Invisible Children & KONY2012

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adho
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Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby adho » Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:28 pm UTC

I couldn't find a thread concerning this, so I decided to start one, in the interest of reasonable discussion.

If you are unaware, I am referring to the KONY2012 campaign. This (Trigger warning?) is the video that went "viral", and this is the website of the charity in question, Invisible Children. It has been reposted all over Twitter, Facebook, etc. as well as attracting endorsements from celebrities and public figures (here is a useful list, though unofficial).

The charity and its campaign has attracted much criticism, from many different angles. It seems to concentrate on the nature and direction of their funding, their concentration on Western and specifically American leaders and their lack of criticism of the Ugandan government, whose human rights record is questionable.
I have looked into their financial reports (this is the most recent) which are audited by a relatively small accounting firm.

I personally found the figures odd at best, as you can see their revenue increased hugely, though their direct expenditure decreased. I'm going to keep looking into this, as I have never seen a campaign take so quickly, at least in my native Australia, and to such a broad segment of society which seems to me to be usually unconcerned with similar crises. Is it solely a product of the marketing? A virtuous/vicious cycle?

In the meantime, what are your thoughts, SB?

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby Bears! » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:13 pm UTC

*edited for stupidity*

Rather than say anything dumb again, I'm going to defer to an individual who sent me an email after I asked his opinion. He did extensive work in Uganda (several decades). Here is his take:


Spoiler:
See http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/201 ... Y.facebook

here's what i posted, with one or two later edits, after sharing that link on facebook:

YES YES YES!! SAY IT BROTHER!!

I was living in Uganda in 2003, when Kony made his LAST major incursion there-- he came from the north and got as far as Soroti, but it turned out it was just a raid, and after killing and burning for a few days, his forces melted back into the north, over the border of Sudan, then northeast Congo, now the Central Afr. Rep., and more or less hasn't been heard of since. THAT WAS 9 YEARS AGO!! Yes, he made a couple of brief raids after that in Uganda and, if memory serves, he stirred up some trouble in Congo around Christmas of 2010, but pretty much hasn't been heard of, otherwise.

And by ALL accounts, his present forces are estimated at a few hundred at most. He apparently gets his weapons from China, but through what channels I don't know. Those questions never have clear answers, especially when 'enemies' often serve the same masters.

I was in Uganda again from 2005 through 2007, and the kids who were still sleeping in churches and schools in Gulu in early 2005 (only half as many as 2002) were all back in the villages by the end of 2007.

I have remained continuously in touch with many people all over Uganda since then, and I was in Gulu again last year (2011), drinking beer outdoors even until late at night, and even sleeping in grass huts with some of those kids and their wonderful parents in a perfectly peaceful village outside of town. Kony is basically just a bad memory at this point. NO, he's not dead and he needs to be brought to justice. But he is not an active presence there.

But understand this: Uganda's President Museveni himself is NOT innocent of wrongdoing in the whole Kony affair from the git-go— he USED Kony to punish the Acholi people because they resist him, and Kony remains a potentially useful destabilizing force that he and the other corrupt dictators of Central/East Africa can call upon at will. One of Museveni's highest advisors spent years with Kony (sorry, i don't know the status right now). Do you think he was just enjoying a camping trip?

And the UPDF, by all accounts, is *just* as brutal and corrupt as Kony. Especially since they're not well paid, and they're armed, they loot and rape with impunity. So is supporting them such a great idea? They COULD have taken Kony down any number of times, had they been determined. But they don't like fighting people with with weapons. Better just to live off the locals.

So ALWAYS remember this: there's OIL in Uganda now, and MINERALS all over the place in that part of Africa, and what has been called "World War III" is happening RIGHT NOW in neighboring eastern Congo. Rwanda is up to its ears in murder. Congolese gold is a major export of Uganda. The uranium that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from Congo. Google "conflict minerals" and "coltan"— and you'll find that estimates of those killed over the past decade in neighboring Congo run as high as ten MILLION so far; one in four women gang-raped, even *men* gang-raped— but all this merits not a whisper in our newspapers because THOSE MINERALS ARE IN YOUR CELL PHONE and every other cellphone in the world— got the picture yet? So what is Kony? Brutal, insane, murderous— and useful.

When all the killing was going on— nothing, not a single tear from the good ol' USA. But NOW, in a great, magnanimous gesture of *humanitarian concern*, the US has sent 100 military 'advisors' to Uganda. Of course, no Kony-related 'results' have been reported so far— not least because they're not even looking for Kony— at all!

But meanwhile the Uganda police are sitting in plenty of shiny new heavy military equipment at all major intersections now, as the people plunge further and further into desperation.

While i was there last summer, the US made a 10-year, $75 billion commitment to providing *fighter jets* to Uganda for "security". Um, excuse me? *Fighter* jets??— for *Uganda*??? That's like fighter jets for *Oregon*! (Well, and what it really means is, the criminals who run the US just donated $75B of our tax money to Lockheed, which will give a certain percentage of it to Museveni and his brother the top general; Museveni, who has proven himself ready to do US tricks in any country he can fly to, will spin some more tricks in Somalia, and feel more confident about taking over the new East African Union, that is, president of about 1/6 of the whole continent.

I'm convinced this "Invisible Children" group is either *sinfully* naive, criminally corrupt, or (what is the same) simply a CIA front aiming to stir up support for a future destabilization program.

I feel sooooo bad and sorry for the beautiful, wonderful, innocent people of Uganda, who have done NOTHING to deserve this, least of all, all this "humanitarian concern" from the US.
Last edited by Bears! on Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:41 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Me321
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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby Me321 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 9:29 pm UTC

Can we talk about how scarey it is that young children have been taken by this video, even though its very sorely outdated? even if the message is good, but late, just the fact that so many young (10-18) people have been spreading this vidieo is stunning.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby Ipsum » Fri Mar 09, 2012 10:11 pm UTC

I hate how my age group (14-16) can't actually care about shit happening in the country they live in, but show them an over-simplified summary of an incredibly complex issue, and they kick into overdrive, just fucking shouting about it. Most likely, it's because they don't want to do anything but change their profile picture.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:05 am UTC

I've been linked to a few things about this, including the original video, and I've found this to be by far the most informative piece:

Visible Children: We Got Trouble

Spoiler:
I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.

KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m not alone.

Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee. But it goes way deeper than that.

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.

As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”

Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.

Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.

Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.

If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.

~ Grant Oyston

Grant Oyston is a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Please do not email me except to provide alternative causes, or with media requests, as I am no longer able to read emails (which I’m receiving at a pace too rapid to keep up with).

EDIT: Please read Invisible Children’s response here.


If you go to the original, they have a bunch of links to additional information including Invisible Children's response.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby adho » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:29 am UTC

Further to that, I've found their explanations of where the money goes to be quite insufficient, has anyone found a resource separate to the annual report, which is largely marketing nonsense?
When they're marketing their action kits with the promise that "people will think you're an advocate of awesome" and their bracelets as the "ultimate accessory" I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby lucrezaborgia » Sat Mar 10, 2012 7:46 pm UTC

I've always had major issues with most advocacy campaigns. This latest one by Invisible Children is pure poverty porn. These links express my thoughts on advocacy and this campaign better than I can and I think some of them address some critical issues we should all think about before supporting an NGO.

project diaspora main page is down so here is the google cache of the article on the Million Shirt Project. The best part of this link is that the founder of the project gets into an argument with the blogger. IMO, blogger wins. Spoilered below just in case cache is wonky.

Spoiler:
Correct me if I am wrong, but when did April become the official month of the idiot “do gooder” patrol? Not one day after the one year anniversary of Ashton Kutcher‘s popularity contest to cure malaria, comes this brilliant idea by another entrepreneur way out of his league. The 1 Million T-shirts campaign aims to collect and “send 1 million t-shirts to the people of Africa.” You know, those poor 1 billion shirtless inhabitants of the world’s only dark continent.

Quick! Send in your discarded Star Wars souvenir shirts before someone dies!! If you are feeling bold, how about envisioning that extra poser Abercrombie and Fitch shirt in the back of your closet on the back of an unsuspecting Kenyan.

This is a marketing gimmick from the word go. Not .25 seconds into his promotional video, Jason Sadler, the brainchild behind this campaign, throws out a not-so subtle marketing pitch for his other company, iwearyour.com. Kudos for self-promotion, but come-on, seriously. We are not that stupid.

Sigh.

I, I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I mean, really? Out of all the problems plaguing Africa, shirtless kids running around in tropical weather isn’t a global crisis! And don’t get me started on the gratuitous use of poverty porn in your video. Did you get permission to use the individuals in those photos for your own self-promotion? No? How about the permission of the parents? No? Mr. Sadler, do you even know, where on the map of Africa where those photos were taken? And what exactly qualifies you to be the spokesperson for Africa’s shirtless victims, may I ask? Wait, have you EVER been to Africa? Or you just talked to somebody who’s talked to somebody who read about it on wikipedia?

We don’t need half-baked charity. Clue: we actually buy these shirts for cheap. Therein feeding an entire ecosystem of vendors and suppliers who rely on us to do just that. Buying these shirts puts food on their table and a shirt on our back. Spending six figures to send 1 million shirts to East Africa puts an untold number of used clothing entrepreneurs out of business. Are you going to start a new campaign to send them food now that you have reduced their earning potential?

Let’s also have a conversation of perpetuating dependency on others to provide for us. The more half-baked solutions under the guise of “trying to help” that are lobbed at Africa, the less we are at arming ourselves with home grown solutions. The minute we start to get on our feet in any particular sector, some celebrity dead-brain decides — on their own — that Africa needs our dire help!! We were well on our way to a thriving industry growing our own raw materials for the production of anti-malarials before Bill Gates decided that synthesizing in China and importing the drugs would be beneficial to everyone. He single-handedly buried Kenya’s artemisin industry, putting thousands out of work.

Here’s a better idea, why don’t you take those 1 million shirts and ship them to Hello Rewind. Now here’s a company with sustainability and a social mission all in one. They take used t-shirts and employ former sex workers to sew laptop sleeves they can sell. This is called creating industries. This is how your help Africa Mr. Sadler, by creating economies instead of imploding them. Exactly what are poor Africans to do when your 1 million shirts wear out? Do you have a bat phone they can call so you can ramp up another shirt campaign? Relegate donation campaigns to disaster relief. As an entrepreneur, I am flummoxed why you couldn’t figure this out. Oh right, you did – self-promotion. Brilliant.

Here is another idea you completely overlooked for some reason. Why not actually BUY t-shirts from Africa that you can print your client logos on so you can wear them daily for a fee? See that? A win-win solution that creates more entrepreneurs than it destroys. This is how you help Africa.

For more ideas, check out Texas in Africa‘s post for on how to help and by all means, respond to Siena Anstis‘s open letter on the matter. And for Godsake, please educate yourself thoroughly lest you come across as some neo-colonialist do-gooder who thinks Africa can’t do for its own.


http://goodintents.org/in-kind-donation ... s-aid-fads <---why donations of Western bought products can do more harm than good.

http://goodintents.org/staffing-or-empl ... d-go-wrong <---treating poor people as some sort of petting zoo

http://texasinafrica.blogspot.com/2009/ ... ocacy.html <---best link of all from 2009. They critique Invisible Children and bring up serious concerns about Western advocacy campaigns in general. I'll highlight some of the best stuff below:

The vast majority of peacekeeping missions, peacebuilding efforts, and conflict resolution plans are conceived in New York, Washington, and Brussels, often by people who have never or rarely visited the countries they purport to help. Perhaps you've noticed that these so-called solutions rarely work. That's why I'm a big believer in looking to local leaders to find answers whenever possible. As Suraj Sudhakar points out in a great post, that people are poor and live in a conflict zone does not mean they are stupid.


Regular readers of this blog know that I am not a fan of Invisible Children's work, which is apparently a cardinal sin these days. (If Oprah likes them, clearly I'm in a first-class seat on the slow train to hell.) There are many reasons I think IC is not worth supporting, but among the most paramount is the fact that most of their advocacy isn't actually focused on Ugandan children, but rather on how their supporters feel about Ugandan children and the problem of the use of child soldiers. Hence a series of films that do more to tell us about the filmmakers than to explain the conflict, events that focus on protesters spending the night waiting to be "rescued" from their campouts, and a merchandise line that would appal any well-mannered Ugandan. As we've discussed before, for all their movies and talk show appearances, IC has done very little to actually help many Ugandan children, and they are very poorly regarded by Ugandans in the reason. Good advocacy isn't about the advocates; it's about the people who need others to stand up on their behalf.


The above is my second biggest problem with advocacy campaigns. Whenever I try to point out serious issues with some of these campaigns that are aimed at youth, the #1 answer I get is "but at least they are learning to be less self-centered." So what they are saying is that their children are learning to be less selfish by being selfish. True charity isn't about the self.

insisting that WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING OR PEOPLE WILL KEEP DYING doesn't always mean that the "something" in question should be done. Too often, Westerners get involved in conflicts we don't really understand. And not surprisingly, bad things tend to ensue (cf Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc.). That we don't know exactly what would solve the problem in a place like Somalia is not a good enough reason to take action for its own sake. The risk of doing more harm than good is too high.


This is something you will always run into when you criticism advocacy and aid campaigns. People will give you a sanctimonious stare and say, "Well, at least I'm doing something!" By that logic, firemen s-hould be appreciative if some people decide to toss some gasoline onto a burning building. Hey, it's something, right?

another link to another blog that re-synthesizes most of the above concerns. somehow it is also down so I link to google cache

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby CorruptUser » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:12 am UTC

So... how do they play to catch Kony? By the US sending in more troops? That doesn't seem to have worked very well in Afghanistan or Iraq. Supporting Uganda? The Ugandan army is almost as bad as Kony is. Supporting Sudan People's Liberation Army? They are exactly as bad as Kony. If Kony left Uganda, what does IC think we should do, invade DR Congo?

And what are the early warning radio tower things in the video supposed to actually do? Finding out about the attacks is all but useless unless the Ugandan army can actually respond and attack the LRD, but I get the impression they aren't. No point in dialing 911 if the police response time is measured in days. It'd probably be cheaper and more effective to give each village a few AK47s instead of a radio tower, but I suspect all that would happen is that someone in those villages would create a small army and be the next Kony.
Last edited by CorruptUser on Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:22 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:17 am UTC

I think we could, but I don't think we should.

Edit: Oh those mods.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby CorruptUser » Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:10 am UTC

Found this. The radio network works best when combined with militias. Until the conflict is over, and they become the next problem...

Also, Invisible Children claims that with Kony dead, they can reintegrate the child soldiers with their families. It's nowhere near that simple and I don't think any humanitarian agency is capable of dealing with that problem. The UNICEF claims to, but I'm a bit skeptical of any claims made by the UN. When conflicts rage for decades, there are relatively huge sections of society whose only marketable skill is killing.

The whole situation is extremely complicated with a huge balance of power issue involving at least 4 groups (UPDF, LRA, SPLA, and whichever group currently runs Congo) that all use child/slave soldiers and think rape is a valid military tactic.

This isn't to say that Kony shouldn't be killed; I prefer a US drone-strike with absolutely no legitimacy given to the bastards running Uganda.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby adho » Sat Mar 17, 2012 6:41 am UTC

Oh no.
He took it pretty hard, apparently. Best wishes, get well, et cetera. Poor bloke.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby PeterCai » Sat Mar 17, 2012 7:30 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:This isn't to say that Kony shouldn't be killed; I prefer a US drone-strike with absolutely no legitimacy given to the bastards running Uganda.

So that another mass-murdering warlord may take his place after a bloody power struggle that results in the death of even more Ugandans? Great idea! Obviously American interventionism is the answer to everything!

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby CorruptUser » Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:13 am UTC

PeterCai wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:This isn't to say that Kony shouldn't be killed; I prefer a US drone-strike with absolutely no legitimacy given to the bastards running Uganda.

So that another mass-murdering warlord may take his place after a bloody power struggle that results in the death of even more Ugandans? Great idea! Obviously American interventionism is the answer to everything!


Kony is already gone as a significant power, at least in Uganda, so the power vacuum that would exist with his death already exists. The drone strike would merely be revenge/justice. I just don't want the mass-murders/rapists currently in control of Uganda to get the credit for said justice when not only did they cause the situation for Kony to arise with the quasi-genocide of the Acholi, but they practically encouraged Kony in order to have a bogeyman to keep their own people in fear. Kony needs to go, as does the current Ugandan sham-democracy as well as the dozen subsequent governments.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby Jorpho » Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:11 am UTC

Ugh, I saw more posters in my city today. Perhaps the work of a small number of individuals in accordance with http://news.yahoo.com//kony-2012-protes ... 29699.html .

I don't know who this Charlie Brooker person is, exactly, but I do enjoy his amusing and concise summation of Invisible Children:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpuB11d0 ... r_embedded

Similar territory is covered by this piece, regarding IC's connection to the singularly odious fundamentalist political group known as The Family:
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2012/4/4/8029/40080/

It seems to me in part an attempt to use a soft target to establish some sort of local political unity that can subsequently be directed to pushing through a bigger political agenda.

I'm also not sure if this goal of piling resources into building up a select group of Ugandan "leaders" is the way to go. I used to think that having the local authorities deep in the pocket of some foreign power didn't sound good at all, but this thread suggests that having local authorities in a position to do anything constructive would at least be better than having entirely distant powers calling the shots. I am reminded of this article on the 7 Worst International Aid Ideas.

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby Bassoon » Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:56 am UTC

Yeah, I think there's been a massive KONY2012 campaign again, because posters popped up all over my campus this past week. The posters by us are blue and red, and say "KONY2012: Something We Can All Agree On" and show an elephant and a donkey together, holding up an olive branch. I really hate seeing these, because I can only imagine the number of misinformed people who are contacting their representatives over a misrepresented issue. Furthermore, I really hope the representatives don't listen, because the USA's previous meddlings in foreign countries haven't really turned out all that great. :|

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Re: Invisible Children & KONY2012

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:34 am UTC

Jorpho wrote:I am reminded of this article on the 7 Worst International Aid Ideas.


I can think of plenty to add to that list, voluntourism being on top.

Also, carbon trading; spending money to make sure the third-world economy doesn't develop. Yeah, real good idea.


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