Welcome to 2045

Before the intervention, we were creating poverty by our own means…

It’s embarrassing to think that the western strategies for development were not only those that created more poverty, but prioritised our own interests ahead of the poor.

Bill Gates praised the autocratic Ethiopian government and donors for setting “clear goals, choosing an approach, measuring results, and then using those measurements to continually refine our approach.”[1]His technical solutions to poverty (with £175m spent on health and development in Ethiopia over the past decade) fitted cosily with autocrat prime minister Mele’s motivation to stay in power. Not to mention the continual repressing of human rights for the poorest people. How could we think that development could happen, whilst praising or even turning a blind eye to these autocratic countries?

bill-gates
Bill Gates on a visit to Ethiopia: A state that violates the liberty of its own people?

When the aid strategy revitalized its plans to spend 50% of the budget on fragile and conflict stricken states[2], it was a seemingly self-destructive method of help. With the government causing much of this conflict in the first place, both our aid and military policy seemingly went hand in hand. Even more disturbingly our foreign policy was another cause for concern. Exporting arms to authoritarian regimes in countries which were on the UK’s own official list of human rights abuses made a contradictory case for development. In 2013, David Cameron hailed the Arms Trade Treaty to be able to “save lives and ease the immense human suffering caused by armed conflict around the world”.[3] Yet only two years later we found that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia were fueling a civil war in the Yemen.[4]

yeme
Yemenis protest against military operations led by the Saudi coalition

Its 2045, and I am proud to say that there is no more illusion.  We have said goodbye to the secret state and waved in the reformation of direct democracy. Development is now focused on freedom and democratic rights for the people, no longer aid that is built on western support for oppressors and short term solutions. It seemed obvious that to stop the violation of the world’s poorest, we had to look at our own policies. Almost every country in Africa is now a democracy, a reformed structure with no dictators and a thriving economy. Here in the UK, transparency has been the key to how we have managed development. A free press and reformed democracy have helped us shape not only our futures, but those of the world.

[1]  Easterly, William. “Guest: The Flaw In Bill Gates’ Approach To Ending Global Poverty”. The Seattle Times. N.p., 2014. Web. 22 Dec. 2015.

[2] Center For Global Development,. “Is The UK Putting Its Own Interests Ahead Of The Poor In Its New Aid Strategy?”. N.p., 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015.

[3] Oxfam GB,. “UK Arms Sales Fuelling Yemen Crisis In Potential Breach Of Law Says Oxfam | Press Releases | Oxfam GB”. N.p., 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015.

[4] Bowcott, Owen. “UK Fuelling Yemen Civil War With Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia, Says Amnesty”.the Guardian. N.p., 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015.

Images:

http://www.wired.com/2015/01/bill-gates-annual-report-2015-interview/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/17/uk-yemen-civil-war-arms-sales-saudi-arabia

Welcome to 2045

Aid: Fueled by Hypocrisy whilst Fueling Corruption.

“The international arms trade is the biggest threat to world peace. More than the AIDS epidemic or the drugs trade, because it is supported by governments.”[1]

In 1992, Tony Benn gave a speech in parliament about supplying the Middle East with weapons, and in recent weeks it’s re-emerged onto social media many more times. More than twenty years on and his words are more relevant than ever. Multi-lateral agencies are still working like a parent giving a child pocket money for behaving badly. The IMF continues to pump aid into countries in huge debts, whilst they continue to spend their money on arms rather than the people most in need. Although on the surface this immediate money source seems a positive solution – its leads us to question what happens if the government the aid is being sent to is corrupted itself. The child is then not only receiving the money for behaving badly, but spending it unwisely too.

Take South Sudan for instance it made it to the top ten recipients of international humanitarian assistance between 2000 and 2009[1], yet continues to be one of the largest examples of kleptocracy the world has seen. Only made independent in 2011, but war still continues to act as the main catalyst for state formation. It provides an ongoing and reinforcing process. Aid injected into the country is drained by corrupt leaders to help develop the military, looted by rebel militias and sold on to fund fighting. To add to the problem even further is South Sudan’s colossal reliance of oil, creating a dependant and vicious cycle which also helps to maintain ties with Asia and the west. (Generating 98% of its income from 2009 to 2011.[2])  The lobby organizations from these western parts in turn make the situation stickier. As Alex De Waal explains: “Organizations such as Enough! Project, are very uncomfortable with taking any robustly critical stand against a government that they worked so hard to bring to power.”[3]  The question can be raised that when corruption and conflict drives system of a nation, should this be blamed for misspending of aid, or should it be the naivety of the institutions and donors? “Donors and international financial institutions worked under the misapprehension that corruption was an abuse of the system… In fact, corruption is the system.”[4]

southsudan
Humanitarian aid in South Sudan: the main reliance of economy outside of oil, a sector which is in crisis itself.

Aid can also be assumed to suggest a superiority of a giving nation, the ability for a country to reciprocate demonstrating its wealth and power.[5]The UN compounds in South Sudan can be seen as clear gaps between the west and the indigenous, with gated communities emphasising the extremes in terms of power and inequality. Besides the impressions that western aid can produce, perhaps the solution is to look within the newly formed nation for a solution. The huge agricultural potential of South Sudan is often dismissed. The nation has the highest number of livestock in sub-Saharan Africa[6], yet only 4% of the land is cultivated.[7] The people of South Sudan miss out on empowerment from producing their own revenues, as well as aid sent in because it’s misspent by the kleptocracy.

So, what is the solution?

It could be argued that aid is still necessary for the most vulnerable people regardless of the government; if aid is taken away then those in power will still neglect their people. With half of South Sudan’s population living below £10 a month, there must be forms of assistance which don’t require either multi-lateral agencies or the government in power, NGOs present a good case for this. For me, the evidence points towards the power of the people. Like mentioned in my last blog post, which outlined the significance of social movements for social change.  Parallels of today’s situation can be made with President Nimeiri’s kleptocracy of nearly 30 years ago. The difference is that his leadership was brought down by non-violent street protests. [8]Can South Sudan rejuvenate through its own amends, or will reliance of outsiders spin the vicious cycle further?

[1] Stone, Jon. “Tony Benn’S 23-Year-Old Speech About Britain’s Wars In The Middle East Is Still Relevant Today”. The Independent. N.p., 2015. Web. 7 Jan. 2016.

[1] http://www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/GHA-Summary-Report-2011-final.pdf, N.p., 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

[2] http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Sudan%20Full%20PDF%20Country%20Note.pdf

 

[3] Alex De Waal, 30 Nov. 2015, ‘When Kleptocracy Becomes Insolvent: Brute Causes of the Civil War in South Sudan’, Page 360

 

[4] Ibid

 

[5] http://www.passerelleco.info/IMG/pdf/doc-253.pdf

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/nov/14/south-sudan-aid-global-support

 

[7] http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/blog/conflict-continues-keeping-focus-south-sudans-humanitarian-crisis

 

[8] Alex De Waal, 30 Nov. 2015, ‘When Kleptocracy Becomes Insolvent: Brute Causes of the Civil War in South Sudan’, Page 369

Images: http://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2014/05/oil-south-sudan-turning-crisis-opportunity/

 

Aid: Fueled by Hypocrisy whilst Fueling Corruption.

Movements – Lobbying or Tweeting?

To me, the wide range of different characteristics that social movements can carry what makes them so unique compared to other development actors. Whether they be attached to trade unions, working alongside governments or choose to have a charismatic leader, every movement has its own unique structure that’s suitable for reaching its goals. It amazes me that social movements with as large base as and as wide spanning as the women’s liberation movement[1], can come under the same umbrella as a movement as refined and local as the Arpilleras movement in Chile, a women’s group who present their motives through tapestry –opposing the Pinochet regime.[2]

"No More Violence" - tapestries are the voice of the Arpilleras movement
“No More Violence” – tapestries are the voice of the Arpilleras movement

Whether or not a movement can act as a carrier for development can be helped answer by asking if the movement should be in connection with the government, or if it should it oppose the state in order to achieve specific social or political change. When we look further into the first uprisings of social movements in the 19th century, many were centered on the industrial working class, carrying socialistic, communistic and even anarchistic tendencies. Elements of these original characteristics still shine through as a prominent feature of some social movements today. The Argentinazo are a movement based in Latin America, working in opposition to the state with the main goal of seeking structural change to their political system. This group mainly use mass direct action-very similar to how movements were voiced in the 19th century.[3] On the other hand, it could be argued that definitions and values are constantly changing. For the majority of movements, especially for the western world, although social movements haven’t kept to their socialist and anarchic roots, they may find that negotiation is more viable in achieving their goals. Take for instance Greenpeace as part of the environmental movement, due to such an international support and campaigns taking place all across the globe, their lobbying policy states that “Decision makers have both the resources and responsibility to make change happen.”[4] An issue arises with this, keeping in affiliation with the government also means that they can also listen to lobbyists from the other side of the pond. Only this March, lobbyists from some of the largest energy companies in Europe have weakened the EU pollution and air quality rules for the EU, leaving Greenpeace to a struggling fight in Whitehall.[5] –Perhaps the traditional anti-establishment values of social movements are better unchanged.

Despite these criticisms, it could be argued that a new revolution in social movements has been enhanced by the huge surge in social networks in the modern era. By promoting and educating through social media in recent years, it given movement’s huge scope to create even larger networks of support, as well as direct education about their aims and achievements- rather than manipulation from press sources or misinterpretation from word of mouth. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become vital in recent years for organizing mass protests. Last year’s pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong, commonly known as the Occupy Movement, drew in more than 100,000 supporters by using Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter to share photos of the demonstrations in order to inspire and encourage people to join. Social media not only gives movements a more creative way to share their message, but to open up their ideas to the masses of the global online community.

2014 Occupy protests in Hong Kong. At the height of police riots, 12 tweets were posted every second, helping to spread the message  globally.
2014 Occupy protests in Hong Kong. At the height of police riots, 12 tweets were posted every second, helping to spread the message globally. 

To my mind, social movements are a great carrier for development, due to their flexibility and the idea that they can constantly evolve. However, I believe that a social movement’s success is only possible with the right balance of reinvention in constantly changing times, alongside a withstanding and continuous identity.

[1] The British Library,. ‘Timeline’. N.p., 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

[2] Benton.uconn.edu,. ‘What Is An Arpillera? | The William Benton Museum Of Art’. N.p., 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

[3] Rebelion.org,. ‘Argentinazo: Positive Lessons Of Mass Direct Action’. N.p., 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

[4]  Greenpeace.org.uk,. ‘Lobbying | Greenpeace UK’. N.p., 2015. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

[5] Businessgreen.com,. ‘Lobbying Watered Down EU Pollution Rules, Greenpeace Says’. N.p., 2015. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Images:

South China Morning Post,. ‘The Role Of Social Media In Occupy Protests, On The Ground And Around The World’. N.p., 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Limbanikamanga.voices.wooster.edu,. ‘Latin America Revolutions’. N.p., 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Movements – Lobbying or Tweeting?

“DEVELOPMENT” – What does it mean to me?

 

To me, International Development is a debate. This debate is formed from the experiences we’ve encountered in the geopolitical environment in which we live. To some, and if used in the correct framework, development could help achieve the correct balance of dignity, control and empowerment. However to others, it can be seen as an industry with a distorted agenda, using it for their own manipulation and means.

When largely financial orientated organizations are used as a carrier for development, for instance the international financial institutions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, it becomes too frequently that the most vulnerable people can become volatile to their control.

Exploitation: A land management program funded by the World Bank in Cambodia. The lake behind the village was filled in to make room for luxury high rises and shops.

I view this approach to policy and development as ‘prescription money’, whereby the financial support sent to a place of need often comes with ‘side effects’. Commonly, a broad set of loan conditionality’s with no regard for the situation of the country. When Governmental based aid is sent in, or official development assistance, but bypasses the social structures and cultures of a place in need of certain sanctions, it can lead to a loss of voice for the people who require the most help. I strongly agree that within the field of development, money can only be pivotal in creating change when it works alongside a community, interacting and understanding their lifestyle, rather than large scale plans that are most likely to cause an exploitation of the most vulnerable people. As Chambers (1997) said “Neglect of the personal dimension of development at first sight seems bizarre.”[1]

From a western viewpoint, I believe that Development delves further than that of what the media exposes to the wealthy. Even being labeled “The Fifth Theory of the Press.”[2] This media influence creates the unproblematic façade of charity to the wealthy – but is this truly what developing countries require? Often adverts that are shown to the citizens of ‘giving’ nations are value laden and focus on certain social issues. In recent years, more and more journalists have criticized NGO’s for their heightened exaggeration of disasters for in order to earn more donor money, as well as their political and religious bias. Fergal Keane, a foreign affairs correspondent for the BBC concludes that the media tends to “simplify and shock in charity appeal which diminishes context and leads to compassion without understanding.”[3] In reversal to this, I disagree that governments themselves should use their promises of aid as an incentive to become elected.

africa

Although I agree that aid or specific help to alleviate social issues in a nation can work as a short-term solution, I think the bigger picture is the future economic prosperity of a nation, whereby people can generate their own taxation, rather than taking money from the outside. When aid is sent to governments or countries with a poor institutional framework, it can strip the self-initiative from a nation, and depending on the distribution of this help, even create further tensions within communities. As the Ugandan journalist and aid critic, Andrew Mwenda said: “Even if you have 10 PHD’s, you can never beat Bill Gates.”[4] He explains aid as a form of philanthrocapitalism from the western world, a patronizing act of business which is then taken advantage of by corrupted governments within Africa, as there is no incentive for enterprise which would generate their own tax revenue.

To conclude, I believe that development is the power of vocabulary, forever changing as the frame of words surrounding development constantly evolves. Even today, we can see that this is the case with the new Sustainable Development Goals launched in New York. As well as a change in the methods for how development is spent, the goals focus on the languages of environment and responsibility based development. With increasing crises such as natural disasters and acidification of the ocean as an effect of climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals are beginning provide more context for “sustainability” and how its current relationship with development can’t survive without huge impacts to our planet.

[1] Chambers, Robert. “Editorial: Responsible Well-Being — A Personal Agenda For Development”.World Development 25.11 (1997): 1743-1754. Web.

[2] Academia.edu,. “The Fifth Theory Of The Press”. N.p., 2016. Web. 7 Jan. 2016.

[3] David Campbell,. “How Does The Media Persuade Us To Give To Charities? – David Campbell”. N.p., 2010. Web. 7 Jan. 2016.

[4] Mwenda, Andrew. “Aid For Africa? No Thanks.”. Ted.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 7 Jan. 2016.

Images:

http://www.vqronline.org/reporting-articles/2014/06/giving-flood

http://www.water-charity.org/african-project.html

 

“DEVELOPMENT” – What does it mean to me?