The new philanthropy: a dirty deal

In: Uncategorized

24 Sep 2006

Philanthropy seems to be in fashion. Bill and Melinda Gates have donated huge amounts to ending global poverty. Warren Buffett has followed their lead. Bono and Bobby Shriver seem to be trying to popularise the movement further with their Product Red campaign.

The latest high profile event in London is Tuesday’s Fortune Forum dinner at Billingsgate including Bill Clinton, Michael Douglas, Deepak Chopra (spiritual guru), Zac Goldsmith (eco-toff and editor of the Ecologist), and a comeback performance by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens). For those who are interested prices start at only £1,000 a plate.

On the face of it what could be wrong here? The wealthy are giving substantial amounts of money to worthwhile causes such as curing AIDS and malaria, tackling climate change and reducing global inequality. But closer examination shows that a dirty deal is implicit in this arrangement: the rich will give a little money to the poorest of the poor in return for the mass of the population giving up the ambition of broader development. Unpicking this arrangement will be one of my tasks over the coming months.

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