Charity or rights? New survey on helping poor countries

I’ve been unpacking the results of the recently released Eurobarometer survey with a focus on Malta lately. It is full of interesting trends, which are likely to translate into policy decisions about development aid. These are the most interesting findings:

  • Respondents who experience the most difficulty in paying bills are generally less positive about development aid issues and the least likely to agree providing financial assistance to developing countries is an effective way to address irregular migration (61% vs. 68%-71%). They are also the least likely to be personally involved in helping developing countries by donations, volunteering or ethical shopping (33% vs. 39%-50%). Note that the lower limit of the less financially challenged individuals is very close.
  • Apart from France, which caused quite a bit of turmoil in its former colonies, which now receive development aid, the least enthusiastic Europeans when it comes to aid live in Central and Eastern Europe. Residents in the Baltic States are among the least likely to say that tackling poverty in developing countries should be a priority of the EU – among rich countries, Dutch residents rank the lowest by this parameter.

  • On the other hand, positive attitudes towards development aid are the fastest-growing in CEE, probably thanks to the European Year for Development and other publicity initiatives.
  • The share of positive responses to the question whether providing aid is a moral responsibility has grown the fastest in Hungary, believe it or not.
  • Hungarians are the least convinced that education is a major challenge in developing countries.
  • Respondents in Greece (37%), Portugal (35%) and Cyprus (34%), which faced the prospect of tough bailouts themselves, are the most likely to mention the bad policies of governments and organisations that support developing countries as a main obstacle to development, while those in Estonia, Sweden (both 15%) and Lithuania (17%) are the least likely to do so.
  • Foreign exploitation of natural and mineral resources is most likely to be considered an obstacle by respondents in Germany (33%), Austria (31%) and Greece (30%), and least likely to be considered this way by those in Lithuania (7%), Latvia (10%), Poland and Portugal (both 11%).
  • Believe it or not, two in five manual workers, as well as unemployed persons are personally involved in efforts that the survey team identified as helping developing countries.
  • A half of French respondents can’t be bothered to be involved in any way, either charity-based (donations, crowdfunding) or rights-based (ethical shopping). Meanwhile, nearly three in five Swedes and almost a half of the Luxembourgeois try to shop ethically – vote with their money against the exploitation of people and nature in poor countries.

This survey is an interesting reflection of the moods in various countries, as all of them are expected to provide development aid in one or another way. At the same time, while the belief in individual capacity to make things better for poorer countries is treated as a positive thing here, there is a growing body of evidence that stereotypical appeals for donations and voluntourism actually cause harm.

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