Charity’s irredeemable flaw

Raising £100m for the tsunami appeal is an incredible achievement and a very good thing indeed. But today I was struck by a newspaper advertisement from the Iranian Association, which represents immigrants and refugees who left that country after the Islamic Revolution: ‘On behalf of the suffering people of Bam, the Iranian Association warmly thanks everyone who generously donated to the Bam Earthquake Appeal. £10,000 donations received are being passed to reputable organisations in Iran to be spent urgently reconstructing the people’s ruined infrastructure.’

The Bam Earthquake killed 26,271 almost exactly a year before the tsunamis hit Asia. I think it would be crass to say we should have given them, say, £17.5m which would be roughly proportionate to the death toll. But it does remind me that Guide Dogs for the Blind, which does wonderful work, finds it so much easier to raise money than the NSPCC, which needs so much more. The lesson has to be that private charity is good thing, but it’s too emotional to ever develop a strategy that would enable it to be most effective. In the end, it’s the actions of government – which can take an overview and plan – that have the greatest potential to facilitate real long term change in an ordered manner.

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