Save the Children released research this week that claims ‘aid works’. This appears to be more than an exercise in accountability or impact assessment. This looks like the defense of aid in the face of a recession, negative press and a changing world. Part of the response from Save the Children is the video above. It is a film of two halves. Firstly, it gives us old school skeletal infant shots (and even chimes in with images from the Ethiopian famine of the 1980′s and a shot of the crowd at LiveAid from 1985, in case we’ve forgotten how we gave money in the past). Image after image of mainly poor children from the African continent. In the second half we get a up to date animation about how many lives UK aid could save in the next four years. The narrator tips his hat to economic investment and industry as drives to reduce poverty, but throughout we are given a rather retro vision of both Africa and development. We never see a bustling city. Modernity (except medical appliances and transportation bringing aid) is conspicuously absent. We don’t hear how several countries in Africa and Asia now have healthy economic growth rates and growing middle classes. Nor do we hear anything about what people in developing countries are doing themselves to reduce poverty. Not that Save the Children should be painting an overly rosy picture. Why would they if they feel under attack. But I can’t help feel that the video represents a broader failure of imagination in how we represent humanitarian assistance. The narrow picture presented tries to address what is perceived as ‘compassion fatigue’ (or at least the threat of a reduction in donations – whether that is due to a reduction in compassion or a growing conviction that aid is generally wasted is debatable). Halfway through we get a good dose of shock therapy, that all this good work could be undone ‘in the blink of an eye’. But the world has changed and I suspect few are now won over by such melodrama.
Posted on 18/04/2012 by buddhasbreakfast