Please read my introduction post Photojournaliam, Advocacy And Eurocentrism: An Introduction before continuing reading the post here.
Part 1 of this 5-part series is here: Photojournaliam, Advocacy And Eurocentrism – Part 1: There Is No Other But Us
Angel Of Mercy, Have Mercy!
[I am]…against portraying aid agencies as unmitigated agents of good. They play a complicated role: sometimes important but we shouldn’t set them up as stock characters who are ‘goodies’
Ben Rawlence, author of Radio Congo: Signals of Hope In Africa’s Deadliest War, in a personal email exchange discussing the video game Zero Hour: Congo. 21/04/2013
Aid is a very emotional thing and it’s very difficult to be rational if you are confronted with those pictures of starving children. There’s always this micro picture of this one human life saved, but there’s also a macro picture that we don’t often get presented about damage that aid can do and about the political and military agendas behind aid operations and behind donors. Aid is not necessarily choosing the weakest and the poorest on this earth. Most of the time it is sort of an our own agendas, and I believe it is the duty of journalists to expose that and to make it known to the public.
Linda Polman, in a radio interview with Marco Werman, October 2011
There is a strange modern phenomenon where advocates of new technology innovations often continue to rely on some very old fashioned models of thought. This can be clearly seen in these discussions about the video game Zero Hour: Congo – it is positioned as a cutting edge and innovative attempt at advocacy, and yet retains within in some rather conventional, populist ideas about how the world works.
Humanitarian and aid organizations have come under some severe scrutiny recently. This fact seems to have escaped many photojournalists who continue to speak about and represent such organizations in the most naive, and un-informed way. The scrutiny of the operations, behavior and influence of the massive industry called international humanitarian aid is absolutely crucial, and people are slowly beginning to bring a much needed critical eye to these organizations. There is no doubt that the sheer financial scale and political influence of humanitarian organizations makes is critical for us to understand and scrutinize how they drive policy, affect society and determine popular public perception about their works and about the regions they operate in. The recent criticism and push-back against Amnesty International’s campaign in support of the NATO occupation of Afghanistan was an example of how the inner workings of the organization were bought to the public and the closer relationship of its current leadership to the American political establishment was revealed. It was a clear reminder that journalists can’t just get into bed with aid and humanitarian organizations, but must act as watchdogs against their practices and prejudices. Details »