There's another side to the great gogglebox in the corner of our living rooms. TV - in fact British TV specifically - has been the driving force behind humanitarian work that has helped millions of the world's most desperate people. I'm the chair of trustees of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which represents the UK's leading international aid agencies when fundraising for humanitarian emergencies. The DEC has been phenomenally successful, in 67 appeals it has raised more than £1.5billion, including £352million for the Tsunami, £97million for the Philippines Typhoon and, more recently £83 million for the Nepal Earthquake appeal.
One of the things I love about my job is that I get to be optimistic every day. That's because I, and my colleagues working in international development, look at the problems of the world that are rooted in poverty and inequality, and refuse to accept that the world is not smart enough or rich enough to defeat them.
The 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday morning can only be described as a 'nightmare waiting to happen'. Mega-quakes like this one happen roughly every 80 years in Nepal, with over 9000 people being killed the earthquake of 1934. When I visited last year the possibility of another devastating earthquake was a matter of 'when' rather than 'if', however Nepal was in no way prepared for it...
Friday's Parliamentary vote on Michael Moore's Private Members' Bill is a chance for MPs to reconfirm the UK's status as a global leader in the fight against poverty. I urge them to grasp it. It is surely not too much to ask the UK to continue to give 7p in every £10 of national income to help the world's poorest people...
Of the billion people worldwide who have a disability, the vast majority live in developing countries. People with disabilities represent some of the most excluded of all groups in the community. They are less likely to have access to healthcare and education, and in turn find making a livelihood and escaping poverty that much more difficult, if not impossible.
I suspect most of us want to see an effective international aid programme. But only by addressing some of the institutional processes by which money is awarded and projects assessed are we likely to feel as confident as we ought that British international aid is making the difference it should, and difference it could.
The Western World is aware that international assistance is required to help rebuild less developed countries... Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness of what it takes to make these systems work in the different cultural settings. This is especially the case with Afghanistan, which is years behind in progress due to 35 years of conflict.
We need to focus as never before on the poorest and most vulnerable communities across the country, investing above all in the infrastructure of basic health and education services that will help lift people out of poverty. Afghanistan needs more schools, more health clinics and more trained teachers and health professionals to staff them.
You may be surprised to learn that over the past decade, a third of the money pledged by aid donors for water and sanitation has failed to be delivered. That's US$27.6 billion out of the US$81.2 billion committed since 2002. This is a staggering amount of money. It could have helped hundreds of millions of people gain access to water and sanitation.
So for the past few weeks, social media seems incredibly concerned with an article written to explain why white people are damaging to hands on international aid. It seems that their money would be better spent from their homes, and given to people who know better. White people in the developing world are a negative, not just a hindrance.
If you have any doubt as to why we think the UK's Department for International Development should prioritise disability, look no further than the situation of Esther Cheelo. Blind, elderly and with difficulty walking, Esther has for years relied upon a child to walk her into the scrubland near her home in Zambia to find a place to relieve herself, a humiliating and sometimes dangerous experience...