Fighting poverty and hunger
in A history of humanitarianism, 1755–1989
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This chapter shows how humanitarian agencies acquired a new global reach through the development programmes that from the end of the 1940s were the main activity for international relief. The aim of these programmes was the social and economic advancement of ‘backward’ countries, and went alongside projects for the industrialisation and mechanisation of agriculture, healthcare and education and professional training. The settings in which humanitarianism had grown over time became an essential part of development policies. The humanitarian projects were a vital component of the restatement of the relationships – economic, political, cultural – between the global North and South after the end of the colonial empires. During the 1950s the United Nations defined the agenda, placing at its centre the development programmes that in the following decade also saw the intense involvement of private agencies. The idea of freeing the ‘backward’ countries from poverty and hunger was the stimulus for setting up new associations that, during the 1960s, contributed to increasing the number of programmes carried out in the field.

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