This topic on aid has unexpectedly surprised me. I actually enjoyed the readings and documentaries that I studied. Why? because it has made me aware of a topic in development that I assumed I had little interest in but now known, I would like to research further.
Unfortunately for me I did not attend this lecture and seminar on Aid, so my findings and incite are purely self explored. However I will do my best in advocating my findings.
The caption above, is how I can summarise my feelings on Aid, Politics and Developments. I feel that aid is an indirect exploitation of those that need it. Aid is essential for the existence and development of many countries and in most circumstances does good. But I can not help but notice and will mention the reoccurring benefits that the donors receive despite of whether aid is given out of genuine empathy or self-interest.
From the readings, I have learnt what I agree to be the importance of ‘political governance’ in aid. Whilst reading the literature, I could not help but be transported to the earlier class on ‘the primacy of politics’. It was Leftwich that described politics as ‘all the activities of conflict, cooperation and negotiation involved in the use, production and distribution of resources, whether material or ideal, whether at local, national or international levels, or whether in the private or public domains’ (2000: 5). Politics can not help but be at the fore front of Aid and plays a unfortunate ‘God’ when important decisions need to be made. Leftwich definition is what aid incorporates. Is it possible to have aid with out addressing the politics behind it? Isn’t it interesting that the top ten recipients of both the United Kingdom and American are very similar(source OECD.org) :
To me the UK and US are similar in the countries that it is donors of, in particular middle eastern countries. Not only that but is it impossible to miss the political connections that they too have in theses countries. Wars/ conflict in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan and eco-technical interests in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Why not just give to the poorest and most deserving. Self Interest is impossible to ignore here..
Here are a few of the arguments that made a mark on me when researching this topic;
A term that is used to explain the US interventions in many countries politics and the need for a non-violence regime change. I watched a clip from YouTube ‘US democracy promotion creates puppets worldwide’ In this clip they use the positive impact in Venezuela and the negative impact in Ukraine 2004 to show how democracy promotion is not always as good as it sounds. It basically is a hidden way to share and promote US agenda. They use aid as a means to do this. Learning this has made me realise that aid governs and steers foreign policy not jut in the US but world-wide. In the clip it talks about how people often equate Democracy with regime change, however democracy promotion is just another way to make sure markets remain free and open which is in the best interest of the West. Another example that gave me reason to challenge the legitimacy of democracy promotion is a clip I watched and read on the USAID funding services in West Bank and Gaza. (available:http://www.usaid.gov/wbg/dgo.html) The Democracy and Governance Programme initially shows a positive impact of aid on politics. concentrates on institution building and aims to better the life of the civil society. However I find it odd that ‘air-conditioning’ a typical western materialistic would be a key element in the programme. I know that it may increase work moral and efficiency if offices were cooler but once agin western mod-cons can not help but be instilled in these cultures. The people of Gaza are geographically and genetically use to hot temperatures so who is the air con for? Western officials that will also be using these offices?
Political Economy Analysis (PEA)
The new methodology of Political Economy Analysis / assessment is a system that has grabbed my attention and I support this idea a lot. It is in Unsworth (2009) that I first read about the problems with how governance was being assessed and measured. Donors have not been making the connection between development and political practice. Assumption has been the ‘drivers of change’. It has created a problem were understanding how development happens is a challenge. It is time factors such as history, geography, sources of government revenue and social and economic structure, to be taken into consideration when assessing the effectiveness of aid. ‘The DFID drivers of change programme, and the Netherlands Strategic Governance and Corruption Analysis (Netherland Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2008) explore the underlying causes of weak state capacity and poor governance’ Unsworth (2009) p.885. However, I must be fair and mention that Unsworth also recalled a hiccup in this assessment as the sources used to accumulate date could not totally be relied upon. I’m not worried about this as I belive that give them some time and that hitch will get solved. I really like this idea it just makes sense and to be honest it is quite silly that country trends were not taken into consideration from the beginning.
This approach is also supported and advocated by Dr Heather Marquette who states that “A lot that the political economy analysis touches on, like how you deal with governance and corruption in very fragile states, state building and aid policy and so on, will possibly shape the way that donors behave and they way they do their jobs because it does complicate things,” she said, adding: “But perhaps that’s not such a bad thing”. I think that it is time, all factors are taken into account when giving aid or intervention and assessing its effectiveness. I believe many of the problems that occur between states or donors and recipients are due to cultural difference or lack of political and geographical knowledge. Political economic analysis will look at governance and growth, will incorporate an economic lens on tax and may tackle corruption.
Why are the west so self obsessed? It really annoys me. I read the blog on aid transparency by Owen Barder. I’ll be honest and confess that I read the shortened version but still it irritates me but also confirms my opinion that aid giving is nothing but a business. To me donors, in particular bilateral donors treat aid as a business and the recipient countries get a raw deal. He shares 8 lessons that he has learnt about the transparency of aid but it is the fourth one that I agree with the most:
4. Show, don’t tell
Citizens in donor nations are increasingly sceptical of annual reports and press releases. In aid as in other public services they want to be able to see for themselves the detail of how their money is being used and what difference it is making. They increasingly expect to engaged, and are less willing to be passive funders leaving the decisions entirely to ‘experts’. Donor agencies – whether government agencies, international organisations or NGOs – will have to adapt rapidly to become platforms for citizen engagement.
(If you want to read the rest follow the link. http://www.owen.org/blog/443)
So what is the impact of aid on politics?
Overall I believe that the impact of aid on politics is contextual. When it is in the form of humanitarian aid or aid relief, donors can do no harm by giving. During Hatis earthquake in 2009, Pakistan’s flood in 2010 and the recent disaster in Japan to give food, water and warm is a natural human reaction. In addition to this aid bring about the accountability of leaders to their citizens. It enables the unlikely opposition to gain support and flourish in a political system that usually would not allow them to. However aid that is tied, given for projects, programmes or reforms is like giving the starving a poisonous apple.
It is Peter Burnell (2004) in his article ‘The Domestic Political Impact of Foreign Aid’ who suggest that democratic aid giving undermines the responsibility for policy-making due to the conditionalities or incentives. External factors control policies, politics and economies which in many instances is not welcomed be the citizens of that country. In the worst circumstances aid can be a tool of reliance, a uneared income to that country. It is not a positive outcome when a country can not function without the interventions and donations from another,not to mention the unjust imbalanced equilibrium amongst the world.