Opinion: Danmarks Indsamling is admirable, but what about the causes of poverty?

Opinion: Danmarks Indsamling is admirable, but what about the causes of poverty?
Danmarks Indsamling in 2014. Photo: Christian Liliendahl/Ritzau Scanpix
The purpose of Denmark’s largest televised charity event, Danmarks Indsamling, is to raise money “to help people in some of the poorest countries in the world to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” Peter Kenworthy discusses whether the causes of poverty should be given more attention through the event.

On February 2nd, annual charity event Danmarks Indsamling culminates with a large show on Danish national television. Before and during the show, 12 of the largest Danish humanitarian NGOs that run the event try to raise as much money as possible – this year in aid of poor and vulnerable girls worldwide.

Danmarks Indsamling focuses particularly on contributing to the six first UN Sustainable Development Goals. Amongst other things, these goals attempt to facilitate the end to world poverty, hunger, and epidemics such as AIDS, TB and malaria, as well as secure clean drinking water, gender equality and primary education for all.

Last year, 1.5 million Danes saw an array of politicians, businesses, celebrities and ordinary Danes raise money for homeless children in poor countries.

Humanitarian aid is necessary in a world where 800 million people are chronically malnourished, where inequality is on the rise, and where Danish development aid is either cut or used to promote Danish interests, in accordance with the Danish government’s development strategy.

Last year, Danmarks Indsamling managed to raise 78 million Danish kroner (10 million euros). But viewed against the Danish government’s 500 million kroner development aid cuts in 2014, and the fact that development aid as a percentage of GDP is now at its lowest level in 30 years, this is less remarkable.

Besides, development aid is more or less a case of symptomatic treatment if we don’t focus on and try to understand the causes of poverty and change its basic conditions, something that is demonstrably not high on the agenda during Danmarks Indsamling.

Because without understanding the underlying reasons for poverty, it becomes impossible to demand changes to things like unfair trade practices or the tax avoidance of large multinational corporations, which amounts to more than the total foreign development aid given to poor countries.

The target of UN Sustainable Development Goal 4.7 is to “ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development,” including knowledge about human rights, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity.

But according to an annual Ministry of Foreign Affairs poll, only a third of all Danes believe that they have any sufficient degree of knowledge of development aid or the conditions in poor countries, and under half believe that development aid actually works.

Perhaps the 12 organisations behind Danmarks Indsamling should use some of the massive attention on development issues on February 2nd to ensure that the Danish population is better equipped to understand the causes of poverty and the goals of the UN sustainable Development Goals that the charity event is trying to help bring about?

Sociologist and journalist Peter Kenworthy is a contributing author to “African Awakening: The emerging revolutions”. He has worked for several Danish NGOs in Africa, as a communications officer for a municipality, as a journalist for Danish newspapers and as a freelance journalist for Danish and international magazines and newspapers. He also has a teaching degree and has worked at several schools.


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