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White saviours: challenging poverty tourism


Other than being white, male, rich and famous, what do Ed Sheeran, Tom Hardy and Eddie Redmayne have in common? They’ve all been award-nominees for starring in porn.

But it’s not what you think. Rather than dramatic career changes into X-rated material, we’re talking ‘poverty porn’: the patronizing charity appeals shown on TV.

A group of young Norwegians has taken it upon themselves to challenge such ads, which they say promote ‘white-saviour’ attitudes and over-simplify poverty.

Since 2014, the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund has hosted an annual Radi-Aid awards to highlight the best and worst in NGO campaigns. The organization hopes that this will encourage a shift away from stereotypes and ‘outdated’ messages about development.

The winner of last year’s ‘most offensive’ film was a Comic Relief video starring popstar Ed Sheeran, in which he offers to pay hotel fees for Liberian street children. The Radi-Aid jury said it was ‘irresponsible’ and an example of ‘poverty tourism’.

New Internationalist issue 510 magazine cover This article is from the February 2018 issue of New Internationalist.
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