Being in one of the drought stricken areas of Ethiopia I heard of the enormeous succes of the Dutch public appeal for countries in conflict facing famine like situations. This is the real proof that there still is a solidarity economy in the Netherlands.
Over 30 million has been raised already! And still the action is not over. I am also glad to know and having seen even this week that assistance is provided at places where it is needed most. I visited a catte feeding centre in a drought stricken region in Ethiopia.
It is obvious that this cannot continue forever. However, not every disaster that happens can be blamed on conflict or climate change. There are also issues of mismanagement of natural resources or a mis-match between formal and customary institutions. This has now also been acknowledged by the Ethiopian government who have last month agreed to seek integration of customary and formal institutions for rangeland management in Borana region. How the two will come together is still not yet worked out, but a promising start has been made.
Drops of rain this week conveyed the positive feeling that change is actually possible. According to a the local forecaster the rain should be good this time. Let us hope and pray that rain will indeed be sufficient for men and remaining livestock to recover.
What to write about, when there are no words to express the anguish 20 million people face across Africa. A toxic mix of conflict, climate change and failing governance is currently yielding the biggest humanitarian disaster the world has ever witnessed since all institutions for peace and prosperity were erected following two devastating World Wars.
Where did the system fail? Howe come we seem to have turned a blind eye to the fate of so many African nations? Where have development partners been over the last decade? The answer is as simple as it is horrifying. We have been preoccupied with our self-interest. This lead to a general sense of disenfranchisement amongst people in Africa and the Middle-East providing a perfect birth ground for radical groups. Only in recent years we have come to realize that this attitude is finally turning against us. In attempts to 'address root causes of migration' institutions and donors are pumping resources into areas of instability or potential instability hoping people will stay put. But why would they? Their regimes have done business with foreign nations and companies, expropriating African soil and resources often without consent from the people living on it. Any clue why people started to migrate?
In the meantime, it is not the masses yet that manage to find boats to bring them to Europe. It is the middle-class that somehow manage to send a family member abroad, putting some resouces together to pay the smugglers. But the masses remain behind, for starvation as it seems today. Only one year ago the great adagium of the Sustainable Development Goals meeting in New York was to "Leave no one behind". And this is exactly what many will feel that are facing serious food and water shortages, the basic necessities of life. They are left behind by the global community that have been to busy watching TV-shows that turn them into little Masters of the Universe while spending their resources on the latest smart phone or coolest outfit produced by children in far away places.
"Boer zoekt werk"
And I have to say, even while typing this my family watches "Boer zoekt vrouw", a reality TV-show where the search for a wife of five Dutch farmers keeps millions of TV-watchers attached to their screens every Sunday night. What about the many million farmers that may have a wife but lost all of their cattle or the complete harvest to drought. Having to leave their wifes and children, migrating in search for labour in the cities to at least reduce the burden on the household, which will live of the seeds that were actually meant for the next growing season.
Dutch people can vote with their purse
While I am not against enjoying the sunny side of life watching kids trying to develop their talents or farmers to search for a life partner, I truly belief that we have to set aside all that we can to not only welcome refugees (yes they are fleeing not only from conflict but also from failing economies) but also help those that were left behind. While policy makers are reconsidering international migration legislation to curb migration, I think it is time for a counter-narrative. If the current government fails to provide even 0.7% of our GDP, citizens of the Netherlands should make a statement to those who are running for office and sollicit their votes. Give generously to Giro 555 and vote for those political parties that want to leave no one behind.
(for the Dutch: read the kieswijzer of Paul Hoebink at Vice Versa)
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
Click here for a summary.
Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.
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