The value of hope

August 15, 1991

"Journey of Hope," the Academy Award-winning Swiss film about Turkish peasants trying to cross illegally into Switzerland in search of a better life, tells a story that is repeated thousands of times each day, often with heartbreaking results. The latest headlines are from Italy, where authorities are feverishly working to persuade desperate Albanians to return to their benighted country. The problem, of course, is that they have so little to return to, and so much to hope for in developed countries where economic opportunity seems to beckon.

What drives them? As the weary Turkish peasant in the film replied: "Hope."

In too many countries around the world, hope is a scarce commodity. Many people can hardly feed and clothe their children; the hope of educating them and seeing them build a more prosperous life is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Meanwhile, developed countries pick and choose among these would-be immigrants, splitting hairs between "political" refugees, who are acceptable, and "economic" refugees, who aren't. Even without these definitions, refugees would face an uphill battle -- developed countries simply cannot absorb all the people in the world who are desperate for hope.

What they can do, however, is to offer aid to these countries through programs that lead to self-sufficiency and even prosperity. An example is the U.N.'s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which has compiled an impressive record of directing aid to the people who need it, rather than to the bureaucrats who are supposed to administer the programs. For every dollar IFAD spends at the global level, 94 cents directly reaches the people it was intended to help. And for a mere $1 million, IFAD can implement programs that provide 20,000 people with food security for life, 7,000 new jobs and indirect benefits for another 10,000 people.

That is the kind of effective aid the world needs to see. The alternative is simple: more pictures like those from Italy of boats crowded with people so desperate they'll do anything to escape.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.