African Myths, Busted

We’re all guilty of some stereotypes about Africa – I’ve never been there and I can assure you I have my own, mostly based on literature and my academic interests in development studies. That’s not the problem, but we should ask ourselves why. This powerful video confronts them spectacularly and challenges many of the most common ones.

I’m surprised so many ridiculous myths about what Africans live, work and play like are so powerful, and so monochromatic.

For a continent the size of the US, China, India, Japan, Eastern Europe, UK and eight other European countries combined, the fact that there are still only a handful of images of its life and people is outrageous.

 

I hope you enjoy this thought-provoking video and its message. It’s high time we started a proper series of conversations about why we are painting an entire continent with one stereotype (and let’s not shy away from the racism inherent in all of these assumptions) and thinking nothing of it.

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27 Myths about the Developing World

I found this article on Global Citizen and wanted to share it. There was a lot here that made me think, but many of these myths have been debunked by most academics and professionals in development. Aid effectiveness is still a hotly contested debate topic, certainly – but are we really still in the mindset that aid leads to overpopulation (myth 24)?

Have a look and tell me what you think. It surprised me to see there are still those who hold on to these views.

1.) There is an agreed upon way to decide what is a developing country

Flickr: Sudhamshu Hebbar

There is no agreed upon metric for deciding which countries are considered “developing”. The standard of living for a given country can be calculated a dozen different ways with different factors. There is even debate as to whether the term should still be used because it assumes a desire for Western style economic development.

2.) When people say “developing world” or “third world” they mean Africa.

Wikipedia Commons

Yes, there are many developing nations in Africa. And yes, most of the myths on this list apply to how people think of Africa. There are developing countries in North America, South America, Asia and Europe. And Africa isn’t a monolith of poverty. This myth feeds into a lot of misconceptions about Africa like…

3.) Africa is a country.

Flickr: US Army Africa

It’s not as though people don’t know that Africa is a continent not a country. The problem is that people make sweeping generalizations about Africa. Whereas most people in the Global North have a clear idea about the differences between Germany and Italy, African nations often get painted with the same brush. In fact there are 54 different African nations all with different cultures, ethnicities, and economic statuses.

4.) Poor countries are just short of natural resources.

Wikimedia: Alexandra Pugachevsky

This is one of the most damaging myths because it makes people believe that there isn’t much that can be done to help. But it’s simply not true. For example, about 400 billion dollars worth of resources leave the continent of Africa every year. There are a lot of reasons why developing nations can have a lot of poverty, but a lack of natural resources is rarely a big factor. This myth also leads people to conclude that…

5.) Developing nations don’t have their own cultures or histories (because they have always been poor).

Wikimedia: Cordanrad

This one will probably seem obvious but there is a misconception that developing nations have no culture or history because they’ve always been poor and cut off from the rest of the world. Aside from the racist assumptions about poverty in tribal civilizations, this myth ignores the rich and powerful cities, kingdoms and empires that have existed in areas that are now impoverished. Look into the Malian Empire or the Mughal Empire if you don’t believe me.

6.) The people in developing nations are all poor.

Flickr: Christophe

There are clearly poor people in developing nations. But there are also poor in developed countries. Worse, the belief that a developing nation is entirely populated by poor people erases the many success stories of the rising global middle class people. Only focusing on those in desperate poverty makes for ineffective policies and leads to false assumptions about how people live in other countries.

7.) All people living in extreme poverty live in rural areas.

Wikimedia Oxfam East Africa

Most of the world’s poor, about 75%, do live in rural areas and rely mostly on farming. However like most things on this list, facts become myths when people replace the word “most” with the word “all”. The 25% of the world’s poor that live in urban areas need different types of aid, and different kinds of policy change, than those in rural areas. They shouldn’t be ignored.

8.) Developed nations spend a lot of their budgets on international aid.

Wikimedia: Russavia

How much do you think the United States spends in international aid every year? It’s probably less than you think . When asked how much of the national budget was spent on foreign aid the average American responded with 25%. The actual amount is less than 1%. Even the most generous nation in the world, Norway, gives less than 3% a year. When asked how much the United States should spend on foreign aid, the average response was 10%.

9.) Relying on aid hurts developing nations.

Flickr: Bread for the World

The argument usually goes like this: “If developing nations rely on foreign aid, they will never develop their own economies.” However, it is important to remember that the aid that directly saves lives, such as medicine and food, is really an investment in the nation’s future. Without a strong and healthy population there is truly no hope for independence from aid.

10.) Volunteering in a developing nation is the best way to make a difference.

Wikimedia: Elitre

A common misconception, although a valiant one! However, volunteering in a developing country usually benefits the volunteer more than locals, unless you have specific, applicable skills like medicine or engineering. The volunteer will learn a lot but will likely have little impact on community development. The best aid is the kind that gives locals the ability to craft their own instituions that can continue on long after the trickle of aid money has come to an end. Traveling to teach English for a month is not near as impactful as funding the local schoolteachers who will live and work there for their entire careers.

11.) Pictures of starving people, or sad children, are a great way to motivate people to make a difference.

Wikimedia: Oxfam East Africa

There is a name for the type of imagery that is supposed to shock people in developed nations with the realities of extreme poverty: “poverty porn”. While there is a time and place to document suffering, it is important to make sure the person in the photograph is aware of what the picture will be used for, and that the image is presented with context. When photos of children with distended bellies are used as symbols instead of portraits of living people, they are erased as individuals. Everyone deserves to be treated respectfully and presented with dignity: as a person with their own dreams, character, and motivations. Although these images undoubtably work at provoking sympathy, advocacy efforts need to be motivated by accurate information and these images don’t tell the whole story.

12.) People living in extreme poverty are poor because they made bad choices.

Wikimedia: Ton Rulkens

This rumor has been around as long as poverty has. The world’s poorest are often stigmatized as stupid, lazy, dirty, and violent. Structural inequality can be subtle and difficult to understand, but these types of assumptions poisons the efforts made to change the systems that keep people poor. Just because a person is successful, it shouldn’t give them the right to shirk responsibility to address structural inequality.

13.) There just isn’t enough food to feed everyone.

Wikimedia: Elitre

This is usually the conclusion people make when they hear that so many people all over the world go hungry. In fact, there is enough food to feed the planet one and a half times over. People who can comfortably afford food usually waste a staggering amount. Hunger is not a supply issue, it’s a distribution issue.

14.) Developing nations are all corrupt, and aid just supports that corruption.

Wikipedia Commons

First of all, let’s not pretend that developing nations are the only ones with corruption at the government level. When a mayor in the developed world is found to be corrupt, no one suggests that we cut off services to the city in question. It is important to ask ourselves if we are willing to sacrifice the lives of people who rely on aid until we are sure that every incident of corruption is removed. Of course institutions and governments should be transparent and accountable, but the cost of corruption usually only accounts for a small percentage of total aid.

15.) We should focus on poverty in our own countries before trying to help anyone else.

Flickr: Franco Folini

There is poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness in developed nations. No one is suggesting that these problems should be ignored. However, the fact remains that less than 1% of most developed nation’s budget goes to foreign aid whereas large portions of their budget address domestic health and infrastructure. The type of poverty in the developing world is objectively different from the type of poverty exerienced in developing countries.

16.) Future technologies will solve all of the problems of global poverty.

Wikimedia: Reynold Brown

Though it’s refreshing to see some optimistic myths about global poverty, the fact remains that relying on future innovations is not a viable plan and it does nothing for those living in poverty today. Which leads to me to another myth…

17.) Developing nations are technologically backwards.

Flickr: Tanalyn Dollar

There are places where there’s a lack of access to digital technology but it isn’t like developing nations are cut off from the tech boom. In fact, many times technology has spread faster in developing nations than developed ones. Cell phones are widely used and they have contributed to many innovations and has led income increases. Ignoring the use of technology in developing nations ignores how important it can be as a part of strategies for ending global poverty. This myth also ignores the innovations in digital technology that originate in the developing world.

18.) Developing nations are violent and unsafe.

Flickr: Ian Hasley

Wars are certainly one of the biggest causes of poverty and displacement, but not all developing nations are unsafe. Parts of highly developed nations can be less safe than parts of developing nations. The assumption that all parts of developing countries are torn by violenceprobably comes from movies and the kinds of news stories that come out of some developing nations.

19.) The decline of poverty is all due to international aid (especially celebrities contributing to charity) 

Wikipedia Commons

This myth ignores the strides made by the people within developing nations. The fact that the work Western nations are doing is the most visible doesn’t mean that Western people are doing the most. Aid is important to empower those living in poverty to lift themselves out of it. By giving them access to the basics: food, water, health, sanitation and education etc. Economies won’t boom just from aid, aid can give millions of people access to basic needs, allowing them to be entreprenurial and participate in the market.

20.) Any kind of aid is helpful to a developing nation.

Wikipedia Commons

There are some kinds of aid that can end up taking more resources from poorer communities than they contribute, especially when you consider the cost of shipping, storing, and distributing certain donated goods. For example, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami thousands of useless items like winter coats, high heeled shoes, and expired canned food were donated to effected nations. Though this was a generous act, donators didn’t research what was actually needed by the people effected.

21.)  If people in developing nations started acting like people in Western nations, they wouldn’t be so poor!

Wikimedia: Valter Campanato

There is a long tradition of people saying that poverty is a cultural problem. Though there can be facets of a culture that slow economic growth, such as human rights violations, women’s equality etc. But a culture that happens to have a greater incidence of wealth is not a better culture because it is political history that’s the biggest factor in determining who is poor. People believed that Irish culture was at fault for their poverty during the 19th century.

22.) Developing nations are dirty.

Wikimedia: Russavia

There is no nation that can be considered as a whole “dirty”, just as there is no nation in which all of the people are poor. In fact, developed nations produce far more trash and waste than developing nations. Calling developing nations dirty is disrespectful and trivializes the real issue of sanitation for those living in extreme poverty.

23.) People are poor because they are having too many kids they can’t afford.

DVID: Sgt. Ken Scar

This myth is a classic misunderstanding of cause and effect. Putting aside that “too many” usually means “more than I think these people should have”, studies show that people aren’t poor because they are having too many kids. Rather they can’t choose to have fewer kids because of poverty.  Without access to contraception or sex education to use it effectively, people in extreme poverty have limited choice in family planning.

24.) Aid just leads to people in developing nations having more kids, contributing to overpopulation

Flickr: Todd Huffman

This is simply untrue. There is a belief that since aid is increasingly effective at saving lives, i.e. children that would have otherwise died from preventable disease, aid will cause a population crisis. Some people believe that with the extra resources from aid those living in extreme poverty will decide to have more children. Studies have shown the exact opposite results. The combination of girls staying in school longer and families having access to family planning causes birthrates to go down. 40 years ago, women in Bangladesh had an average of 7 kids and expected a quarter to die; now women in Bangladesh have an average of 2 children and only 1 in 20 don’t make it to their 5th birthday.

25.) All developing nations are near the equator. 

Wikimedia: Taylor Weidman

Believing that most people living in poverty live in hot climates is probably related to the assumption that the developing world means Africa. However, poverty is also a real issue in incredibly cold climates like those found in Central Asia, where staying warm is a top concern. Bonus fun fact: there are climates in sub-Saharan Africa where it snows.

26.) If living in a developing nation can be so hard, people should just leave. 

Flickr: Vicki Francis/Department for International Development

Most people living in extreme poverty don’t have the money to move somewhere else. Often enough people do leave their nations to go where there are better opportunities. However those leaving are typically those with some education and/or wealth. This ends up being another important resource leaving developing nations.

27.) Nothing ever gets better and aid doesn’t make a difference.

Wikimedia: Joseph Jude

This myth is probably the one that is the most important to bust. Listing how many things have improved in the last 20 or so years would need a whole other list entirely. In fact, here’s one. The fact is plain: aid makes a huge difference, and has already saved millions and millions of lives, with your help, it can continue to do so.

Governing Land for Men and Women

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) have just released their latest report, titled ‘Governing Land for Men and Women’, which is a technical guide to support the achievements of responsible gender-equitable governance of land tenure.

The report aims to bridge the gaps in gender inequality in land tenure in the rural world. The hope is to focus on the importance of holding land to economic development, stressing the need for gender equality in this goal, to help eradicate hunger and poverty.

On 11 may 2012, the Committee on World Food Security endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (the Guidelines).

“States should consider the particular obstacles faced by women and girls with regard to tenure and associated tenure rights, and take measures to ensure that legal and policy frameworks provide adequate protection for women and that laws that recognize women’s tenure rights are implemented and enforced. … States should develop relevant policies, laws and procedures through participatory processes involving all affected parties, ensuring that both men and women are included from the outset.”

(Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, from paragraphs 5.4 and 5.5).

Check out the PDF here:  

Governing Land for Women and Men

Felicity Kendal: On World Africa Day Isn’t it Time We Start to See Africa Differently?

This is a reblog from Huffington Post UK. Felicity Kendal is a British film, theatre and television actress.
In a taxi somewhere on the streets of West London the cab driver turned to me and said “What continent has got six of the fastest growing economies in the world?”

“Well it’s Asia isn’t it!” I replied firmly.

And there an awkward silence ensued…

Ok, so this wasn’t a real conversation but a line from a new short film I’ve made with an online campaign from Comic Relief called See Africa Differently. And yes, the correct answer is Africa! Whilst the driver was an actor and the dialogue was scripted, the cab and the statistic are 100% real.

If I’ve learnt one thing as an actress over the years it’s that there is more than one way to tell a story and this is no truer than when talking about Africa. So often in the media we’re faced with a continent ravaged by war and famine, but this is just one narrative among the many untold stories.

This is why I have become involved with this brilliant campaign, See Africa Differently, which aims to tell the good news from the continent which is so often ignored in the news agenda.

There’s an African proverb that says “When the music changes, so does the dance.” See Africa Differently has a new take on the continent and I think it reflects the changes we’re seeing across Africa.

So what have I learnt? Well, I’ve always known the arts have been at the heart of African culture but did you know that every year the Nigerian film industry produces more movies than Hollywood? I should probably take a trip to Lagos!

Women are also making themselves heard across the continent; 16 African countries have a higher proportion of female MPs than the UK!

This new film hopes to illustrate that Africa is a lion on the move, it’s diversity and richness in all things from music to fashion and film and business doesn’t leave much room to doubt why it is home to six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world.

You can find the campaign on http://www.seeafricadifferently.com follow them on twitter @see_africa and you really ought to like them on Facebook at facebook.com/seeafricadifferently

I really enjoyed making this film and its time we all opened our eyes to Africa!

 

Jeffrey Sachs: Global health within our grasp, if we don’t give up

This is a reblog, courtesy of CNN International

Jeffrey D. Sachs

There is a hidden revolution at work that can transform the lives of a billion of the poorest people on the planet.

The dream of health for all, even the poorest of the poor, can become a reality because of recent breakthroughs in technology and health systems. Scientific results that our Millennium Villages Project team published this week in The Lancet, coupled with broader trends around the world, should be a wake-up call: We can end the deaths of millions of young children and mothers each year by building on recent innovations.

In 2006, the Millennium Villages Project and impoverished communities around Africa jointly embarked upon the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and disease. The idea was to use low-cost, cutting-edge technologies to overcome ancient scourges like malaria and mothers dying in childbirth. Today, there is no deep mystery about what to do to stop these deaths, since the diagnostic tests, medicines and procedures are known. The challenge is to scale up these life-saving approaches.

In three short years, starting from conditions of massive death tolls and a lack of health services, the Millennium Villages were able to reduce the deaths of children under 5-years-old by around 22%, roughly three times the rate of improvement of the countries at large. The progress is continuing as low-cost health services expand. The lessons extend far beyond this specific project.

Poor children die of three main categories of disease: infections, nutritional deficiencies and conditions around childbirth. The technologies and procedures to fight all these causes of death are improving dramatically. Therein lies a great hope.

Consider malaria, one of the biggest killers of children in Africa. A dozen years ago, all seemed lost: The standard medicine had lost its efficacy as the parasite became resistant; insecticide-treated bed nets were little used because they had to be regularly retreated with the insecticide, a practical burden that poor villages could not manage; and diagnosis required that the mother and sick child trek to a distant clinic in the desperate hope the clinic had a functioning laboratory.

Now all this has changed. A new generation of low-cost and highly effective medicines has been deployed. The nets now last five years without the need for retreatment. A trained village-based worker, as part of an expanded health system, can make the diagnosis at the household using a simple rapid test, without the need for a life-and-death journey to a distant clinic. The Millennium Villages have slashed malaria deaths, but much more to the point, malaria deaths are falling sharply across Africa, down by around one-third from their peak roughly a decade ago.

A child receives an oral polio vaccine in Ivory Coast. Improved vaccines are helping save children’s lives globally.

The advances are widespread. New vaccines can fight diarrheal and respiratory diseases that have traditionally killed vast numbers of children. Thanks to vaccines, deaths from measles have plummeted, and polio is on the verge of eradication. New medical procedures can end the transmission of the HIV virus from mother to newborn. Technologies to support higher farm production and low-cost nutritional supplements can bolster inadequate diets.

Perhaps most important, information can flow through even the remotest of villages, thanks to the massive increase in mobile telephones across regions that just a few years ago had no phones at all. The spread of mobile phones may mark the fastest global uptake of a technology in history. From a few million mobile phone subscribers worldwide in 1990, the number has climbed to more than 6 billion today, with more than 250 million subscribers in Africa.

Mobile connectivity and the spread of wireless broadband are greatly strengthening rural health systems. In all of the Millennium Villages, and in more and more villages around the continent, lay community workers are bringing health services from the clinics right to the community. Mobile phones are critical in supporting these outreach workers, enabling them to call the doctors and nurses for advice, summon an ambulance or connect to a computerized expert system via text messaging.

The big picture is thrilling. Globally, deaths of young children are falling. In 1990, the worldwide deaths of children under 5 totaled around 12.5 million. By 2010, the deaths were down to around 7.6 million. The proportionate progress in the Millennium Villages has been even faster. Yet this technology-based revolution in human well-being is at the risk of stalling.

The improvements required international help to support the expansion of services in the poorest regions. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and Malaria and the U.S. PEPFAR initiative to fight AIDS exemplify the new kinds of support introduced during the past decade.

Total funding for primary health care in the poorest countries has risen by roughly $15 billion per year from the low levels of aid a dozen years back. That’s a good sum, but modest in the scheme of things, amounting to around $15 per person per year from the high-income countries, with a combined population of 1 billion. It’s about half the support needed to complete the job.

Alarmingly, the funding has come to a standstill and has even started to decline. The United States and Europe claim they can’t afford to do more because of budget crises, but the needed sums could be filled many times over just by ending the loopholes that allow the richest companies to park their profits in Caribbean tax havens.

If children continue to die by the millions, it will be the result of misguided priorities, not true budget limits. Instead of making excuses for lives lost, let us celebrate the remarkable progress we are making and commit ourselves to finishing this historic and worthy task.

No Comment: “I’m so Happy”

Kony 2012: The Morning After

Almost overnight, the internet’s seemingly unflinching support for the Kony 2012 video crumbled. How that happened is really interesting.

A few bloggers wrote about why they don’t care about Kony 2012 (ironically, by trying to stay away from the bandwagon it seems to have brought them even further in…) and facts emerged about Invisible Children’s activities and operations.

Glenna Gordon took this picture of IC's founders in 2008, at the Sudan-Congo border in April 2008.

Grant Oyston, a sociology and politics student in Nova Scotia, Canada, was one of these bloggers. He made some points about the campaign and IC in general.

One of the biggest arguments against Invisible Children is its support of military intervention and the Ugandan army (IC says it is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”). However, there are several documented cases of rape and sexual assault among the SPLA as well as the Ugandan army, both operating in the region.

There’s also an ethical point about military intervention. Fighting fire with fire may work in certain instances, but when dealing with the Ugandan army and the SPLA, which aren’t formal armies in the traditional sense, the situation is different. Many soldiers within the Ugandan army were recruited as child soldiers and are themselves a part of the system which they’re trying to stop. That presents a clear problem, one which is hard to resolve using just military means.

There are also many who are firmly against military intervention in certain cases of civil war in Central Africa, for the simple reason that it would merely send the conflict even deeper into a spiral.

Joseph Kony has held power in Uganda since the mid-80s. By now his reach has crossed borders and tribal divides. As of 2006, he’s rumoured to be in hiding outside the country in any case. So questions are being asked about the relevance of military intervention versus longer-term solutions such as socioeconomic empowerment and education.

The Daily What agrees:

Let’s not get our lines crossed: The Lord’s Resistance Army is bad news. And Joseph Kony is a very bad man, and needs to be stopped. But propping up Uganda’s decades-old dictatorship and its military arm, which has been accused by the UN of committing unspeakable atrocities and itself facilitated the recruitment of child soldiers, is not the way to go about it.

Chris Blattman, Assistant Professor of Political Science & Economics at Yale, says that “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or the saving of Africa. It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”

The argument for socioeconomic intervention is complex and highly subjective, but the broader idea which Prof. Blattman illustrates is particularly interesting in this situation.

The video indicates that the problem of child soldiers in Uganda was largely unseen and unheard by governments across the world, and that IC have stumbled upon this tragedy like pioneers, and as such are to be the group leading the revolution against it.

That inherent assumption has angered many, especially scholars and NGO workers who deal with central Africa on a daily basis.

This is not an unheard-of problem, and the fact that Kony has not been arrested yet does not mean that there has been no progress towards that goal. Literally hundreds of charities operate within central Africa to try and counter the problem of child abductions and child soldiers, without using military means.

Another point against the company is about its finances – which are public. Of the $8million+ spent by Invisible Children last year, only 32% went to direct serivces. The rest went to salaries, travel, transport and film production. In addition, there is no external audit.

The flipside of this argument is of course, that all charities have to pay their staff, and many charities pay their staff very well. So long as enough money is being spent on the work they do, their internal allocation of capital isn’t reason enough to condemn an organisation.

WrongingRights.com has published rules for the Kony 2012 drinking game, a part light-hearted, part shockingly-apt critique of the problems with IC’s video.

Crucial among these is the argument that the video assumes “white college students to save them through the innovative use of bracelets”.

Another subjective argument, but one which has been mentioned a lot on Twitter and also ties into Prof. Blattman’s argument about the White Man’s Burden.

However, there is a lot to be said for what this video does achieve, the most important of which is an increase in public awareness.

Chris Blattman acknowledges that,

Their movie did more to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army and the war in northern Uganda to US audiences, especially Congress, than any other advocacy organization on the planet. That deserves credit.

I’ve been having this debate with a friend on Facebook, and I’ve got her permission to include it here:

Her status this morning: Feel pretty bad for posting the Kony video. Incredible video, great cause, highly dubious aim but having researched Invisible Children all I can say is DON’T give them your money!

Comment: So what did you find about them? This video is everywhere

 My friend: ‎31% of their money goes on project activities, the rest is on staff salaries and travel, the three founders (who make it all about them with their relentless self-promotion) spend almost everything on travel and their film company!!

Me: I still maintain that it’s a good video for public awareness. If you throw a stone you’ll hit at least a dozen people who now know about Kony and the LRA, where this side of a week ago many would have no clue.

I fully agree with what’s being said about IC in general – its unquestioning support for military action for example, doesn’t sit well with their goals of trying to achieve peace in Uganda.

BUT, they’ve done a great job alerting people to what goes on. And that’s very important.

After watching that video, at the very least people will be informed.

From there, if we’re lucky, they’ll find local charities or organisations like UNICEF with tangible success in Uganda, to help and support.

If they’ve been drawn into IC’s marketing ploys and support them, then that’s a different issue.

My friend: No completely agree, that’s why I shared it – its an amazing video for raising awareness about Uganda and Kony (from what Ive seen on twitter, most of the people RT’ing it seem have no prior knowledge so that’s great). It’s really having an emotional impact on people, and I want to hire them for our campaigns! Where it gets dangerous, is if this video starts to have more impact on viewers other than raising awareness amongst people who have never taken an interest in world stuff, or been fortunate enough to have studied IR! I don’t think that’s likely though. It’s another fad.

Me: I would agree with you totally too! People who follow videos like that, made by anyone I would say, do scare me.

For most people, watching a video like that prompts you to research the various issues surrounding the crisis at hand, and also to look deeply into the organisation – especially if it’s one you haven’t come across before.

They’re great at PR though, if you look through the hashtags on Twitter for Kony 2012, it’s having a wonderful impact and I’m touched to see many people planning to go down to Uganda and volunteer, and look for ways to actually help rather than pulling out their wallets!

What I especially disliked about that video though, was the way he used his son to try and pull on heartstrings. I’m pretty certain that his ‘explanation of the civil war in Uganda’ was staged, and I think using a pretty sweet little kid as emotional blackmail just looks cheap and also, gives your actual cause less credence.

The exploitation of child soldiers in Uganda is dire enough, you don’t need to contextualise it using a cute little American kid to draw people in. And if that’s how you get your audience, it’s unlikely you’ll get much more than sheep to follow your cause! That may sound elitist but I think you know what I mean!

My friend: I have mixed views about using the son. He was the star of the video, not the Ugandans, and that’s bad. But then, its a sad fact that people in the West are drawn in by blonde kids being sad more than they are by African NGO workers and Activists. If you want to get people to listen, then you have to grab them where they will be affected – and thats unfortunately showing them a video of a cute blonde kid. Im not sure where I stand on it ethically.

The video isn’t perfect – in fact, taking into account the inferences and assumptions made, it’s far from perfect. But it should be seen in perspective – what does it do properly as well as what does it misses the mark on?

Now that these facts about IC are broadly known and are being circulated online almost as fast as the video itself was, maybe this will prompt more people to question their support for the organisation.

The important thing to distinguish between here is the cause and the organisation. This company may not get it right, but there are many who do.

But ask yourself this, if you’ve seen the video: do you know more about child soldiers now now than you did last week? If the answer is ‘yes’, then that is no bad thing.

If the answer is ‘no’, it’s probably also no bad thing.

Also ask yourself if you’re likely to forget the facts about the atrocities. Unlikely, right? Mission accomplished.

We’re more inclined now to do something about this tragedy than we would have been without the video.

The very fact of its existence is prompting us to research the topic, see what experts have to say, and in that way we’re already more involved than we thought we would have been.