Primate's Fund Director Challenges World Vision's Style of Aid, Ads in Journal

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The director of the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund says he wants to open debate on whether World Vision advertisements have any place in the pages of the Anglican Journal.

Andrew Ignatieff, hired to head the Primate's Fund earlier this year, believes they do not. He has several objections to the full-page ad that ran in the Journal in October.

Mr. Ignatieff is offended by the picture of a perspiring boy, his hands folded in a supplicant pose. He also opposes in principle the idea of child sponsorship as a form of development assistance. And he doesn't like the idea that World Vision is competing with the Primate's Fund for dollars in an Anglican Church publication.

The president of World Vision Canada was taken aback when he was told in a telephone interview of Mr. Ignatieff's comments. Dave Toycen, an Anglican himself, defended World Vision's child-sponsorship approach and said the agency has no intention of competing with the Primate's Fund for dollars. Mr. Toycen said he doesn't believe donating to one or the other agency is an either-or proposition but that the total resources can be expanded if people using different approaches work together.

Mr. Ignatieff takes a different view.

"We work in international development, basing our work on long-term partnership relationships with church-based organizations and other non-governmental organizations in developing countries," Mr. Ignatieff said. "We are not doing anything for them. They are doing it themselves. We're helping get them the resources they need to carry out their programs. We believe in dealing not with the symptoms but with the root causes of poverty and social injustice."

The advertised image used by World Vision, he said, presents a child in a position of supplication to the reader.

"The Primate's Fund has spent 40 years trying to develop partnerships of equality, not of supplication," Mr. Ignatieff said.

The Primate's Fund works on sectoral causes including environmental and women's issues. "Child sponsorship deals with development on a case by case basis. Consequently it deals with the symptoms of economic injustice rather than the root causes."

Mr. Ignatieff spent six years in the child sponsorship department at an aid organization (not World Vision) before the organization agreed to drop that method of development. He spent four of those years translating letters back and forth.

"I can say very clearly that child sponsorship is a very effective way of raising money and assuaging the consciences of people providing the money, but it's not particularly effective at addressing the root issues of underdevelopment," he said.

Mr. Toycen takes issue with the criticism.

"Child sponsorship has been criticized over the years, certainly among certain members of the church community and some of the other aid agencies as well," he said. "But I think oftentimes, what's happening is that people aren't fully aware of how child sponsorship has changed.

"For example, we work with the child, with their family, with the total community. Aid goes to all the children in the community. I think there's lots of evidence from our experience, as well as the experience of other agencies, that it's good development work. I don't think I've heard criticism, at least in recent times, about the quality of the development work itself."

Mr. Toycen said the way child sponsorship works varies depending on which organization's program is being considered. …