Monday, September 24, 2007

Hope in the Balance

It seems like development is all around. Maybe I've just got development coloured glasses on, but it is as if we're getting more and more into this notion of humanitarianism; in every magazine or newspaper, there seems to be at least one mention of international charity. For me, this is a good and a bad thing. On one side, the developing world becomes synonymous with humanitarian crisis, because all we hear from places like Africa is bad news. In an interesting speech by Andrew Mwenda, posted on Development Crossing, he says "Africa has 53 countries. Of these, only 6 of them currently have civil war. The media therefore only report on 6 countries." On the other hand, though, while Africa iteslf isn't a humanitarian crisis, it does face huge challenges related to poverty, health, and governance. So even if the development issues are disproportionately represented in the media, it's not for us in the West to lose our focus.

Of the 6 countries currently embroiled in civil war, the one we pay most attention to is Darfur. Last week I was able to attend the Darfur:Darfur exhibit at the ROM, the effort of someone outside the bubble of development, but certainly a humanitarian. The aim was to bring awareness to the tragedy currently taking place in Sudan, while at the same time presenting images and music of culture and daily life in the country. The general message? Africa is a continent home to both humanitarian crisis and real life. And we can't forget the second aspect, letting our tendency to think of Africa as a project take over.

For me this was one of the biggest realizations I had in Ethiopia. I'd expected cultural isolation, lonliness and a drastic drop in my standard of living. I was surprised (but entirely happy) to find the contrary, and I settled into a 'real life' for my ten months there. I witnessed poverty and hardship, but that was only a small portion of my overall experience of the country. I'm excited to look at this in more depth in my Africa in the 21st Century course this semester, as we attempt to 'think about Africa as a living place rather than merely as a site for intellectual [and humanitarian] speculation and study.'

Toronto in the World: Upcoming Events
The Branding AIDS Conference
Hope in the Balance

No comments: