Alastair White obituary

From Aid | The Guardian Thu Dec 20 2012, 08:12:43

My friend Alastair White's childhood in Kenya set the arc of his life. Alastair was born during the second world war to Hilda, an art teacher, and Hugh, a science-fiction cartoonist, in Esher, Surrey; but after his parents divorced, Alastair's father took him to live in Nairobi. Placed in an all-white boarding school, he ran away frequently to the bush; it was on these escapes that he encountered the tribal people whose plight informed his view of the world as unfairly divided. Alastair, who has died aged 71, dedicated himself to improving the lives of the world's poorest and most socially deprived people.

After returning to Britain, he went to Battersea grammar school, and at Jesus College, Cambridge, studying languages, he met Ljiljana; they married in 1962. Alastair's PhD was on urban poverty in El Salvador. His social and historical study turned into his first book, El Salvador (1973). When the civil war there finally ended in the 1990s, Alastair was part of a European Union mission to identify ways to help reconstruction of the country. He stressed the need to strengthen institutions to safeguard human rights and fair elections.

Alastair was a lecturer in sociology at the universities of Belgrade, Stirling, Brighton and Liverpool, and a consultant in socio-economics for international development agencies. He was resolved that aid must be directed towards projects that are sustainable by local people and be part of a long-term process for reducing social inequality. This view frequently brought him into conflict with the aid agencies for which he was working.

His first marriage ended in divorce. In El Salvador he met Rita, who was also working for national reconstruction, and they married in 1992.

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