Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Notes from my conversation w/ Congressman Chris Smith

*These are notes from a conversation we had on September 25th, 2007, days before I left home. Due to the time passed and the incompleteness of my notes it’s hard to say how accurate this is and also where Hon. Smith’s points end and where my interpretations begin, but still food for thought.
www.house.gov/chrissmith
To begin the conversation, I explained to Congressman Smith why I personally believe that U.S. Americans can’t find Africa on the map. Such as, education and helping Africa and Iraq.
We then discussed other, less pretty topics, including
FAITH-BASED GROUPS AND ACCESS TO THE GLOBAL FUND
Hon. Smith estimated that Faith-based groups like Catholic Relief Services do about 40% of the work targeted by the Global Fund, and yet receive only 4% of the Global Fund grants. The Board that hands out the money is morally opposed to proselytizing of any sort, and so they avoid religious groups. This ends up causing perverse results where, for example, the Global Fund funds the building of a new hospital around the corner from an existing faith-based mission hospital which has already been serving the community for years. Faith-based groups have access to an often more dedicated work force willing to work on lower salaries because they are there TO SERVE. When the personal moral beliefs of someone hung up on freedom of religion ends up wasting resources and COSTING LIVES, something is wrong with the evaluation system. This is something I definitely agree with Hon. Smith on. In addition to faith-based orgs being better run than suitcase NGOs, I’d like to add that atheists should not complain since religion is opiate for the people anyway. I say give it to them!
CHINA
I really wanted to talk with Hon. Smith about China because he is a huge defender of human rights and China is a huge offender of human rights. For example the UN Human Rights Council, which remains stymied on most issues on account of an agreement that sounds like this: “If you don’t show them mine I won’t show them yours.” So the democratic defender of human rights conspires to stay quiet.
Hon. Smith also discussed a peripheral consequence of China’s growing influence in Africa. Just as USAID provides countries with “Roadmaps to development” China is exporting its own roadmap, including the notorious one-child policy. Rwanda apparently has a 3 child policy. They also have a tendency to promote dictatorships with centralized government and a lack of free press since that makes the international trade negotiations easier (fewer people to corrupt), something which directly counters our funding efforts for free and fair elections. Violence begins when opposition groups feel that their backs are against the wall and they have no other choice. There has also been some forced relocation of Chinese into Africa, much like in Tibet. The Chinese have bragged that they are helping Africans by bringing Africans to university study in China, where they are being schooled in the Chinese way of doing things.
One of the advantages that China has is it’s nack for populist PR. Whereas the US invests heaps of money into public health in these countries (I have been behind the scenes and have seen how it is done at the Academy for Educational Development and on the whole it seems to me that the programs are very results oriented and are not designed to buy grassroots goodwill toward the U.S.), China will just build a soccer stadium as a gift to a city. Which do you think holds more sway with the average African? Which does the most good for him/her?
As for my proposed career tracks, he recommended that infrastructure will be first and foremost in improving health care here (so much for health insurance schemes?) and also that the rule of law will be very important for increasing transparency and fighting corruption. Ways to track who owned what and hopefully ways to watch banking practices.

1 comment:

bbulzibar said...

1) That was mad funny. I didn't know you kept up with popular culture?! Coming from someone who doesnt know who jessica simpson is, you are pretty caught up on the like such as not having maps.
2) I agree on the faith based things. 100%
3) Interesting story on China. Don't people need education/aid/food AND soccer? As long as people are helping, they should be able to help in the way they choose.