Is 0.7% really a victory for International Dev campaigners?

I went to the IFS briefing on the pre-budget report a couple of weeks ago, and was struck by this graph

It shows that amidst vicious cuts in most government departments (the only exceptions being maintained spending on health and sure start, and a tiny increase in education), Overseas Development Assistance is roaring ahead. My initial reaction was that this emphasised the effectiveness of international development campaigners – that overseas aid is now almost the only ringfenced budget – both Labour and the Tories are still pledging to meet 0.7%.

I emailed it round work asking what lessons we could learn for UK poverty campaigning from this international success, but a couple of well-informed colleagues abused my idealism. They claim it’s mostly anti-terrorism money destined for Afghanistan, being channeled through the aid budget. Not a victory for morality and a sign of our global responsibilities, but the old self-interested realpolitik. Depressing.

Any thoughts?

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3 thoughts on “Is 0.7% really a victory for International Dev campaigners?

  1. I was often surprised by how ODA seemed to be ring fenced, even by the Tories, amidst all the parties gloating about how ‘savage’ their cuts can be. But yes, I guess development money can easily be channelled straight into domestic coffers as well as to other departments.

    The home-office recently used DFID funding in a peculiar project to discourage Jamaican migrants into the UK (under the name of development, quite a decent project too, involved teaching cricket to down-and-out kids who get involved in drug trafficking) and then there is all the well rehearsed stuff about DFID aid to UK consultancy firms.

  2. Yeah well. Realpolitik. Shame about that really. Not surprising though. Kinda been thinking about realpolitik over here in Israel where it appears to emerge in its most crystalline form. Given that Terrorism is considered the justification behind increasing ODA (or at least ringfencing it) by policy makers then we are talking about a similar motivation behind behind military spending in the UK to that of Israel.

    I think we need an escape from the term realpolitik. it serves to reify a stale view of the world, reinforcing tired old policy options.

    For instance, to me, the security barrier/separation fence is one of the more abhorrent structure constructed. However, why was it constructed? For the protection of Israeli citizens. There are those who will come up iwth other ideas: for instance another means of claiming territory from Palestine. However, the wall was hugely expensive to complete and required massive restructuring of Israeli society since it obstructed the use of low cost labour that used to arrive fromthe Territories. Such labour has now been replaced by Far Eastern workers (and a very nice range of ingredients can be bought in most supermarkets for a great Thai Curry).

    What was the rationale behind this wall then(if not some machiavellian scheme cooked up by those in the corridors of power gleefully rubbing there hands as they slaver over their new and cunning plan to acquire even further territory from their Arab slaves)?

    National Security. The life of the Western citizen is sacrosanct above all else. The individual is worth as much as the multitude. THis aversion to playing with life by numbers was one of the key ideological differentiators between East and West during the Cold War. In the buildign of the Wall, and the Ring Fencing of ODA as a disguise for funding the Afghan War under the hubris of preventing Terrorism at home, we are witnessing massive spend which is being driven by the logic of National Security.

    So back to Realpolitik and all that malarky. This word seems to conjure the image of individual states externally relatin to each other ultimately through the expression of armed force. I’d like to understand national security as a framework through which global relations and hierarchy is constructed.

    Basically, lets get a bit constructivist on the issue.It beats the ‘tired old arguments’ of DFID aid being tied to British Industry etc. How does ideological construction of the sacrosanct individual Western soul impact on global power relations and how has this been used to subvert Western culture?

    For instance, I view suicide bombing as more than just a means of attacking an enemy vastly superior in arms, and more than motivated only by the economic imperative of the bomber’s family being looked after post-massacre. I think it has a deep psychological impact on Western society in so far as individuals themselves have decided their life is worth less than the whole. Deliberately killing oneself psychologically hugely different from a British soldier being killed in the line of duty despite the best efforts of the state to protect his life.

    blah blah blah blah blah blah – I reckon I should shut up now.

    latas you crazy kids

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