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The Rough Guide to a Better World
Alex Steffen, 23 Nov 04

One of the highest bits of praise I know how to give other people's work is that I wish I had done it myself.

That certainly applies to The Rough Guide to a Better World put out by the UK's Department for International Development. A book-length guide to getting involved in sustainable development and the elmination of poverty, and available for free download(long PDF), this thing kicks butt, pure and simple.

It covers a lot of ground: what development is and how it works (essentially a layman's guide to the Millennium Development Goals; the challenges of population growth, AIDS, water, energy and conflict; discussions of debt, globalization and climate change; critical examinations of how the media portrays people in the developing world and their challenges; even a few quick case studies of successful community-driven development projects.

More impressive, though, is the focus on taking action here in the industrialized world. An extensive and impressive section on "Making a Difference" actively encourages us to speak out on behalf of the world's poor; volunteer on projects that can help them improve their lives; participate in fair trade and ethical tourism; and give money in ways that'll have a real impact.

And, despite being a government publication, it's pretty direct and uncompromising in its tone: this Rough Guide begins with Bob Geldoff noting that we ignore the poor until "they begin to die in such numbers that it would be impossible for us to ignore them."

If I'd been asked to edit the Rough Guide to a Better World, I'd have changed a few things -- where, for instance, is discussion of using technology to leapfrog the poor? Using independent media to tell their stories? Supporting better foreign policies in our governments? -- but the fact remains that this is the new benchmark in explaining global poverty in simple language.

(thanks, Robert!)

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What an informative piece of work! Our foundation can use the information available to focus our direction. The FreeGirl Foundation is a non-profit corporation dedicated to promoting a strong and healthy future for women and girls everywhere.It is our intention to fund programs that will enhance the quality of life of females by promoting their rights to independence, security, education, health, sel-reliance and freedom.

Posted by: Harold on 26 Nov 04

Thanks for the tip. Very interesting information in that pamphlet. I'm an American, but I emailed the DFID and they asked for my address, so it looks like they're going to mail me a copy. Give it a shot:

I wish the pamphlet were readily available in the states...

Posted by: Patrick Hall on 26 Nov 04



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