The enormous difficulties of attempting to reduce poverty, build capacity, and facilitating sustained development continue to be profoundly under estimated by the international community. Even back in 1992, Jonathan Moore, adviser to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said, “…the scale of the task truly staggers the imagination because it can be debilitating to admit the big troubles and the long odds involved and because we are unwilling to commit the means needed to get the job done… our perceptions and policies are oversimplified and downsized in order to prevent us being intimidated or overwhelmed and to permit the illusion that what we are providing is enough…”
What is enough to get the job done? Of course, no one really knows and I am wary of those who think they do. But certainly we need to think longer-term than we do currently. The whole system of ‘aid work’ seems to play against itself. Consider that a 12-month employment contract is considered a long-term contract in most of the humanitarian aid sector. One study showed that the average MSF and International Red Cross aid contracts were less than 12 months. But how can aid workers engage in dialog, learn culture, learn language, understand the complexities of poverty, and develop friendships with victims and program beneficiaries with such short-term employment contracts?
But the broken ‘system’ may be a reflection of our broken ‘self’ as much as anything else. There is a saying (probably Celtic) that that resonates with me: “Changed people change people”
I wonder if before we sit down to solve the world’s poverty problems that each of us would take concrete steps to resolve each of our personal relationship problems. Now that would really change the world! After all, did not Jesus urge his followers to forgive those who wronged them and to make every effort to reconcile with those they had wronged (see Matthew 5:23-26 and 6:14-15) . Jesus’ 12 disciples made this a foundation to their work and they seemed to have made quite an impact on the world. They learned from Jesus to both forgive those who wronged them and to pursue peace with those they had wronged, like two sides of the same coin. It means doing everything in our power to pursue peace with one another. When I began to make pursuing peace a key life-time priority it changed me and continues to change me.
I am convinced that broken relationships are the most fundamental root of poverty and misery in our world. If that is true, than it follows that doing everything in our power to mend/reconcile our personal relationships is the most fundamental thing we can do to change our world. It then gives us a ‘credential’ in being a peace maker in the lives of others. Changed people change people.