In times of trouble, should we just focus on aid rather than Fairtrade?

I’m sure that you will have read about the problems in Africa with the largest drought in the last fifty years. This type of humanitarian crisis has led to questions over the focus needed for international development organisations and the general public.


The famine has been driven by a number of issues such as climatic stresses, long term national and global political instability and unsustainable livelihoods. The complexities of the causes of humanitarian disasters makes it difficult to decide whether aid is the answer to the problem. There is not one single type of aid: there is multilateral aid (given by many countries such as food aid) and bilateral aid (given by one single government to another). Aid has had a variety of attached conditions such as the ‘opening up’ of markets in the 1980s. This has often made aid problematic in the long term development of the global south.

There have been three main reactions to the problems in Africa: First, we could ignore the issues in the Global South and not intervene. This has been attractive as it is the cheapest option for the Global North, and seems to force independence. However, as many people have argued in the current unfair economic system this is not possible. The Global South is financially and legally in a situation that is against them – such as unfair trade rules. It is naive to suggest that the Global North can just be separated from the Global South alone, as it is intrinsically linked into the development of the Global South. Also, it is ethically questionable to allow the development injustice to continue.