“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.”
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, 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.) 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.” 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.”
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.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, yet only 4% of the land is cultivated. 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. Can South Sudan rejuvenate through its own amends, or will reliance of outsiders spin the vicious cycle further?
 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.
 http://www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/GHA-Summary-Report-2011-final.pdf, N.p., 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
 Alex De Waal, 30 Nov. 2015, ‘When Kleptocracy Becomes Insolvent: Brute Causes of the Civil War in South Sudan’, Page 360
 Alex De Waal, 30 Nov. 2015, ‘When Kleptocracy Becomes Insolvent: Brute Causes of the Civil War in South Sudan’, Page 369