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Independent Green Voice

FOREIGN AID: PRINCIPLES and PURPOSE

This year a well-funded and publicised campaign has been started called Make Poverty History. According to its website makepovertyhistory.org it has 3 aims, summed up in 9 words: Trade Justice, Drop the Debt. More and Better Aid. It wants the Foreign Aid budget to be 0.7% of UK Gross National Income.

Some say that Britain should cancel its Foreign Aid budget altogether and not bother sending money to countries with a long record of political and economic failure.

Further, there is opposition to the idea that these countries are getting "handouts" and we get nothing in return, but higher tax bills.

Others resent some of the subtle implications that we, in the developed world, should somehow feel guilty for living in societies which are successful enough to feed, water and house their peoples -- as if this was a lucky quirk of fate or the result of "exploitation", rather than the consequences of hundreds of years of our ancestors hard labour, organisation and invention.

However, there is nothing wrong with Foreign Aid per se and there is much to commend it, if it is applied properly.

That is, a Foreign Aid package should flow from a principled political position intended to achieve key objectives in the interests of both the receiver and sender.

Let us examine these Principles and Purposes:

THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF FOREIGN AID
PRINCIPLE 1: Foreign Aid must be a Tool of Diplomacy not an Act of Charity
We do not take a paternalistic view of other countries. We recognise other countries may need our help and expertise, and often we can provide this, but we expect them to stand on their own feet and help themselves. Tough love, not na´ve sentimentality is the driving emotion.

PRINCIPLE 2: Foreign Aid must be a Mutually Beneficial Process
Quid pro Quo. If we give, we must also get. There must be something in it for us and we must not lose out. There must be tangible benefits for our country, people and common good, not merely profits for the multi-national corporations who have no loyalty to this country.

PRINCIPLE 3: Foreign Aid must be Withdrawn or Reduced if a Relationship, or Aspects of it, is not Mutually Beneficial
For example, in the USA, Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis (R-Va) introduced legislation in 2004 called the "Country of Origin Healthcare Accountability Act" intended to deduct the cost of medical care to illegal aliens from the foreign aid allotment received by their native countries.

"There are over 8 million illegal aliens in the United States, and health care treatment of illegal aliens imposes a substantial cost on medical providers and hospitals in many American communities. This cost should be shouldered by these foreign countries, not with US healthcare dollars", she said. www.joanndavis.com/pressreleases/052504immigranthealth.cfm

This principle recognises that countries which allow their citizens to come here illegally should pay for them.

THE PURPOSES OF FOREIGN AID
PURPOSE 1: To Build Self-Reliance Worldwide
Self-Determination is for export. We believe in it for our own country and we believe in it for all countries.

Thus we believe in Foreign Aid for Self-Reliance intended to ensure the recipient is enabled to stand on its own feet and free itself from dependency on outside forces.

PURPOSE 2: To Achieve Benefits for Ourselves
These may be measured in terms of mutually beneficial trading arrangements, diplomatic and strategic favours, or in terms of fewer economic migrants, and "asylum seekers" arriving on our shores.

For example, it should be the long-term aim of a properly directed Foreign Aid programme to stem the flow of economic migrants and "asylum seekers", as the poor countries become more economically and politically stable.

At the same time, the money saved by ending economic migration disguised as "asylum seeking", could be used as part of the Foreign Aid budget intended to help countries develop Self-Reliant economies.

HOW BEST TO ACHIEVE THESE GOALS
Directing Foreign Aid for the specific objective of increasing National Self-Reliance can often be done best by directing aid at local grass-roots organisations which are more conscious of small-scale local needs, rather than pouring it into the top where it can be flushed away by profligate heads of state, endemic corruption or unsustainable corporate activity.

To the extent that Foreign Aid programmes are tied to neo-liberal economic dogma -- which promotes cash cropping, forces markets open for commodity dumping, grants unlimited access for multi-national corporations, prevents their proper regulation, liberalises financial markets, forces dependency on foreign investment, promotes further borrowing, restricts social spending, and encourages the privatisation and deregulation of public assets -- then they do not promote National Self-Reliance, but rather national dependence.

Thus, Foreign Aid for Self-Reliance requires changes to the economic philosophy which presently dominates, led by the WTO, World Bank and IMF.

As Dr Caroline Lucas MEP has written: "The only way of 'challenging' globalisation is to replace its current goal of ever greater international competitiveness at any cost with a new aim of protecting and rebuilding sustainable local economies in both rich and poor countries. This would require a complete overhaul of the WTO's rules." (Letters, The Guardian, 25-11-04)

OBJECTIONS
"Foreign Aid money goes to dictators and is wasted"
It is true that Foreign Aid has encouraged misrule and conflict in the past, but that does not mean that Foreign Aid, per se, is wrong, only that it has been mis-applied.

"We should trade, not give aid"
Yes, trade can often be a way of helping a country although we have to consider our own interests too.

For example, we can't necessarily trade with a country if it undermines our own British producers, or our favoured producers elsewhere in the world.

Furthermore, international trade is not necessarily in the best interests of the developing country if it is merely producing cash-crops for export in order to earn foreign currency.

In all cases, our Foreign Aid package should be directed to build-up the country's intrinsic Self-Reliance in basic needs.

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