In budget cutting, how to make foreign aid less vulnerable
Current foreign aid models don't fit 21st-century needs, a World Bank report suggests. Ending people's fear of their own rulers – through better governance – is the key to development.
(Page 2 of 2)
The World Bank report points to success stories in Chile and East Timor where political frameworks were built up after repressive rule. Those countries included many political actors – before the country headed straight to elections whose results may not be accepted. It also cites Rwanda, Mozambique, and Ethiopia as examples of countries that developed civil institutions after violent conflicts.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
One reason for the bank’s call for change is that the nature of conflicts has shifted. “Twenty-first century violence does not fit the 20th century mold,”the report states.
Now conflicts tend to be within borders rather than between countries, driven by ethnic strife, religious tensions, or organized crime like drug trafficking (as in Mexico and Guatemala). They also tend to spill over into other countries in the form of refugee flows or resource disruptions. The 9/11 attacks were in part a function of religious tensions within Saudi Arabia.
One grim statistic in the report is that a fifth of humanity now lives in places with repeated cycles of violence, making those countries far more likely to suffer poverty and hunger.
The 20th-century model of using diplomacy, armed peacekeeping, and aid to refugees either no longer works or isn’t enough. To really prevent conflict or rescue a country from it, the world must focus on building national institutions of governance, both public and private, with sustained aid over at least a generation, the World Bank recommends.
A long-term commitment for such tasks as training police is difficult for wealthy democracies. Sending food aid, creating clean water, or giving military aid is often an easier sell to voters.
Yet establishing rule of law and effective government are the best preventers of criminal violence and civil conflict, especially if they create the kind of economic growth that provides jobs to young people.
The World Bank itself doesn’t seem inclined to shift its loans and grants toward developing better security, governance, or justice in poor nations. Many of its client states don’t want money flowing to their political opponents. The bank instead points to the United Nations. But the UN’s record on aid is suspect. Its Millennium Development Goals for halving poverty by 2015 didn’t even mention reform of justice.
Breaking the cycle of violence in many countries needs a rethink of aid programs by the richer nations, and then better coordination between them. Private givers, too, can use this report to direct their money to the acute causes of conflicts.
Giving the poor a stake in their governments is the first step to giving them a better life.