Organisatie - 19 april 2012

Development Aid

In a comment on the current negotiations in the Dutch cabinet, I read in the Volkskrant that there is broad support among the Dutch population for a further cut of one billion to the development aid budget. Further, because this amount was cut once when the cabinet took office.


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The paper warns that this could do a lot of damage to the Netherlands' international reputation. I have to read the sentence twice. The words of Bill Gates have apparently made little impression. The issue is not whether we alleviate suffering in the world and reduce child deaths, for example. No, the important thing is to prevent damage to our reputation.
My thoughts go back 25 years to the death of Dick Thalen, who had not long been appointed professor of Tropical Nature Management at our university. Twenty-five years ago but I have not forgotten the double dismay of a number of African students. Not only had they lost their source of inspiration, but they had also lost someone who quietly supported them from his own pocket. It was much more recently that former prime minister Balkenende opened the academic year in Wageningen with an appeal to students to take our (equally former) 'Dutch East India Company' mentality as an example.
Something else that sticks in the mind is a question my youngest daughter once asked me: 'Daddy, why are people in poor countries so poor while we are so rich?' Should I have said, because we plundered those countries for centuries, sold and abused the people as slaves, and imposed our western values and norms? I wonder with increasing regularity who actually needs help with development.