volunteers can be briefed about how trade and economic policies, structural issues and corrupt government  keep people trapped in poverty. As they put roofs on humble health clinics, they should be informed about how misappropriation of aid assistance keeps health systems under-funded and poses global threats to general health. As they put mortar in simple school buildings they need to understand why education systems go underfunded with no books and underpaid teachers. And when riots, coups and violent revolutions erupt they need to know why military assistance is not necessarily a pathway to security for these nations and the world.

In a direct sense these various factors are among the reasons volunteers travel around the world to assist others who live in less favorable circumstances. Do you agree that volunteer experiences can be a platform for advocacy? Is this a worthwhile goal?

More tomorrow.

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