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Debate: The UN should increase humanitarian aid to poor nations

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The UN should increase humanitarian aid to poor nations

Background on the debate topic and competition

This page is dedicated to the topic of the 2009/2010 Bickel and Brewer International Public Policy Forum: "Resolved: The United Nations should substantially increase humanitarian assistance for persons living in poverty." The debate competition, founded by the Bickel and Brewer law firm in 2001, gives high school students the opportunity to participate in written and oral debates on issues of public policy.
The event is also sponsored by New York University,
and in 2009 and 2010 is offering room for more international teams, greater awards and prize money, and the opportunity for 8 teams to earn all-expense-paid trips to the IPPF Finals Weekend in New York.

The International Debate Education Association and Debatepedia have partnered with Bickel and Brewer and the IPPF to provide pro/con research materials for the events topic. For both debaters and the general public, here you will find an abundance of arguments in this important debate. In general, the debate surrounds a rising tide of concern about the funding priorities of the United Nations. With poverty affecting nearly half the world's population and humanitarian crises exacerbating poverty and poverty curbing the impact of humanitarian and natural-disaster aid, many are calling for the UN to dedicate more of its funding in this direction. Many have gone so far as to say the UN should prioritize reducing global poverty over such things as climate change. (See Debatepedia's pro/con resources developed for the United Nations Foundation's The People Speak Fall Debate: The UN should prioritize poverty over climate change). Certainly, the IPPF's topic this year is timely. If you are a high-schooler we hope you'll compete, and we hope you'll benefit from the pro/con resources below, whether you are a debater or not.

Contents

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UN mission: Does the UN's mission justify increased attention to the poor?

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Pro

  • UN is most obligated to solving poverty and humanitarian needs. The United Nations, as an organization, is most bound to improving human welfare and reducing poverty. Considering that poverty is currently, and for the foreseeable future, the greatest road-block to human welfare, the UN should continue to prioritize this field of work over other endeavors, even things like solving climate change. Certainly, given its high-priority status for the UN's mission, funding should be increased for poverty reduction and humanitarian assistance.
  • UN money can go further in poverty-reduction than other endeavors. UN money can go straight to the poor in the form of aid, directly addressing a clear human need. Such a direct and significant impact on human well-fare compares favorably to other forms of UN aid and funding, which are often indirect forms of aid and investment.


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Con

  • The UN should focus on global governance, not charity. The UN is a body that is best at governance, not charity. It is a vehicle for national governments to voice their concerns and for international treaties to be passed. Charity measures should be left to non-governmental charity organizations, not the UN.
  • Voluntary charity, not taxpayer funding, should aid the poor. Charity organizations, not the UN, are best suited to provide aid to the poor. These operate on the basis of individuals giving money voluntarily, instead of via the allotments of taxpayer money via national funding to the UN, which taxpayers may not wish to go to certain charity efforts.
  • UN must balance needs of poor with interests of rich state-funders. It is a compelling argument that the UN should increase funding to the poorest states. Yet, it must be understood that the UN's budget comes almost entirely from wealthy nations. To an extent, therefore, the UN must be considerate to the interests of these funders, and balance them against the mission to combat poverty.


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Morality: Is increasing aid morally justified?

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Pro

  • Increasing aid to poor countries simply morally good. Increasing aid to the poor is morally justified. Over two billion people suffer from poverty. The UN can alleviate this poverty with aid. And, in so far as morality is based on the greatest good for the greatest number, increasing aid through the UN is highly morally sound.
  • Recession increases need for humanitarian aid. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes: "This recession is driving up humanitarian needs."[1] A financing report prepared for UN humanitarian talks in 2009 stressed that the UN has received less than half the 9.5 billion it sought for humanitarian work this year. Yet the report found that 43 million people need support this year, up from 28 million in 2008.[2]
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Con

  • UN's moral obligations to the poor are limited by funding. The UN does not have unlimited funding. As moral of a cause as development aid might be, there are other equally important causes that must be given moral consideration as well. Limiting funding for development in order to advance these other cause (global warming, etc) is not immoral.
  • Humanitarian aid often contributes to corruption. Fredrik Erixon "Why Aid Doesn't Work." BBC. September 11, 2005: "The tragedy of aid, as been shown in numerous evaluations and by World Bank research, is that donors are part of the problem of corruption; aid often underpins corruption, and higher aid levels tend to erode the governance structure of poor countries."


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Vs. national role: Is UN better than national government at addressing poverty?

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Pro

  • Poor governments cannot address poverty alone, need UN. Poor national governments do not have the budgets to address systemic poverty among their peoples. That is why the UN must intervene, with support from wealthy countries. Yet, even still, this support has not been enough and poverty remains widespread. The UN, therefore, should increase its financial support of national governments to address local poverty.
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Con

  • National governments, not UN, can better address local poverty. National governments are best suited to address poverty issues within their territories, cities, and towns. The UN is not well suited to govern and aid these kinds of local, demographic, societal, and economic details. The UN, therefore, should let national government deal with the more local issue of poverty, and focus its attention on the more global governance issues, such as climate change.


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Economics: Is humanitarian aid for the poor economically sound?

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Pro

  • More aid to poor is easy compared to large bailouts in rich states. Global development group Oxfam reported in a July 2009 report: "A substantial increase in long-term agriculture investments [in poor nations] is loose change compared to ongoing investments in rich countries or the trillions of dollars spent globally this year on the financial bailout."[3]
  • Poverty reduction reduces conflict, increases economic security. Global poverty is a direct cause of illiteracy, misunderstandings, discontentment, tensions, and conflict. It creates the conditions for revolutions, guerrilla warfare, gang warfare, desperation among exacerbated governments, and nodes of tension that can lead to both civil war and international military confrontations. Increasing funding for poverty reduction can reduce these nodes of conflict and increase economic security.
  • More aid to developing country agriculture solves many problems. Global development group Oxfam reported in a July 2009 report: "Strengthening the agricultural sectors of developing countries is a crucial part of the long-term solution to the world's food, financial and climate crises.[...] Despite perceived low returns on investing in marginalized areas by donors and the private sector, investing in developing country agriculture pays for itself by reducing poverty. A healthy agricultural sector acts as a multiplier in local economies, leading eventually to higher wages and vibrant rural markets where farmers and workers spend their earnings."[4]


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Con

  • Aid to poor may actually stunt development. There is a major debate about whether international aid through the UN benefits poor countries, or whether it creates artificial and unsustainable dependencies that stunt economic growth. At a minimum, it is not entirely clear that UN efforts to fight poverty are actually helping the problem.
  • Aid to poor increases socialist tendencies. Fredrik Erixon "Why Aid Doesn't Work." BBC. September 11, 2005: "aid has not been spent in the way it was intended. Instead of gearing up investments, money was spent on current spending and public consumption - which, in turn, led to a rapidly growing public sector in the economy. [...] Needless to say, this strengthened other socialist tendencies in the economy and investment became, in many developing countries, mainly a government activity."
  • Markets should address poverty, not the UN. The markets should be allowed to work to address poverty. Any government action, by the UN or national governments, is more likely to harm economic development than to help it.
  • Aid to dictators does not make its way to poor. Jens F. Laurson & George A. Pieler. "Anti-humanitarian aid." Reason Magazine. March 10, 2006: "Western wealth is supposed to speed African development and fight grinding poverty, but the result doesn't match the intent. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has single-handedly destroyed the economy with western aid flowing. After a quarter-century of Mugabe, 80 percent of Zimbabweans live below the poverty line, inflation has soared to triple digits, and 'land reform'—subsidized with British 'development support'—takes lives and destroys agriculture. Mugabe takes the cash and blames the West, trashing the human rights of both large landowners and defenseless slumdwellers in Harare."


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Pro/con sources

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Pro


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See also

External links and resources

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