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Lords of Poverty

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  288 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Lords of Poverty is a case study in betrayals of a public trust. The shortcomings of aid are numerous, and serious enough to raise questions about the viability of the practice at its most fundamental levels. Hancock’s report is thorough, deeply shocking, and certain to cause critical reevaluation—of the government’s motives in giving foreign aid, and of the true needs of ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 10th 1994 by Atlantic Monthly Press
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Claude Forthomme Times have deeply changed since 1989 when that book was written by an Englishman in love with odd theories - go take a look at what Wikipedia says of…moreTimes have deeply changed since 1989 when that book was written by an Englishman in love with odd theories - go take a look at what Wikipedia says of him: "born 2 August 1950, he is a British writer and journalist. Hancock specialises in unconventional theories[1] involving ancient civilisations, stone monuments or megaliths, altered states of consciousness, ancient myths and astronomical/astrological data from the past."

But there's worse concerning Hancock: According to Canadian author Heather Pringle, Graham Hancock can be placed "within a particular pseudo-intellectual tradition going back at least to Heinrich Himmler's infamous research institute, the Ahnenerbe. She specifically links Hancock's book Fingerprints of the Gods to the work of Nazi archaeologist Edmund Kiss, a man described by mainstream scientists of the time as a 'complete idiot'."

So Lords of Poverty is in fact complete idiocy. It served well the Heritage Foundation in its fight against the United Nations, a fight waged throughout the 1990s with support from the Republican party and that's why the book became a bestseller.

If you want to find out what is really going on today at the United Nations, go read Impakter magazine ( : they are currently running a series on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the United Nations Agenda 2030, agreed to by all 192 member countries of the UN at the General Assembly in 2015. The SDGs are broad economic, social and environmental goals to help every country make a better future for mankind and save the planet from climate change.

And if you're curious about what it's like to work for the United Nations, what kind of people do that, there's no better book than Samantha Powers Chasing The Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World You can get it in printed or ebook format from Amazon, here:

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Steve Woods
What can anyone say about this book? After 15 years of living in SE Asia and watching the performance of these predators, stuffing their very being from the swill trough for little or no positive return-indeed on occasion, if positively anything then it would be positively destructive, I felt I needed to get some facts. The anathema with which I regard these people began to look to me slightly hysterical, so I began to wonder whether, at least a goodly part of the problem was with my perception ...more
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: UN and NGO friends
Shelves: economy
I read this book when the issue of poverty and humanitarian high on the agenda of both Africa and Asian countries - once worked for Oxfam and CARE the two NGOs mentioned in the book and also with UN that is the focus of discussion throughout the chapters within I have to admit that I'm not at all surprised on the facts that were revealed in the book. Bureucracy, one precription fits all attitude, insensitivity, arrogance of the service providers are all common disease that we can find anywhere. ...more
Apr 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: poverty
The book is focused on international aid industry in 70-80s. Author shows that international aid in beneficial mostly for donor-countries economies, corrupted aid industry's officials and workers and developing countries' governments, though poor people remains poor. Though, some things have been changes, I still recommend to read this book in order to understand how it was started and be able to compare with current state.
Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
The summary argument:

"At $60 billion a year ... aid is already quite large enough to do harm. Indeed ... it is often profoundly dangerous to the poor and inimical to their interests: it has financed the creation of monstrous projects that, at vast, expense, have devastated the environment and ruined lives; it has supported and legitimised brutal tyrannies; it has facilitated the emergence of fantastical and Byzantine bureaucracies staffed by legions of self-serving hypocrites; it has sapped the
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political
Really interesting book. I never gave much thought to the Aid industry before this book, but certainly have since reading it. My only complaints are that it offers no proposed solutions and it is also somewhat out-dated, in terms of statistics. A newer edition of the book would be incredibly valuable.
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Buku ini menyoroti ironi polah lembaga Internasional seperti lembaga yang ada dibawah naungan PBB (misal FAO, WHO dll); lembaga keuangan macam World Bank, IBRD, IMF; dan lembaga bantuan sebuah negara seperti USAID.

Dalam buku ini, penulis bahwa bantuan asing baik yang bersifat hibah (grant) dan utamanya berupa hutang (loan) cenderung tidak berhasil mengentaskan kemiskinan di negara ketiga, karena:
• Bantuan yang disalurkan tidak ditangani oleh tenaga-tenaga profesional.
• Tenaga dari lembaga bantu
Aug 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: development
This is a quite well-wrought screed, which highlights the problem of the global development industry. It is particularly good at explaining the grand farce that is much of the UN. I am amazed that this book, written over twenty years ago, captures so accurately almost exactly the category of the current UN modus operandi.

Even in the 1980s, the book mentions, there are more expatriates in sub-Saharan Africa than there were during colonial times. Meanwhile none of the problems seem to have improv
May 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
A damning tirade against the corruption and systemic flaws of the United Nations, World Bank, and other multilateral institutions that comprise the mainstream of international development. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the development field; I found it very eye-opening about the realities of the business and some of the ways in which international aid is deeply flawed from the ground up (or top-down, as it were). Although the author dismisses the entire establishment as be ...more
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Painful reality presented in glaring honesty. Even after almost three decades most of what he says still takes place in the aid-development practice. His cynicism is well justified.
Luther Gwaza
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone, from low/middle income countries, or Africa to be precise, and those working in development. Not to be forgotten are policy makers and political leaders, but they are familiar, I presume, to the cases written in this book. I found the analysis to be precise in explaining some of the developmental issues facing Africa, but for me the main message is for Africans to take responsibility for their own destiny. You cannot fault those who are trying to help out of their goodwil ...more
Rob Taylor
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dated but spooky!
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
Although interesting, the book left something to be desired -like a workable solution(s) for how best to deliver aid and/or assist developing nations. The book is a detailed list of all the ways that Western governments, NGOs, the UN and other such organizations, along with corrupt leaders have failed the poor. And although I agree that many aid workers are overpaid - there are those of us who are not. Furthermore, I have often questioned the idea that aid workers should not be paid well - the b ...more
Sep 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
I read this while I was a Peace Corps Teacher. It helped to explain why I used to see so many UN SUVs tooling around the capital, but none in my drought-stricken area.

It helped that the author makes it clear that he is biased against the UN. At the very least, this book can help clarify the UN's role in aid and development (they are a contracting agency/outsourcer of aid work with a HUGE administrative overhead (over 80% of their budget at the time the book was published). I'd go on, but I don't
Jan 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
Everyone told me I should read this book, and I don't know why. It is not well-written nor is it written with any kind of expertise on the topic. There are plenty of good criticisms of aid agencies out there, and this isn't one of them. I think one of the problems, to be fair, is that the book is dated and most of the issues that are raised in the book, in my opinion at least, have been ameliorated or entirely resolved. I think the bigger questions of ethics in aid are not even really raised her ...more
Aug 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Aid, international affairs and justice
The most damning book on the international aid BUSINESS I've ever read. Almost 2 decades old, but still relevant in its criticisms. It makes a great companion read to the White Man's Burden, but from a more journalistic and less economics oriented viewpoint. I'd give it 4 stars, but it was just too depressing :( Hancock is excellent at pointing out problems, but limits his solutions to starving the beast. From reading his book you know that will be impossible. Easterly's options of gradually ref ...more
Sep 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Besides needing updating.... The indictment of the international aid bureaucracy is a formidable one.... but when someone devotes that much passion to grinding an axe, I can not but wonder what he is NOT telling, even when he is telling me what I want to believe.

Also, it does not mention that much of the antagonism toward Amadou M'Bow was brought on by his advocacy of the so-called "New World Information Order".
Rob Carr
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I can't agree with the books ultimate recommendation I think this covers very well some of the issues that historically faced the aid industry. While not eliminated we have come a long way from these mistakes which is good to see for the comparison. Hopefully we will continue to make progress at improving the effectiveness at how we deliver aid.
Apr 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Great book. Lots of information, almost too much info and not enough narrative. Extremely depressing but in a good way - we should all know about this corruption, but I have to admit it doesn't make for the best bed time reading. Some of it is hard to get to but is a great book to have around for reference.
This book was recommended to me by a refugee who went through the "UNHCR resettlement scandal in Nairobi", circa 2000. It is so hard to read because it is depressing as hell. One semi-positive note is that there seems to have been some improvement since the the '90s. I think I'll finish this one after my early retirement to a bucolic village.
Scott Brennan
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some of Graham's writing is painful to get through, both emotionally and.. literally. However, this is a incredibility important read that is still valid today. Be mindful of where you are sending your money, and keep in mind all organizations have bureaucratic short comings and in most cases presented here, complete failures.
Nov 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: earth residents
Shelves: completed
The "culture of aid", the corruption, the waste, the destruction as chronicled in this book is amazing (see pages 62-63 for an example). Although it was written in 1989, and most examples are from the 1980s, it would appear to be equally (or more) valid today.
Eye opening perspective.
I read this many moons ago, but quite an eye opener about the state of AID industry. I found the so called christians organisations the most shocking; where the aid was 'tied aid'. Lords of poverty is the perfect title for this book!
Mar 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: bm
The Lords of Poverty is a classic despite itself. It covers a lot of interesting ground, and is full of good ammunition to aim at the folly of the world's misguided do-gooders. But a little more gentle irony and a lot less outraged hectoring would make the same point more enjoyably.
Tony Cohen
Apr 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: YES
Guess what...patronage runs rampant at the UN, and what should be helping people isn't really....I am very pro-UN but this book really shook me. Things shouldn't be this way, but the best of ideas must still be run by the meanest of people.
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Polemical, stinging, bitterfunny critique of aid written in the 1980s-- one of the first of a genre that has come to include Linda Polman's The Crisis Caravan, as well as more serious/tortured critiques like Michael Maren's the Road to Hell and Alex de Wall's Famine Crimes.
Jun 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
An excellent book. I can vouch for much of its contents, because I saw so much of the "culture" the book described.
Dec 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to make some sense of the aid and development industry
Recommended to Maxinne by: Economics professor
Was left in total shock and amazement; learning the "truth" and unmasked revelations of the other side philanthropy.
Kimberly Lewis
Jul 24, 2008 rated it liked it
A little outdated (goes up to 1989) but still enough to sober up anyone's idea of heading out with an NGO to save the world...
Shocking in many respects. Informative. Completely re-directed my thinking about the ineffectiveness of the majority of multi-lateral aid.
Apr 21, 2015 added it
I want to read this greate book
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  • The Road to Hell
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  • Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business--and Bad Medicine
  • Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism
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Graham Hancock is a British writer and journalist. His books include Lords of Poverty, The Sign and the Seal, Fingerprints of the Gods, Keeper of Genesis (released in the US as Message of the Sphinx), The Mars Mystery, Heaven's Mirror (with wife Santha Faiia), Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization, Talisman: Sacred Cities, Secret Faith (with co-author Robert Bauval), Supernatural: Mee ...more
More about Graham Hancock...

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