Vir Cantium

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Being Charitable

Pakistan Floods: Evacuation

Now here’s something we’re good at:

UK public ‘shaming world politicians’ over Pakistan aid

Brendan Gormley of the DEC: “UK public are shaming politicians across the world”

The generosity of the British public in helping Pakistan’s flood victims is “shaming politicians around the world”, the head of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has said.

Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the DEC, said the UK public was leading the way in donations, but that further funds were urgently needed.

The DEC’s Pakistan Floods Appeal has now raised more than £30m.

Critics say the world community has been too slow to respond to the crisis.

Mr Gormley said that while the response of the UK government was to be respected, other nations had been slow to react to the situation in Pakistan that was continuing to affect more than 20 million people.

That the British public have, individually and voluntarily, donated such a vast amount is a ‘feather in the cap’, and it would be churlish to suggest that every penny, wherever it comes from, isn’t desperately needed and should in some way be denied to the victims in Pakistan.

However, there is a philosophical point raised by Mr Gormley’s remarks that, perhaps in a less fraught moment between disasters, could be pondered. That is, why make such a comparison between donations made by governments and those made by individuals? The thing is, it’s much easier to be charitable with other people’s money and, it could be suggested, is far less altruistic.

I have no problem with the DEC asking me for my charity, but should the government take it upon itself to force my ‘donation’? That donations from the public have reached such a level may actually undermine the case for direct contributions by government. However, I expect that in part there is the argument that bolstering such aid with state monies, particularly in this case, helps to prevent the likes of the Taliban and other anti-Western forces taking advantage of the situation; international development, I imagine, often has such deeper ‘foreign policy objectives’.

Anyway, that’s enough of the obsessive political dissection, the DEC website is over here. Incidentally, there was an interesting profile of Brendan Gormley (apparently once called “the Thatcher of Development”) earlier this year in The Grauniad, and which included this nugget for the pub quiz-masters: Brendan is an elder brother of Anthony ‘Angel of the North’ Gormley.

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