While many people in rich nations live luxurious lives, citizens of poorer countries suffer to enable that luxury. Poor nations have historically been exploited and are still being taken advantage of in today’s world, such as in the cases of sweatshops and climate change. In this essay, I will show why rich nations owe poor nations aid through thorough analysis of historical and present exploitation of poor nations by the rich.
Richer nations owe a historical debt to poorer nations. By exploiting poorer countries, they have contributed to the substandard living conditions present in such nations, a prominent example being the colonisation of India by the British Empire. The East India Company collected taxes in India and used those taxes to buy Indian goods for Britain, and stole $45 trillion dollars from India this way. Meanwhile, there was no increase in per capita income in India and life expectancy actually dropped, so India was directly harmed. Another example involves Belgium and Rwanda: creating a divide between the Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda that would eventually cause the devastating Rwandan genocide years later.
In the present, citizens of wealthy countries enjoy cheap products that are produced in sweatshops in poorer countries. While some believe that having factories in these countries provides more opportunities to citizens there, trials show that serious injuries and disabilities are increased for employees in these unsafe factories and employees aren’t better off – most quit their jobs in favour of another career. Thus, these sweatshops prey on the desperate and uninformed of these countries. As a result, rich nations generally offer cheaper prices and the companies that run the factories can make more profits. Additionally, multinational corporations based in rich nations illegally drain money from poorer ones, offsetting the aid that goes to those countries. Instead of stopping these unethical and illegal behaviours, governments often choose not to take any action as their economies are benefitting.
Wealthy nations cause the majority of emissions and climate change, but poorer nations bear the brunt of the impact. In fact, the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population—many of which live in rich nations such as the US—caused double the carbon monoxide emissions of the poorest 50%. Countries like the Philippines are already facing the effects of climate change such as flooding and air pollution. However, although rich nations make many promises to lessen emissions with international initiatives such as the Paris Agreement, these promises are often unfulfilled as countries are unwilling to give up on the many major economic benefits tied to pollution-heavy industries such as oil and fashion. Since rich nations are harming poor nations and have caused the poor living conditions there, rich countries owe reparations in the form of aid to raise the standard of living.
In fact, the UN and several other global organizations acknowledge that in cases of genocides or times when citizens of countries are in great danger, other countries have a responsibility to step in and protect the at risk areas. The same principle applies to the current situation of poor nations, as the extreme poverty and consequences of global warming are as much of a threat to the daily lives of citizens.
Rich countries have a responsibility to raise the standard of living in poorer nations in a few ways. The most obvious are through humanitarian aid and by sending resources or helping build infrastructure. We should also help poorer nations flourish by increasing trade and investments with them, as we can stimulate their economies and create change from within by providing governments with resources so that they can decide what is best for their nation.
In the case of countries with inefficient or corrupt governments, aid in the form of money and investments is not enough as such governments may not have the know-how and institutions needed to use the money effectively. As such, wealthier nations with more experienced bureaucrats and analysts should facilitate policies to ensure that the structure of poorer nations will allow them to expand in the future.
To mitigate the amount of damage they have already inflicted on the environment, rich nations should help countries that are more at risk for natural disasters by becoming carbon-neutral and providing support and protection such as sea walls. They also need to increase global climate funding so that poor nations can decide for themselves how they best want to protect their citizens from the inevitable consequences of global warming.
In conclusion, rich nations should make up for their wrongful treatment of poorer nations by supporting poorer nations’ development in various ways and by ensuring that the impact of climate change is minimised. By analysing the various ways in which the actions of rich nations have harmed poorer nations, we can gain a greater understanding of how to tackle the issues they face. What rich nations owe is not only money. They owe poorer nations, and the rest of the world, accountable measures to ameliorate their impact on the environment. They owe poorer nations the know-how, institutional knowledge, and support they need to become independent. All of these are first steps towards international justice.
Blattman, Christophy and Stefan Dercon. “Everything We Knew About Sweatshops Was Wrong”. The New York Times. 27 April, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/27/opinion/do-sweatshops-lift-workers-out-of-poverty.html
Harvey, Fiona. “World’s richest 1% cause double CO2 emissions of poorest 50%, says Oxfam”. The Guardian. 20 September, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/21/worlds-richest-1-cause-double-co2-emissions-of-poorest-50-says-oxfam
Hickel, Jason. “How Britain stole $45 trillion from India”. Al Jazeera. 19 December, 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2018/12/19/how-britain-stole-45-trillion-from-india/