Should charity begin at home?

The devastation left by the super-typhoon Haiyan is now becoming all too plain to see. Great swathes of the Philippines have simply been flattened in its path. The official death toll is now put at 10,000, but that's almost certain to rise. More than nine million people have been affected and many are now struggling to survive without food, shelter or clean drinking water. A massive international relief effort is now underway and the UK has pledged £6 million in aid and adverts from charities appealing for donations from the public have appeared in many national newspapers. In such an inter-connected world coverage of the disaster and the calls for aid and donations will quite rightly continue for some time, but in such a world, where we have so detailed knowledge of the desperate needs of people like those in the Philippines, is it still morally tenable to believe that charity should begin at home? Of course there are those who would argue that these things are not mutually exclusive, that one does not preclude the other and there is no moral hierarchy of need. But if that's the case why has the plight of Syrian refugees not ignited the same kind of response? So far the UN's £2.7bn appeal for Syrian refugees is only 50% funded as many people and government's manage to turn a blind eye to the suffering. Do we have to accept that it is just human nature to put your loved ones first? Or is giving to strangers more virtuous than giving to kith and kin?

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk. With Michael Portillo, Claire Fox, Matthew Taylor, Giles Fraser. Witnesses: Dr Beth Breeze, Gareth Owen, Jonathan Foreman, Peter Singer.

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43 minutes

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Sat 16 Nov 2013 22:15