Bits and Pieces

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


This was initially part of the post below entitled 'The Vultures are Circling', but I decided it merited it's own post.

A fallacy I want to tackle are the statements of Jan Egelend, UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs on western 'stinginess'. I'm assuming that the comments by Egelend were directed primarily at the US. If I'm incorrect then I apologise, but I doubt I am.

I'm speaking from a position of some expertise on this. I spent a year writing my dissertation on financial aid following earthquakes, and I can assure you that that is one of the most poorly thought out, mindlessly mean and just plain stupid statements ever to come from the UN (and that takes some beating).

In 2002, global humanitarian contributions totalled $5,158,715,024 (according to the OCHA). Of that $5+billion, guess how much came from the US...

$1,889,580,423 (36%)

The following year they decided not to donate as much. Instead, they donated over $1billion more. The US in 2003 donated $3,277,941,061 - 41% of the global total.

Perhaps Egelend doesn't trust the figures. Maybe the OCHA are a Republican controlled organisation hellbent on exaggerating the donations of the US. So, who are the OCHA?

It's the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. I'm not certain of the responsibilities of the Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, but I'm sure he'd at least have access to the figures for humanitarian aid.

As if that wasn't enough, the people of America have taken it upon themselves to donate over $2million through Amazon in the past few days.

Over the years I've been constantly amazed and ceaselessly impressed with the generosity of the American people. I'm not just talking about the government, but each and every citizen I've known. Soon after setting up this site I stumbled upon a post at Outside the Beltway about how James Joyner had recently lost his job. I wrote a short post asking my readers (only about 5 a day at the time) for help in finding James a new job. The next day I received a Paypal donation of $10 from James. He'd found me through his referral logs and gave me a donation as a thank you for the post. Think about that for a moment. A man who'd just lost all means of supporting himself gave money to a perfect stranger for no better reason than he thought it would be a nice gesture. That was my first experience of the generosity of the blogosphere. Since then I've received many donations from Americans. It seems almost natural for them to share the wealth in a way that would never occur to other people. Look at the blogosphere. When was the last time you went a day without seeing at least one charity drive while you browsed through your favourites? Most of these people are Americans.

I want to make this point very clear. For 4 years I studied natural disasters - earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and tsunamis. I went on to specialise in financial aid following these events. In every case study I researched the US came at the head of the list of donors. Every time. They pull together and give everything they can. They are astonishingly generous.

Call Americans arrogant. Call them fat. Say they're strangely obsessed with Paris Hilton. Just don't call them stingy.

Update - James Joyner - AKA he who is not so stingy himself - posts statistics relegating the US to 9th most generous nation per capita. All very well until you look down the first column and see that they donated 55 times the amount of 8th placed Finland. Credit where it's due - the US pony up the dough.
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