The latest Guardian Weekly had two interesting and seemingly unconnected stories about major shifts in aid priorities on both sides of the world after the advent of right-wing governments. More emphasis on security objectives, with aid delivered by the military, and less on humanitarian and poverty relief, with aid delivered by local groups and NGOs.
The government is to introduce a wholesale change to Britain’s overseas aid budget by demanding that projects in the developing world must make the “maximum possible contribution” to British national security, according to a leaked Whitehall paper.
Labour, which established the Department for International Development to ensure overseas projects are funded on the basis of a country’s needs, warned tonight that Britain’s aid budget was being “securitised”.
The New Zealand story was similar:
Despite the trend of Pacific countries towards strengthening ties with China and other Asian powers, New Zealand remains a critical partner for Pacific island countries, particularly in Polynesia. A hands-on regional approach less forceful than Australia’s has served New Zealand partnership programmes well for years. But the new focus in aid delivery of its National party-led government has drawn criticism for directing support away from Pacific-based NGO networks.
In an effort to get more value from taxpayers’ dollars, the government wants better co-ordination between development agencies in the Pacific. The type of aid approach emerging provides for expansion of the established regional role of New Zealand in peacekeeping missions such as those to the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste, to encompass humanitarian assistance and the challenges of disaster relief. “When there is starvation and privation, conflict can quite easily ramp up and we saw that in Haiti,” says Walters.
It looks like aid budgets are being folded into defence budgets on both sides of the world.