Andrea's Reviews > Beyond Good Intentions: A Journey into the Realities of International Aid

Beyond Good Intentions by Tori Hogan
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Sep 09, 2012

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bookshelves: africa, development, east-africa

I was very interested to read this as through reading and experience I've become quite skeptical about the role of Western aid in development and the author is focusing on her journey through East Africa, which is a region I'm particularly interested in. But I came away from the book wondering what the author's real point is other than to promote her own non-profit, which conducts educational programs about how aid could be made more effective. Her "research" into the aid process may be underpinned by more in-depth study than she cites, but in the book, it's presented as a short series of personal observations of a few, almost randomly selected projects. There is no real attempt to analyze the main causes of problems in the aid process and the author never addresses the radical, but certainly well-known hypothesis, that it may not be failings of particular types of aid programs that are at fault, but the whole concept of foreign aid may be fallacious.
For example, she visits Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya and discusses the inefficient and corrupt food distribution system, but never asks whether allowing this many people to congregate and live on aid for decades is itself a plain bad idea. In another case, she visits a another refugee center near a village in Uganda that has been buried by a mudslide. Ten thousand refugees have somehow accumulated from the destruction of a village of 700. Obviously, the type of aid being offered is creating a bigger problem than it solves, but Hogan's only real criticism is that major donors are pulling out before the refugees are "permanently resettled," although this reader wonders who all these people were anyway. Obviously, not former residents of the buried town.
So, Hogan, in wanting to tinker the aid process from bad to "better," in my opinion, misses the point that a radical rethinking of what aid should and can do needs to come even before the current process is reformed.
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Polly Walker Very astute review. I've worked in development for 12 years. No one would say it's perfect, but most people are invested in improvements. For the same reasons you cite above I found the book lacked weight and was 'yet another' coming of age journey of a female aid worker. Diversions to love life a bit tedious too

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