In a little-noticed Wall Street Journal article last week (1/2/09) a new way to address the problem of world hunger was proposed. Rather that simply handing out food to the poor and needy, from now on the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) will be databanking and monitoring food distribution to starving individuals.
“U.N. Tackles Rising Threat of Urban Hunger in Africa” authored by Sarah Childress is subtitled “High Food Prices Spur World Food Program, Usually Employed in Rural Crises, to Find Tactics That Work in Crowded Cities.”
Just what tactics? According to the article, the “escalating hunger in Africa is forcing aid agencies… to scramble for strategies” that will help “identify who’s most in need of help.” As part of this identification process, the WFP will be conducting an “experiment with cash and voucher systems” ostensibly for the purpose of avoiding the upset of local economies. The recipient will receive a “beneficiary card” which they can show at “a local office each month to receive vouchers” for cash, and a “local microfinance agency… will take the vouchers and handle the reimbursements.”
The aid groups are using “more nuanced surveys” as one of the tactics to identify the “neediest people” and will be “evaluating them on factors including access to clean water and the size of their dwellings.” The article then says that the aid “organization will analyze the data.”
In a perfect world this idealistic plan might work to help local microeconomies. But that isn’t what this plan is all about. It isn’t about simple food distribution to the poor, starving and needy in Africa. Rather, this plan represents a fundamental shift in how aid will be given to people. This shift is taking place at both the macro and micro levels in tandem with international foundations, NGOs, corporations, mission and aid groups.
This food voucher plan requires people to register first before they receive food. Register with whom and for what purpose? From the point that someone registers for and/or receives the voucher they will enter the “system.” Everything they do from that point on will be monitored, databanked and assessed. This is how the emerging global governance system will work.
What role will Rick Warren and his church-based health clinics play in all of this? Perhaps none. But it is remarkable how similarly structured this food voucher plan is to the purpose-driven formula of “transforming health care delivery through the full engagement of the local church linked to existing health care systems to work together for the common purpose of community health.”
The Pied Pipers of Purpose monograph published in 2004 (Conscience Press) examined management guru Peter Drucker’s activities on overhauling the conduct of the Private Sector (the 3rd leg of his 3-legged stool concept). Drucker, who mentored Rick Warren, advocated an assessment-based system of monitoring efficiency and effectiveness for charitable organizations, which included the concept of merging State and Church (including private charities) into faith-based endeavors. A key facet of this results-based system was regulating “choices,” which notably would include the concept of “vouchers.” These vouchers, while purportedly giving people “choice,” would actually function as a method of human control. “Accountability” for quantifiable and qualitative results would be based institutional standards — benchmarks for human performance that were inflexible, restrictive, unyielding, and even punitive. And in Drucker’s model, human beings are referred to as “human capital” — their “value” is assessed in terms of how much they can contribute to the common good of Society. The monograph explained how “vouchers” work in the education realm:
Charter schools and vouchers blur the lines between Drucker’s three sectors of society – nonprofit, corporate and state – because of how the money passes hands and who is ultimately in control. Charter schools and vouchers, which are run by business corporations and/or sub-entities of the government, operate in compliance with education reform standards set by the State. The State defines the results and prescribes the assessments to measure the learners, who are technically public students. State monies are then, in turn, paid to the corporations who operate the charters.
Now, apply this same concept of vouchers to global food distribution and it becomes apparent that this system could quickly become fraught with trouble. The Wall Street Journal article does not mention the corporate partners in this voucher-for-food program. But State (local, national and international) corruption alone, including bribery, unseemly conduct and unethical collusion, could easily cripple this system. The poor starving individual who just wants food to eat could become caught up in a web of unsavory interconnections and entanglements.
And what role would the 3rd leg of the stool — the church and/or aid groups — play in this food-for-voucher scheme? What if the local church “distribution center” in every local village became an outlet for food voucher registration and management? It may not be a far-fetched possibility. The monograph observes the downside to all of this:
Many advocates of government-funded faith-based charities believe that the end justifies the means, and will point to the “results” as evidence of a good work being done. These good-intentioned people probably don’t realize that their activities further the political goals of communitarian societal transformation. These folks may not understand the long-term negative repercussions of cooperating with this new system of governance. In a communitarian worldview any truly private entity (family, charity, church and small Christian school) poses a direct challenge to the “common good.”
This is an interesting statement in light of Rick Warren’s recent activities in promulgating Communitarian agendas and ideals such as the “common good.” When one considers that his church-based clinics in Africa are health-care data-driven centers, cooperating with a multitude of partners across the full spectrum of a global 3-legged stool, it raises many uncomfortable questions about their ultimate “purpose.” Is it really to offer care and meet physical needs? Or is there more to it? What happens to the survey information once it is databanked? It this just a way to get poor people into the international governance “system”? The monograph comments on the negative effects of Peter Drucker’s plans for overhauling the 3rd leg of the stool:
This is institutional charity, not the private act of a widow’s mite. The Scriptural admonitions to give to him that asketh thee (Matt. 5:42) and freely ye have received, freely give (Matt. 10:8b) no longer apply. If a charity doesn’t perform up to par, monies are withdrawn. This is because organized charitable donations are now being used as an instrument to effect change, to produce transformation….
Transformation is being built on the backs of those who are the most vulnerable, helpless, and powerless. To put this post in its larger global context, check out Berit Kjos’s new webpage topic GLOBAL FOOD MANAGEMENT and follow the many links. It is not too far-fetched to question any new-fangled global food management program. And it is important to raise ethical concerns about how food is being used as a lever for transformation.
“Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Luke 5:30-31)
1. Transcript of American Public Media radio program “Speaking of Faith” with Krista Tippett hosting, Part II: Rick & Kay Warren, http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/warren/transcript.shtml
2. Quote from a Larry Ross Press release http://www.alarryross.com/Client_Info.aspx?ID=37 and http://www.alarryross.com/PressRelease.aspx?ID=347 (8/6/08 ) “PASTOR RICK & KAY WARREN BRING TOGETHER LEADERS TO DISCUSS UNIFICATION OF EXPERTISE TO STOP HIV/AIDS: Saddleback Church Hosts International AIDS Conference Satellite Session on the Partnership of Government, Business & the Church.” Cited in an ASSIST News Service story published 8/6/08, “Pastor Rick & Kay Warren Bring Together Leaders To Discuss Unification Of Expertise To Stop HIV/AIDS: Saddleback Church Hosts International AIDS Conference Satellite Session on the Partnership of Government, Business & the Church,” by Dan Wooding. http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2008/s08080030.htm