Thursday, February 17, 2011

2011 Kumarian Press Catalog

Click on the thumbnail to view our newest catalog.

A growing disillusionment with top-down aid industry prescriptions to poverty has brought Southern solutions boisterously to the forefront over the past several years, whether in the form of cash transfers, microsavings or homegrown NGOs. Kumarian’s authors have always explored the rich and complex landscape of actors from the Global South and the transnational connections that hold us together. This year’s new books continue that tradition... Read more

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Making Fair Trade Work for Women

In a new article, Marsha Dickson (Artisans and Fair Trade) says that fair trade standards, which tend to limit what constitutes a "proper workspace", often fail to take artisans' lives into consideration. This is to the detriment of many women artisans who work from home and need flexible hours. The authors propose that certification schemes broaden "assessment of the benefits of fair trade and demonstrate organizations' accountability to fair trade principles." Here's a video of Marsha speaking about the inherent potential of fair trade to reach new people.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Philanthropic Glamour and the Uprisings in the Arab World

By guest blogger and Kumarian author Lorenzo Fioramonti:

A few months ago, I wrote a piece criticizing the Giving Pledge, the multi-billion philanthropic initiative launched by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. My line of argument was very simple: if these cosmic billionaires want to really help the world (as their wealthy foundations claim), they should first of all change the way in which their businesses operate. It is pointless that Bill Gates crisscrosses the globe, buying mosquito nets to poor African kids or distributing medicines to village dwellers, when the company he founded (and made him rich) draws millions of dollars away from African governments through its expensive software licenses, violates antitrust regulations and builds one of the biggest corporate monopolies in the world (thereby limiting freedom of information, restricting access to resources and hampering the widely heralded market competition that should help poor countries defeat endemic poverty). My conclusion was that the best way to be a true philanthropist was to generate well-being and promote equality as a good businessman, not only when wearing the official ‘charity’ hat.

Now, while observing the inspiring revolts in the Arab world (hoping that they will not end up deceiving the genuine demand for participation and democracy made by individual citizens), I think one can make a similar observation with regard to some glamorous charity initiatives celebrated in the past few years. These initiatives directly involve two women. Suzanne Mubarak, the first lady of Egypt, has always been concerned with charity. In 1977, she founded a nonprofit organization to support children and she is now the president and founder of the Women’s International Peace Movement, which promoted the rights of women and, among others, combats human trafficking. She was regularly invited to international summits, delivered speeches to diverse audiences of social entrepreneurs and charity workers and, more recently, she ran a series of adverts on CNN to campaign for women’s rights.

Now the question is: can the wife of a dictator, who has imposed a 30-year iron-fist state of emergency and blatantly abused the fundamental rights of millions of women and men, be considered a philanthropist? Shouldn’t we expect that her first concern, before getting involved in all her beloved charity work, would have been to exert influence on her husband’s government to democratize Egypt? Why hasn’t she done that? Why hasn’t she denounced the continuous human rights abuses perpetrated by the Egyptian regime? Since she claims to be concerned about human trafficking, she should know that the first cause of this unacceptable practice is poverty and ignorance. The same poverty and ignorance her husband has massively caused through three-decades of authoritarian rule.

The second woman is Queen Rania of Jordan, another country that might soon be ravaged by popular unrest. The good-looking consort of King Abdullah has always been drawn to the cause of children and education. In 2000, UNICEF even invited her to join its Global Leadership Initiative. Then, in 2009, she founded 1 Goal, the global campaign to bring all children to school by 2015, which turned her into one of the most common icons of the global charity circles and a sought-after speaker at most philanthropy gatherings. Now that thousands and thousands of Jordanians (including women) are protesting in Amman, demanding the very freedom and democracy that Queen Rania’s husband has deprived them of, the same question still stands: can we consider her a true philanthropist?

Most generally, I think, all these examples show how unclear the concept of philanthropy is and, most importantly, how controversial the ‘philanthropic industry’ can be. Through the glamour of giving, it is nowadays possible for reckless businessmen and even dictators to become internationally accepted icons of ‘good will’. And, of course, when millions of dollars are poured everyday into foundations, charities and NGOs, it is not easy to find independent voices capable of unveiling this unacceptable contradiction and its underlying conflicts of interest. Until, of course, millions of people wake up. And, all of a sudden, all the glamour of certain philanthropic circles (and its inherent hypocrisy) melts like snow in the sun.
Photo source: Reuters