David Blackburn

To the victor the spoils

To the victor the spoils
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The government must be doing something right with its aid policy: several NGOs absolutely hate it. Talking to the Guardian, Patrick Watt, Director of Save the Children and sleeping disciple of the Moral Compass of Kirkcaldy, has criticised the government’s decision to direct aid funding to conflict resolution. He says:

‘What is the real driver of aid allocation? Is it poverty, is it need and the ability to use money effectively or is it the agenda of the National Security Council? We do need to have a balanced approach to aid allocation that reflects the principles of the 2002 International Development Act which stipulates that all aid should be for poverty reduction.’

Put simply, Watt doesn’t get it. The government aims to reduce poverty, but it recognises that instability and Aids are equally rapacious killers. 22 of the 34 countries furthest from the Millennium Development Goals are conflict zones, which also have an infant mortality rate exceeding 50 percent.

There is more than one way to pursue an ethical foreign policy. Throwing money at global poverty has done little to alleviate it. Having failed to build a benevolent and strong state in Afghanistan, the West has learnt that structural change must accompany development programmes. Military and diplomatic support now accompanies aid workers in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And these are supranational operations, which is why General Petraeus has been in London meeting Andrew Mitchell.

The new approach also projects ‘soft’ power and enhances domestic security. It must be clear, even to the most ardent neo-con, that Britain has neither the muscle nor the stomach to fight protracted wars of conscience in foreign climes – the government is building aircraftless carriers, whilst paying for Lord Sugar’s bus pass. Mitchell recognises that clean water, some education and security could disarm jihad, Britain could then invest in the developing world’s enormous markets. No budget should have been spared from cuts, and aid to Russia, China and India is indefensible unless it secures economic opportunities in return. But the rest of Mitchell’s policy is compelling.

PS: A decision has been made to stop aid to China and Russia; however, there is legal lag due to contracts and payments will finally cease in March.