Tuesday, September 16, 2008

should rich countries give to poor ones?

This may seem like an obvious question and it is - but the answer isn't simple or unanimous.

While there is a lot of talk about making development 'country-led', the reality is that many countries will continue to rely on aid from rich countries to foot the bills for basic services and infrastructure.

In order for aid to be given consistently and accountably there needs to be both public support and scrutiny in rich countries. Polls suggest that 58% of Australian's strongly support overseas aid.

So what do you think - should your hard-earned tax $$ be sent overseas??

And if so:
- what areas should aid focus on?
- what, if any conditions should be placed on developing countries who recieve aid?

Or are there better alternatives?

Over to you...

UPDATE 18/9

Thanks so much for your thought-provoking posts, guys. For me, your discussion on climate change refugees has brought out a lot of the core issues relating to development: developing country ownership; donor country national interest vs altruism; and public attitudes to aid.

The comparison between climate change refugees and seasonal worker schemes (both non-traditional forms of 'aid') is an interesting one.

In the case of the latter being implemented in Australia, there was:

...yet it still took several years and a change of government before a pared-down version of the scheme was launched last month.

In the case of the former (climate change refugees), I share both nicole's view that it makes good humanitarian sense and iamagloworm's skepticism about how it would work. In Kiribati, at least, there is definately country ownership of the problem and advocacy of the migration solution. In my view, what is missing at the moment is a coalition of credible advocates in Australia who can advance a pro-resettlement argument that captures the imagination of both policy makers and the general public (nicole, you have work to do :-).

How the politics plays out will ultimately determine the outcome.

8 comments:

Linda said...

interesting... I think in health there has been a big shift towards developed countries providing 'technical expertise' i.e helping with research etc. And AusAID has just funded 3 Aussie unis to be 'health information hubs' for this purpose.However there is now another argument that alot of the health improvements in our neighbours started to wane when the service delivery from Aid organisations did... and some of the more successful case studies I've seen have had a big emphasis on service delivery...

nicole said...

I believe strongly that rich countries should be giving to poor ones - it makes a lot of sense for so many reasons, for example, humanitarian reasons, as well as for the practical fact that rich countries helping poor countries benefit greatly from their giving - in terms of national security as well as in terms of economic prosperity - giving to poor countries helps to create more viable trade partners.

Interesting, however, I heard recently a very strong argument in relation to Australia's approach to aid and development in relation to Pacific countries most severely impacted by climate change, namely Tuvalu and Kiribati. The argument is as follows: these 2 Pacific States, threatened by rising sea levels and other climate change impacts, risk unexistence in the coming century.

Perhaps then, in the context of aid and development of these countries, Australia is better off using at least a portion of the money designated to helping these countries, to develop infrastructure in Australia to support these communities if they find themselves displaced by climate change in the future and looking to resettle in Australia. Perhaps a portion of the development money could be better used for facilitating resettlement of these communities in Australia, rather than sending a great portion of money offshore to countries where the future is less certain. Using some development funds to set up a viable migration scheme to assist the vulnerable, seems a very practical approach to helping 'the poor' and vulnerable. With a successful, well-supported, well-planned and facilitated transition to Australia, accompanied by funding for access to health services and access to education and housing, these people from 'poor' countries, may benefit far more than they may from short-term development projects taking place in their countries, where Australian tax payer dollars are being sent offshore.

However, in the short-term, a portion of the development money should continue to be sent to Kiribati and Tuvalu, to support the respective Governments in their provision of essential and basic services, such as the provision of food and water and access to education and housing - ensuring attainment of the most basic human rights.

To me, this argument makes a lot of sense, facilitating resettlement of people from Tuvalu and Kiribati in Australia, especially in a way that is well planned and financed and not done in a last minute, ad hoc manner, is important in a humanitarian sense and allows also the contribution that migrants make to Australian life to be recognised and appreciated.

iamagloworm said...

I think the 'country-led development' idea needs to be taken ahead if countries are really going to succeed on their own two feet. It would require stepping back and providing advisory support in the form of industry, public services and governance. This really means taking a country that has become addicted to foreign aid back to puberty, letting them make their own mistakes and helping them to learn from them. Unfortunately that is not the goal of rich nations like australia. The goal is as nicole points out to create trade partners. we drive our own economy by driving theirs. and if you stop and let them fend for themselves, we'll lose momentum.

for kirabati and tuvalu, nz already has climate change refugees. 100 per year or something, so by 2050 comes and it's really time to get the hell out of dodge, half the population will have moved to nz and the rest to aus, fiji. assimilated and started the battle to be recognised as true citizens.

I don't think there is any real hope of saving their culture without giving them someone elses home. uganda almost became israel, maybe they'd like some tuvaluans now...

seriously though, how do you bring an entire island nation with a rich culture and language to australia and allow them to benefit from the infrastructure and opportunity and foster a community that maintains it's close relations?

if anyone has a good answer to this, it'd be great to hear it. there are a lot of indigenous, immigrant and refugee communities that could benefit from this knowledge. but again, back to our first point. to be meaningful, it has to come from within and be 'country' or 'community' led.

nicole said...

I didn't mean to lead discussion away from the question of how, and even if, overseas development assistance should proceed, just quickly, however, I want to respond to the valuable questions/remarks of glowworm with respect to climate-induced displacement, or 'climate change refugees'.

Firstly, New Zealand does not currently accept any 'climate change refugees'. The migration scheme to which I think you are referring is a seasonal guest-worker scheme, which allows workers from certain Pacific Island Countries to come and work in New Zealand, mainly undertaking seasonal farming / agricultural work in sectors where work shortages exist. Australia has recently announced its intention to trial a similar migration programme. Importantly, however, the seasonal guest-worker migration schemes of both countries are temporary - thereby offering no long term migration solution. Further, the seasonal guest-worker migration schemes of both countries target skilled workers (and their immediate families), meaning that the most vulnerable, such as orphans, widows, unskilled people, are not assisted by this kind of migration programme.

It is also important to recognise that while there is a tendency to assume that Australia, New Zealand and Fiji will accept displaced communities, none of these three countries have actually committed to this undertaking.

Finally, in terms of resettlement and maintaining the cultural integrity of these countries / communities, I agree that this is a hugely difficult challenge. I also agree that these countries have incredibly rich cultures - every effort should be made to preserve culture, tradition, knowledge and language. And this will not be easy, and perhaps not possible to the extent which we would all like to see.

In no way could I ever pretend to have all the answers to this very complex question, however, a few ideas...Firstly, I do think it is possible for this scale of migration to occur - whether it be solely to Australia, or amongst a few countries including Fiji, NZ and PNG. For example, Australia's annual intake of migrants exceeds 100, 000 people. This is similar in size to the entire population of Kiribati. Further, the population of Tuvalu is around 10,000 in total - this is very small by comparison. So I don't really think that it can be argued that logistically, this scale of migration is impossible.

Secondly, I do think it is possible to some extent to foster a community that maintains its close relations. While yes, it may be impossible to keep an entire nation together, smaller communities within nation can be kept together, thereby going some way to allowing close relations to continue.

Didn't mean to go too far from aid / development, but I guess it's extremely relevant in the context of the Pacific, and to the partnerships that regional donors have with the countries discussed here.

iamagloworm said...

we are just having our own discussion here, but i'm sure phil doesn't mind too much. though, maybe if phil wants to have discussions, attaching a forum would be prudent.

Just to clarify, the new zealand situation i was referring to was the "Pacific Access Category" migration, which is essentially because it's recognised they are drowning.

i agree the migrant worker schemes are not a solution to long term issues such as climate change. i don't know the details, but combined with education/training and professional support back in their home country, there are *possibilities* for strong positives. big caveat there though...

And as far as australia is concerned i'm sure i read some general fear mongering about how these sinking pacific islanders are a danger to australian families or somesuch rubbish. funny and disturbing...

has there been a change in australia's xenophobic attitude since the change of government?

will ponder thoughts of mass community migration. i am sure though that people smarter than me could work something out, if they were allowed...

Andrew said...

I think we have a bit of a problem with the design of economics and society even in developed countries. Concentrations of humans and concentrations of capital become concentrations of control of wealth generation. Apparently prosperous Australia is only wealthy in resources - without the numbers of people (and history) to make production viable. Google Hans Rosling, Ted Talk, Gapminder and watch the presentation. Development works - in fact I think its the one of the most reliable and productive investments you can make. (Africa is an exception due to AIDS). But what you find even in developed nations is excluded and marginalised groups living developing world lives. Remote Australia IS a failed state. So I guess I agree rich nations should give to poor ones, but we've got to also work the economic problems within rich ones and entrench egalitarianism so that each generation starts afresh.

iamagloworm said...

Is AIDS really the reason development has not 'worked' in Africa? this doesn't seem logical to me. any good resources on this?

I do firmly agree that egalitarianism should be a strong part of youth education and development in australia. make it part of the mandatory civic units, integrated with history, geography, etc...

this would go a long way i think.

Andrew said...

Re: Africa - I'm not sure, but please check out the presentation if you can. The 50 year trends of infant mortality, life expectancy and similar measures are traced using his nifty graph. Everywhere except Africa, there is real progress. In Africa, there is progress up until the eighties (I think) and then life expectancies decline again. This might be because of reduced influence and investment from colonial powers, or because of increased recourse to violence a la the civil war in the Congo. The reason attributed by Hans Gosling for a huge decline across the whole continent was AIDS.