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Official development assistance

Failing “failed” states

In brief

Liberian policewomen

Liberian policewomen

Donor nations can make a difference in impoverished, war-torn and needy nations, according to an Oxfam study, but their aid does not always reach or even target the countries most in need.

Oxfam bemoans that donor governments do not pay equal attention to all countries affected by fragile statehood. The bulk of international aid is directed to Afghanistan and Iraq, the report states, because governments with troops in a country tend to give more aid than those that do not, even though it is proven that much of this aid is not helpful or placed in the areas that need it most.

The recent Oxfam study “Whose aid is it anyway?” details aid that donor countries give to developing nations, focusing on politisation of aid for security and political purposes. It shows which countries receive the most aid and the probable reasons for it, and also takes a closer look at some of the larger, more prominent donors.

Foreign aid has been given in accordance to security and military reasons for quite a long time – basically since the ­Second World War. However, that approach has proven largely ineffective. Many nations, in the Middle East especially, are large receivers of donor money. There are several reasons:
– Security seems volatile in the region.
– There is a lot of poverty in the region.
– Donors depend on the region’s resources, especially oil and gas.

Oxfam reports that France considers five “ciriteria of interest” before making aid decisions, a country’s needs being only one of them. Others include migration to France and national defence issues.

During the past decade, the USA ­doubled assistance to “strategically significant friends and allies”, Oxfam reports, while ODA only grew by 14 %. Canada recently dropped seven low-income, sub-Saharan countries from its list of aid recipients in order to give more support to those who are aligned with “Canadian foreign policy priorities.”

Oxfam makes several proposals on how donor governments could improve matters:
– They should not link aid to military or security concerns (unless such concerns are only about the country receiving aid).
– Aid should be kept seperate from defence funding.
– Military forces should be a last resort when providing aid, and even when necessary, they should play a minimal role.
– Aid should be used to reduce the worst poverty and provide urgent humanita­rian assistance.
– Long-term goals are ideal, but in some cases, direct, immediate assistance is needed to save lives. (jm)