UPDATE Aug 11, 12:45pm : some comments defending slum tourism; I give a new perspective on one of the most heated debates that has kept recurring on Aid Watch (see below). The following bad things are now officially bad because:
(1) NYT oped page gives space to eloquent former slum resident to tell us that slum tourists are indeed really, really offensive (will they get it this time?)
(2) FT Africa editor realizes aid donors not as enthusiastic about democracy as they said they were, really.
(3) somebody finally showed what to do when your workplace is really, really bad: just grab 2 beers, curse at everyone in sight, and slide down the emergency chute. Aid workers: imitate?
UPDATE Aug 11, 12:45pm :
Some commentators defend slum tourism. This same debate keeps recurring on Aid Watch and has been one of our most heated issues ever. If you feel like it, check out the links below for previous rounds of debate. I am going to uncharacteristically step back and try to understand both sides.
Critics of poverty tourism are very sensitive to the dignity of the poor, feel that the rich would NOT be treated in the same way, and don't feel the modest material payoffs justify a violation of dignity. Supporters stress the economic benefits and believe the poor should not or do not perceive a significant loss of dignity.
I think what the debate has advanced is an agreement that the dignity of the poor is a very important and legitimate consideration in aid. After that, there is just an almost empirical disagreement about how, when, what or why this dignity is or is not compromised by any given tourism project. But I'm glad that individual dignity has gotten a much higher profile as a major ideal, principle, and objective.
Should starving people be tourist attractions? Response from tourism operator to “Should starving people be tourist attractions” Response to MV tourism operator on “Should starving people be tourist attractions?”