APP 7: Philanthropy, rights, charity
Despite almost 30 years of CRC history, our relation with children’s needs and problems continues to be based more on philanthropy and charity than on rights. This philanthropic approach, in the last 15 years, has been dramatically reinforced also by the mediatic impact of humanitarian fundraising activities. Showing a child that smiles or better a child that cries is very convincing for the public and leads more easily to donations.
The need for organisations to raise private funds from the national market is more pressing given the cut on public international cooperation resources and showing children continue to be the best way to raise funds. Showing suffering children provides a better return for investments.
Most of the organisations that are promoting children’s rights are using a philanthropic and charity paradigm (more or less sophisticated) to get the resources needed to protect and promote children’s rights. This propaganda, beyond the financial results, determines a pressing imaginary, which identifies children with their needs or problems. More than frequently we are confronted with images of children that have no story, that own nothing if not their suffering. Rarely the causes and the responsibilities that created this suffering are noted.
In a way children and their images are continuously exploited by the very agencies that should promote their rights and dignity. The misleading paradigm proposed through this new sophisticated philanthropy is that "the more funds we raise, the more children we can save". We often have the impression that this proposal is drastically subverting the relation between means and ends (using children to raise money).
This assumption is highly questionable since it is widely demonstrated that the sustainability of children’s welfare is determined not just by financial resources and secondly because it shifts those obligations to a private ground that should be centred in public institutions, for example by not reducing the funds to guarantee the welfare of children or implementing international cooperation.
It is also worth noticing how activities for children are often supported by funds coming from the very actors who are exploiting resources and creating socio-economic damages around the world. Even more worrying is the fact that many persons involved in these kind of activities are nowadays involved in the governing boards of agencies, foundations and charities for children, sometimes the same that are supporting the CRC!
Although controversial and delicate (especially for organisations like ours) we would strongly suggest to consider these aspects in order to appreciate the difference between needs and rights as well as between means and ends.
There are some spared literature on these dimensions maybe because they are questioning the mainstream triangle “victim-aggressor-savior” which is significantly determining our relation with children and childhood as well as most of contemporary humanitarian communication, for example Hannah Arendt and Paulo Freire’s work.