Last week, ONE, the advocacy organization founded by Bono, apparently sent out an email to some of the Africans in their address book. The subject: Dambisa Moyo’s new book Dead Aid, recently released in the US. The plan: to persuade some high profile Africans to provide quotes in support of ONE’s position that Moyo’s ideas are dangerously mistaken. The vigorous and public debate that has greeted the release of Dead Aid is a good thing for transparency and effectiveness in aid, no matter what you think of Moyo’s book. ONE apparently doesn't agree. There are two things wrong with ONE’s campaign to discredit Moyo.
First of all, ONE misrepresents Moyo’s ideas to better tear them down. For example, ONE characterizes Moyo’s plan as a call to “shut off all aid in 5 years,” when Moyo is very clear about excluding humanitarian aid and NGO/ charitable aid from her discussion.
Second, rounding up some Africans who happen to disagree with Zambian-born Moyo doesn’t alter the quality of her proposals, which deserve to be debated on their own merits. (We’ve blogged about the intellectually dishonest technique of the “authenticity trump card” before.) When the ONE campaign says in its email “We are collecting quotes from Africans who might disagree with her…”, it seems to be saying we will not trust or allow Africans to have this debate on its merits on their own.
The people at ONE seem to implicitly justify this campaign by portraying themselves as the only small voice bold enough to speak out against Moyo. An article on their website claims that “while Dead Aid has been getting a lot of buzz, it hasn't been getting much, if any, scrutiny.” Even a cursory scan of Moyo’s press shows that Dead Aid has gotten reviews from all sides, plenty of them vociferously critical.
Do Bono and ONE yet understand that aid to the poor is not just a matter a celebrity fund-raising, but a difficult challenge that needs a vigorous debate on what works and what doesn’t?