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  Number 229 | Agosto 2000
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International

Development Aid In Crisis: Donor Fatigue

Why are the donor nations of the North allocating fewer resources for international cooperation in developing the countries of the South? One reason is that there is little to show for the money that has been invested. Promoting "good governance" as a condition for development aid may be the key that both North and South need to overcome donor fatigue.

José J. Romero Rodríguez

Cooperation in the process of developing impoverished countries is a multifaceted task involving both the private and public sectors. Given the lack of tangible, spectacular and immediate results, a certain feeling of powerlessness and fatigue can develop, which may cause donors to lose interest in the problems of the poor in those countries. This has come to be known as donor fatigue. Nevertheless, much work remains to be done. One of the priorities, though not the only one and perhaps not even the most important one, must be the fostering of "good governance" in the countries receiving aid, as a necessary condition to begin to grapple with the serious and urgent problems gripping them.

Has it been worth all the effort?

In July and August of 1999, half of Nicaragua was reading Adios Muchachos, Una memoria de la revolución sandinista, by Sergio Ramírez. It is an obviously slanted account of the revolution that is highly self-exculpatory. In one of its finest pages, Ramirez writes "Idania Fernandez was a Sandinista fighter who died in combat in April 1979, before the triumph of the revolution. Her daughter Claudia left for the United States with her grandparents when she was little, and hardly knew her mother. On a cassette on which she taped her last message to her daughter, she says ,‘When this is over and we are in peace, I will send for you so we can be together and we will play together a lot. When we are together in Nicaragua, everything will be different and we will be happy and you will go to school so you can learn many things.’" Sergio Ramirez adds, "That time when I ran into Claudia in the street (December 1998), I asked her right before saying goodbye, with some uneasiness, whether she thought the sacrifice her mother had made had been worth it."

I confess that on returning to Nicaragua at the end of August 1999, during one of umpteen visits since 1989, I also felt affected by the "donor fatigue virus."

We can also speak of "cooperant fatigue." Together with Sergio Ramirez, given Nicaragua’s situation today, we wonder if it has been worth it.

According to the Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy of Language, the word fatigue means agitation, tiredness, extraordinary work. Discomfort caused by rapid or difficult breathing. Desire to vomit. Figuratively: discomfort, suffering, hardship. We have experienced some of these feelings during and after our frequent stays in Nicaragua. Things never seem to improve and one gets the impression that if it isn’t one thing, it’s another, be it hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, droughts, bad government, poorly done cooperation, lack of coordination etc. We do not believe that this is a purely subjective reaction, or that it is only felt in the case of Nicaragua. But it is not for nothing that Nicaragua is one of the countries, if not the country, that has received the largest amount of external aid per capita in the last twenty years. According to the data we have available, in the last 20 years, between 1979 and 1998, Nicaragua has received a total US $13.3 billion in foreign aid. Other sources put this figure at $20 billion. If we use the lower one, calculating a rough population size of 3 million (2 million 20 years ago and 4 million plus today) this represents an average of $222 per person, per year. This figure is higher than the income of a good part of the Nicaraguan population.

On the other hand, Nicaragua is the Latin American country with the largest number of non-profit organizations. According to official Ministry of Government records, there are 1,750 legally registered organizations, plus an additional 850 that are unregistered. Between 1997 and August 1999, around three hundred new non-profits have registered each year. So what is going on?

Developing countries that are failing to develop

Let us examine the opinions of various Spanish writers, none of whom we can suspect of being unsympathetic. Ignacio Sotelo says, "Development policy, in which no one believes anymore, has degenerated into a merely humanitarian policy carried out by the churches and other nongovernmental organizations." Manuela Mesa reaffirms this. "This phenomenon known as ‘donor fatigue’ has developed in the context of an economic recession and strong budgetary restrictions in which sensitivity to internal problems increases and doubts about the efficacy of aid multiply.

It is important not to forget that public and budgetary pressures explain aid fatigue in the Northern countries. The future of existing aid systems will depend on the application of transparent accounting systems, as the public is demanding."
Miguel Romero, of ACSUR-Las Segovias, speaks of the "silent decline" of Official Development Aid (ODA). Pejoratively spotlighting the Republican majority in the US Congress as an example, Manuel Iglesia-Caruncho says, "Some governments and specific legislatures that don’t believe aid is useful like to speak of cooperation fatigue," using it as an excuse. They believe that a substantial aid cut is justified since the developing world has received billions of dollars in aid in recent decades and still has failed to develop.

In this context, the concept of donor fatigue refers as much to the decrease in all types of aid, official and private, as to a certain weariness on the part of the organizations and people (volunteers, cooperants) making up the varied and complex world of NGOs and their close surroundings.

Only the Nordic countries earmark 0.7% of their GDP

One of the best-known experts on this theme, José Antonio Alonso, says, "It is not strange that among the industrialized countries, under the pressing weight of important fiscal imbalances, there is a certain tiredness when it comes to aid. This discouragement also reaches the beneficiaries, and there is no shortage of those who want fewer paternalistic concessions in exchange for more effective market openings, more technology transfer and more intense investment activity from the industrialized countries."

Manuela Mesa describes this same phenomenon on a worldwide scale: "We are witnessing a silent decline in Official Development Aid (ODA), accompanied by thundering speeches in favor of the fight against poverty. This decline is seen in economic resources, in the internal distribution of funds between those directed toward development and those earmarked for emergency actions, and last but not least, in the growing weight placed on commercial outcomes in managing those funds." Miguel Romero reminds us of what we already know. "Almost thirty years after is the United Nations General Assembly Accords, renewed by the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, in which it was agreed that 0.7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Northern countries be earmarked for ODA, we are even further from achieving this modest objective. Without a radical change in the principles and priorities that guide international relations, this backslide will continue."

This objective of setting aside 0.7% of the GDP of the Northern countries as official development aid for the impoverished countries was specifically adopted by the United Nations in resolution 61 of a May 1972 Trade and Development Conference. The countries of the North renewed this pledge in the Action Program of the Social Development Summit held in Copenhagen in 1995: "We will struggle to fulfill the agreed-upon objective of 0.7% of the Gross Domestic Product for official development aid as soon as it is possible and to increase the percentage of aid earmarked for social development programs."

Yet in the nineties, the amount of aid has been gradually declining. Among the group of donor countries that makes up the Development Aid Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the percentage of the GDP allocated for development has dropped from 0.33% in the 1985-89 period to only 0.3% in 1994, and this trend has continued in subsequent years. The degree of commitment has been unequal. The Nordic countries are the only donors who meet the 0.7% commitment. This is far ahead of the 0.42% average of the European Union countries, 0.29% of Japan and only 0.15% of the United States.

Rich countries, poor responses

During the Copenhagen summit, the following text was approved: "We agree to a mutual commitment between the developed countries and the developing countries, consisting of the allocation of a matching fund of 20% of ODA and 20% of the national budget of the developing countries, respectively, to basic social programs." The 20:20 Proposal of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to meet basic human development needs has been the main effort made to increase the quality of aid and direct it toward poverty reduction. Nevertheless, there has been little adherence on the part of the donor countries, and none has reached the 20%.



At the beginning of the nineties, the recipient countries earmarked an average 13% of their budgets as their part of the human development effort, compared to 7% of ODA by the donor countries in 1989-1991 and 5.5% in 1993. Another indicator of the quality of aid is the orientation of ODA to the Less Advanced Countries and to Sub-Saharan Africa, which represented 24.8% and 27.8%, respectively, in 1993. The donor community in the Development Aid Committee has been unable to establish an objective beyond 0.21% of the ODA for Less Advanced Countries.

This situation has not improved in recent years. In August 1998, we read in Managua that the United Nations had criticized the wealthy countries for cutting back humanitarian aid. The progressive cutbacks had set off alarms in the UN. Secretary General Kofi Annan warned of the consequences of the donor nations’ attitudes in cutting 24% of their donations in this area since 1992. Annan said that the situation in Africa threatened the immediate future of 12 million people, "victims of an unsolvable crisis." Alarmed by the "poor response" of the international community, the UN reminded the wealthy countries that their economies were experiencing "moments of prosperity." Among the countries increasingly giving less is the United States, where the percentage of the GDP it donates has dropped from 0.21% to 0.09%. Despite this reduction, however, the US continues to be the second largest donor in the world (Japan is first), with US$6.9 billion.

The extreme seriousness of the situation more than justifies the alarm sounded by the UN. To demonstrate the gravity of the situation, the UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, the Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello, stated that the UN agencies lack the funds needed to assist the 2 million Angolans affected by the war between the army and rebel guerillas, the million Somalians threatened with starvation after six years of failed harvests and all the other African victims of war and famine. Vieira, recalling the significant funds raised in Spain in 1998 to help the Central American victims of Hurricane Mitch, said that "when there’s a lot of news coverage about an area, people are very generous." The UN believed it would take US$500 million to palliate the crisis in Africa in 1999. Raising that amount of money was feasible, according to Annan, since many countries, including all of the European Union except Greece, as well as Australia, Canada, the United States, Japan, Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland, were experiencing periods of economic prosperity.

Seven years ago, the 21 countries that lead the world in cooperation and development donations invested US$63 billion. In 1997 the amount dropped to just over US$48 billion, a 24% cutback overall. The percentage of the reduction is 30% if we consider only the amount given by the five highest donors.
In the developed world, many countries are experiencing notable economic growth and budgetary surpluses, while the aid amount remains stagnant or decreases due to donor fatigue. The additional amount of emergency funds the UN needed to meet the African crisis was just about the same as the amount that its various humanitarian and cooperation agencies had available in the beginning of 1999.

The neoliberal reasons for fatigue

What are the reasons for donor fatigue? It’s not a bad idea to recall the words of Miguel Romero. "This step back is not fundamentally a result of aid fatigue or of social or political opinion based on distrust about the efficacy of ODA, nor is it a demonstration of support for more adequate instruments for the human development of the peoples of the South. It also cannot be attributed simply to a lack of political will on the part of the donors. It is a consequence of the contradiction between the norms, objectives and decisions regulating North-South relations and those that are needed if we are to achieve cooperation based on solidarity. These arrows clearly point in opposite directions."

The reason is ideological. Any intervention, even of aid, is pernicious. Given the current neoliberal environment, one of the most frequent criticisms of development aid, according to Iglesia-Caruncho, is precisely related to the neoliberal economy. It is the belief that any intervention in the economy by the state prejudices economic growth. On an international level, ODA would have the same disturbing effect as any other public sector interference on the internal economy of those developing countries. Stated more concisely: trade, not aid.

The representatives of this viewpoint advocate fundamentally that trade and private capital investment are the means to overcome underdevelopment. Naturally, aid is not at odds with trade and investment; exactly the opposite. Rubens Ricupero, General Secretary of the UNCTAD confirms this: "Some say that trade, not aid, must be the instrument of development, and that everyone agrees with this. You would think that technical cooperation related to trade constitutes a significant part of overall technical cooperation, but I can tell you that it doesn’t happen that way. The OECD figures demonstrate that, in fact, only 2% of technical cooperation is trade related. In fact, nobody is truly trying to teach the countries how to produce, how to trade, or how to compete. This is why the economy of information should be an important element in revising the rules related to development, and that development should be understood as a continuous learning process."

Political and geopolitical reasons

Another reason for fatigue is that international cooperation has become a foreign policy instrument for the developed countries. This is particularly true of bilateral official aid. In any case, the problem is not so much that ODA serves the needs of the donor countries. It is that it doesn’t serve the needs of recipient countries. Another fundamental reason is geo-strategic. Now that the cold war has ended, we are living in what Federico Mayor refers to as a hot peace, and it would appear that cooperation is no longer necessary. Iglesia-Caruncho states "With the cold war over, the principal motive that encouraged the great powers to maintain Official Development Aid—to have one more weapon in the East-West confrontation—no longer exists."

"There is another way to do things"

There are more explanations for donor fatigue. Carmelo Angulo, the United Nations resident representative in Nicaragua, is a person of great experience and vision. We were able to discuss this theme with him on several occasions. He believes that fatigue exists for three reasons: "because international cooperation is allocating fewer resources than it did in the past; because there are doubts about the credibility of the aid mechanisms; and because many think that there’s another way to do things."
We have already addressed the question of resources. On the question of credibility of the aid mechanisms, we have discussed the problems in ODA, as well as the unwillingness of governments to fulfill their commitments, and have touched on the question of private aid channeled through the NGOs. Fatigue is growing because it is increasingly clear that the small activities of the NGOs, and even their larger activities, are not resolving the problem. Vicenç Fisas accurately writes that "it doesn’t seem tolerable that in this day and age fundraising is done for integrated projects by appealing to individual sponsorship (adopt a poor person). This hides the real nature of the conflicts. There are still some pleas for aid to the Sudan that present the problem as if it were a natural catastrophe, making it appear as if the structural misery can be definitively solved by increasing development aid or by multiplying small projects."

Carmelo Angulo puts special emphasis on the question of another way to do things, answering his own rhetorical question, "How should things be done?" "In exchange for resources, the donors, fatigued or not, could demand governance from the countries they assist. In the globalized slang of cooperation, good governance must be the product of three ingredients: a healthy macroeconomic policy (deficit reduction, balanced budget), efficient and transparent resource use, and active participation by civil society in projects."

Without good governance, there is no development

We know that without good governance, there is no development. After decades of aid and cooperation in both Central America and Africa, there has been scant progress in the promotion of good governance.

Nongovernmental cooperation from the countries of the North has been unable to influence the establishment of good governance effectively in the Southern countries. Without it, there will be no escaping the bottomless pit of poverty and underdevelopment. Although good governance is not a sufficient condition, it is a necessary one, a condition sine qua non. The same is true of the foreign debt problem: there will be no development if it is not resolved.

It is surprising how little attention is paid to this essential element of development. One thing is certain—there can be no development without a state that functions well on both a territorial level (central, regional and municipal) and a sectoral level (police, justice, health, education, etc.). The state must be efficient as well as honest. There is not a single underdeveloped country that has an organized and efficient state and, conversely, there is no developed country that doesn’t have one. In the words of Galbraith: "Nothing is as important for economic development and for the human condition as a government that is stable, reliable, competent and honest. This is still lacking in many of the world’s countries."

We debated this theme during a meeting in Granada, Nicaragua, analyzing two differences between this country and those of the European Union. The first was that in Nicaragua, contrary to the viewpoint traditionally promulgated by the World Bank and the IMF, the state should not be downsized. What is really called for is more state. The same can be said of the African continent, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa. Gabriel Pérez Alcalá put his finger on it: "The first problem with the economic structure of the African countries is the nonexistence of what we know as a modern state, rendering meaningless in most cases the debate about the suitability of the policies that the international economic institutions suggest for them."
These countries lack the basic structures of a modern state: efficient administration, an effective legal system, an authentic fiscal system (the rich never pay taxes), and efficient health, education and security systems.

A second difference is that Nicaragua and the Southern countries need more market in the sense that a large part of the population has no access to it, and that the internal one is too small. For this reason, regional development is not possible without Central American integration, one in which the dynamic effects are more important that the static ones. This is the context in which the debate over the role of NGOs in the development dynamic must take place.

NGOs of North and South have two different realities

The debate over the role of the NGOs must start from the recognition of the difference between the NGOs of the North and those of the South. The flowering of NGOs in the industrialized countries has occurred in a context that is qualitatively different then that of the impoverished nations.
Over the course of centuries, the wealthy countries have evolved into what can be called "advanced democratic societies." The state is a reality, in which citizens have legal and judicial rights—although deficiencies exist— and they enjoy basic services and infrastructure in the areas of communication, education and health. Although a lot of dissatisfaction is expressed, public administration functions efficiently at every level.

In these countries, civil society continues to make progress. It organizes itself autonomously in search of greater participation or to recover decision making power that has been lost through excessive growth of the public sector; to develop areas that the powerful state apparatus has neglected, ignored or forgotten; to introduce flexibility and activism to compensate for the inertia of the state giant; or to bring soul, life and solidarity to state structures that tend to bureaucratize and forget their original purpose of bringing concrete and needed services to the public.

The situation and context are radically different in the impoverished countries. The modern state does not exist, nor has it ever existed. For this reason, one must view as cynical the call by international organizations, politicians and economists for a "reduction" of the state. How can one reduce what doesn’t exist and has never existed? By non-existence of the state we mean the absence of authentic public administration at the service of the citizenry, of an effective legal and judicial system and of infrastructure that can guarantee basic needs such as food, housing, sanitation, education, sewer systems, transportation and communication for the entire population.

There is no state when public safety is in the hands of private vigilantes who serve the rich. There is no state where there is no fiscal system. Minorities—the traditional creole bourgeoisie, the newly rich, the leaders of political parties—not only don’t finance investments that could create jobs and wealth, but also don’t pay taxes or contribute in any way to guaranteeing the minimal vital services that the modern state provides for its citizens. We are also speaking of those minority groups that voraciously and insatiably appropriate the national patrimony, political power and public resources for their own benefit. In this context, the NGOs frequently play a subsidiary role, doing what the state should but does not do. This is not totally negative, since it guarantees certain goods and services to populations that otherwise would be completely neglected. Nevertheless, it represents a dangerous escape valve for the dominant bourgeoisie and the proto-states of the impoverished nations.

Are NGOs good and governments bad?

Imanol Zubero, in an excellent reflection on "The role of the NGOs and social movements in the present time," states that "it is fundamental to strengthen and stabilize these institutions that symbolize and objectify the obligations of the social rule of law…. The social solidarity organizations must not become the pillars of social welfare, which would reproduce, with the best of intentions, beneficent structures in which the principle of autonomous will (the free choice of each individual) would prevail over the obligatory content of the state’s social dimension... In a situation of questioning the principles and institutions of the welfare state, there are calls for taking personal responsibility against exclusion and inequality, which only serve to justify lack of state responsibility."
The Latin saying it is worth doing this, without omitting that applies here. Many conditions are needed, none of which is sufficient by itself, to achieve a development miracle. They include an approach quite different than that of the governments and international organizations. Pardoning the debt is a sin qua non, along with substantial improvements in all levels of education and collaboration between government and private cooperation.

Some believe that in this issue of cooperation, NGOs are good and governments are bad. It’s not that simple. There are NGOs that do good work and others that do harm. It is clear from the Central American experience that, in general, the NGOs are more functional and effective in humanitarian and emergency aid, in quick responses and those of a smaller scope than in more global tasks and in actions directed at structural and political changes.

Good intentions are not enough, nor is the self-proclaimed moral legitimacy with which the NGOs justify their actions. If one uses the ethic of responsibility as a starting point, results are what count, and the balance sheet of results could not be more disheartening. In Nicaragua, twenty years of intensive nongovernmental cooperation have been a resounding failure. The situation, in most aspects, has only gotten worse.

Respect for sovereignty or the right to interfere?

Why are the NGOs of the North unable even to promote good governance? Simply because they are in the North. They have no ability to apply political pressure to achieve democratization, organization and honesty on the part of the bureaucratic governments of the South. In order to put out a fire or rescue victims from the ruins in a poor country, it is necessary to have a Fire Department on location and not wait for one to arrive from Europe. In order to work within a poor country, whether directly or through counterparts, with projects, or in the best of cases with programs, they must submit to the dictates of local authorities, whose legitimacy they may not question without the risk of being questioned themselves, rejected or even expelled.

These days there is much talk about the right to interfere for humanitarian reasons or to safeguard fundamental human rights. The NATO intervention in Kosovo or the trial of Pinochet is justified by this need to interfere where conduct or processes overpower people’s fundamental rights, including the right to life. Why not consider the right to interfere in situations where corrupt, inefficient or simply nonexistent political systems are causing hunger, misery and suffering for millions of people?
Again, to quote Galbraith, "Nothing is as accepted in our times as respect for sovereignty. Nothing, at times, so protects disorder, poverty and misery." Why not intervene, if only by the very effective pressure that comes from conditioning aid, to force recipient countries to put in place honest and efficient states. Diplomats do not like to "interfere" in internal affairs, and are quite bashful when the opportunity presents itself to make "good governance" a condition for aid. Couldn’t the European Union be more belligerent in this line?

Pressuring from below, pressuring from above

Substantial advances in governance, in constructing modern and democratic states to serve the basic needs of local populations, are only possible if governments and international organizations apply pressure. There is no comparison between the huge amount of pressure applied by financial organizations, particularly the World Bank and the IMF, on the indebted countries through the famous structural adjustment plans, and the pressure applied on these same governments to respect democratic laws and build an effective and honest administration.

The decision of whom to support in countries where political polarization makes it difficult to distinguish between good guys and bad guys is not easy. At the very least, one can apply the criteria of not supporting corrupt governments and conditioning aid as much as possible to the abandonment of clearly pernicious practices. This sort of attitude might sound neocolonial, that is, like a wish to impose our value guidelines on other cultures, but surely something must be done along these lines to promote good governance. In any case, it is always better to begin from below, collaborating in the promotion and development of democracy from the bottom up, beginning with neighborhood and municipal organizations.

A positive example of this was the pressure the European Union applied in the late eighties and early nineties during the Central American regional meetings in Esquipulas, Contadora and San Jose, to achieve peace and democracy in war-torn Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. The NGOs of the impoverished countries, through their work in popular education and consciousness raising as well as through political pressure, can naturally play a strong role in achieving good governance.

Vicenç Fisas rightly states that "we all know that the NGOs, on their own, can mitigate to some degree the suffering and underdevelopment in some zones, and that is important. We also know that ending misery and isolation, and achieving human development is only possible through large-scale structural change, which must be carried out by the state with assistance from international organizations. This does not take away from the fact that the NGOs have an important function in empowering the population to apply pressure on the government."

Seeing development through the eyes of the poor

One sociological study, we do not recall by whom, discovered that one third of Spaniards do not believe the earth is round. It occurred to us that if they don’t think it is round, they must think that it’s flat and that, logically, Spain is in the center. What can you expect from a society with 33% of the population in the middle of such a hermeneutic place? We must never be completely confident that we have adopted the appropriate hermeneutic place. Or, to use the words of theologian Jon Sobrino, "It is not so easy to presume that one finally has the perspective of the poor."

The difficult task of cooperation consists in working with the poor so that they cease to be poor, or at least become less poor. Nobody, not us, not the NGOs, not the most exemplary volunteers are exempt from the trap of transforming cooperation into a new form of technocracy or of bureaucratizing what began as an exercise in humanism and solidarity. To avoid this, one must return permanently from one’s hermeneutic place.

Søren Kierkegaard, the existentialist philosopher and theologian, used to say, "What is a professor of theology? It is a professor of that which another was crucified for." To paraphrase Kierkegaard, development cooperation must never forget that its task is to focus on the poor, the crucified of this world. Imanol Zubero says, "All we need in order to be able to see, is to look. We will only see what we look at. That which is visible to us, is that which we previously recognized as being worthy of recognition." The primary and constant concern, in order not to loose perspective, is to truly see the poor, take them seriously, respect them, and listen to them
It may come as a surprise that these paragraphs are taken from the World Bank’s 1999 report: "To have effective communication, it is not enough to talk. One must listen as well. This simple truth is often passed over in the activities on the road to development. Those who work for donor governments, multilateral institutions and the governments of developing countries recognize that there is much knowledge that the poor do not possess. Anxious to share it with them, they forget that the poor know many things that they do not know. Like anyone else, the poor know their own circumstances, their needs, their worries and their hopes better than anybody.

"Listening to the poor does not simply mean going up to them and asking them about their concerns, although this too may be valuable. It means giving them the means to speak, through instruction and communication. It also means involving beneficiaries in the project design and implementation. It means giving them the opportunity to express their opinions, learning about the poor from the poor, communicating through local channels and providing information that the poor need. An important ingredient of what it means to listen to the poor is to insure that they have the means to speak for themselves…. To know the poor and win their trust, one must listen to them. Precisely because the poor have fewer opportunities to express their concerns, and because lack of information affects them more than the rest of the population, the state and the aid organizations have the special obligation to listen to them as they deserve to be listened to. The possibilities to do good, or to involuntarily do harm, are immense."

Was it worth it?

In his book, Adios Muchachos, Sergio Ramirez says, "That time when I ran into Claudia in the street (December 1998), I asked her right before saying goodbye, with some uneasiness, whether she thought the sacrifice her mother had made had been worth it. ‘I would have done the same,’ she said without thinking twice, her hands in the pockets of her woolen overcoat. I followed the rest of her words and wrote them down when I returned to my apartment. ‘She did not give her life in vain. She did it as an impulse from her heart, for love, selflessly, and she put the well-being of others ahead of her own life. The outcome is not important. What is important is the ideal. Especially,’ she added, smiling at me serenely, ‘in these times without ideals.’"
We will allow ourselves to correct Sergio Ramirez, or Claudia. Without a doubt, ideals are important, especially when we are living in a time of so few. But results are also very important. To keep an ideal alive and to work as professionally as possible to obtain good results are two tasks that are necessary to overcome the different types of fatigue that threaten to block the road of solidarity.

José J. Romero Rodríguez, sj, is a professor of applied economy at ETEA (Technical School of Agricultural Experimentation), Córdoba, Spain. The above was his speech to the closing conference of the first course on cooperation for development and NGO management organized by ETEA and Intermon, Seville, 1999. The text was translated and edited by envío.

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