Joel Kwan is a corporate lawyer based in Los Angeles, California. Currently acting as financial/legal associate for Westwood Group, a specialty finance company, Joel focuses on general regulatory compliance, creditor rights and structured finance. Visit his website to learn more.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Globalization Sensitizes World to Humanitarian Crises

Indeed, as Thomas Friedman proposes, the world is flat in the 21st century as economic barriers disappear, geographical limitations become less important and technology is making the concept of distance more trivial. Now, whether this is a good or a bad thing is a totally different debate that I do not go into today. I would rather spend a few moments to consider how the world as a global village is helping citizens worldwide become more aware and sympathetic to humanitarian crises.

For many observers, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami represents the first global natural disaster in modern times (1). The moment images of desolate landscapes with hundreds of injured and dead starting showing up in international media, aid on private and public fronts started organizing world-wide. There had never been such an intense and rapid international response. Some researchers even found that there was a strong correlation between extent of media exposure of humanitarian crises and amount of private donations (2). Suddenly, a natural disaster in New Orleans does not only concern the United States (a total of 854 million was offered from foreign countries (3)), and an earthquake in Sichuan, China sends ripples in the international community.

The current situation in Haiti is a case in point. According to USA Today, less than three days after the earthquake, private donations were already on its way to break all-time records.
Despite the world communities increased generosity and speed in responding to such dramatic events, many believe that this trend must be taken to a new level: humanitarian crises do not only happen in a one-time event due to natural disasters. There are humanitarian crises that are ongoing in poverty-struck countries that equally need international aid. Shortly after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Tony Blair believed that foreign aid was detracted from important causes and that “there is the equivalent of a man-made preventable tsunami every week in Africa” (4).

I prepared a small table for this post:
Transfers of public donations for selected natural disasters


1. “The Globalized world responds to the tsunami disaster.” Global Envision. Retrieved Jan. 16 2010.

2. Brown, Philip; Minty, Jessica. “Media Coverage & Charitable Giving After the 2004 Tsunami” The William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan. Dec. 2006.

3. Solomon, John; Spencer S. Hsu (2007). ""Most Katrina Aid From Overseas Went Unclaimed"" (News Article). Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-01-16.

4. Grice, Andrew. “Blair: We must extend support to Africa” The Independent. Retrieved 2010-01-17.

5. Saito, Masaki. “Japanese People Appreciate Concern Shown by Americans” The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2010-01-16.

6. Kambayashi, Takehiko. “Volunteering in Japan: A legacy of Kobe earthquake” World Volunteer Web.,0,w
Retrieved 2010-01-16.

7. “The Globalized world responds to the tsunami disaster.” Global Envision. Retrieved Jan. 16 2010.

8. “The Globalized world responds to the tsunami disaster.” Global Envision. Retrieved Jan. 16 2010.

9. St. Onge, Jeff; Epstein, Victor. "Ex-chief says FEMA readiness even worse." April 1, 2006. Retrieved on 2010-01-16

10. Keen, Judy. “Haiti donations on track to break records” USA Today.
Retrived 2010-01-15

11. “China Earthquake Could Cost US$20 billion” China Post.
Retrived 2010-01-16

12. McGinnis, Ariel et al. “The Sichuan Earthquake and the Changing Landscape of CSR in China”
Retrieved 2010-01-16

13. “Haiti Earthquake Damage Amounts to Estimated 15% of Country’s GDP” Associated Content.
Retrieved 2010-01-16

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