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How do development and foreign policy connect?

Written by Simon Maxwell


For a long time, the development aid community has worked to
ring-fence aid and ensure that it is used specifically for ‘poverty
reduction’. Historically, this has its roots in the often well-founded
fear that ‘they’ would use ‘our’ money to further geo-strategic
political or commercial interests that could only loosely be described
as developmental – supporting some states, punishing others, using aid
money to fund repression, diverting aid money to help rich country
companies, and so on. Specific cases have been central to the aid debate
for a generation – from US aid to Israel, Egypt and South Vietnam,
through the scandal of the Pergau Dam, to EU aid for the ring of friends
in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Administrative and legislative
instruments have been used to reinforce the stockade – whether
restrictive rules on what can legitimately be claimed as official
development assistance (oda), agreed by the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD, or the passage of the International Development Act in the UK, which limits the use of aid to poverty reduction.
But what if ‘we’ and ‘they’ were actually on the same side? What if
‘we’ (development ministries, say) and ‘they’ (foreign ministries, say,
or defence ministries, or trade ministries or environment ministries)
were trying to grapple together with intractable and inter-related
challenges, in countries and regions with complex collations of
political, military and developmental problems? Sierra Leone, for
example? The Horn of Africa? Even Afghanistan? What if, in these and
many other cases, the values and objectives were shared, but the
instruments were independently owned by different agencies and
differentially funded? What if aid ministries were relatively rich, and
foreign or trade or environment ministries (and even defence ministries)
relatively poor? Would it make sense to reconsider the acute
ring-fencing that currently prevails?
Many have been grappling with these questions. On the one hand,
attempts have been made to map the boundaries between different actors
and define better the rules of engagement when they find themselves
engaged on the same terrain: such is the case, for example, with the
military and humanitarian communities. On the other hand, donors have
recognised the need for a more integrated approach, for example by
creating special funds which are jointly owned across Government: the
UK’s Africa and Global Conflict Pools are examples, now merged alongside a single, new Stabilisation Aid Fund; the Canadian Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START) and Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF) are others. The EU has regional strategies (for example for the Horn of Africa).
The US has probably taken the ideas furthest, with a discourse of
transformational diplomacy and the creation of an integrated Africa Command,
currently based in Stuttgart, incorporating both military and aid
components. Internationally, the adoption of new doctrine on the Responsibility to Protect, and the setting up of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, reflect a similar concern for coherent analysis, better early warning, and more effective and integrated action.
In the UK, this issue has moved to the centre of the policy stage. Speaking at the Mansion House in November 2007, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said

‘If we are to honour the responsibility to protect we urgently
need a new framework to assist reconstruction. With the systematic use
of earlier Security Council action, proper funding of peacekeepers,
targeted sanctions - and their ratcheting up to include the real threat
of international criminal court actions - we must now set in place the
first internationally agreed procedures to prevent breakdowns of states
and societies.
But where breakdowns occur, the UN - and regional bodies such as
the EU and African Union - must now also agree to systematically combine
traditional emergency aid and peacekeeping with stabilisation,
reconstruction and development.
There are many steps the international community can assist with
on the ladder from insecurity and conflict to stability and prosperity.
So I propose that, in future, Security Council peacekeeping resolutions
and UN Envoys should make stablisation, reconstruction and development
an equal priority; that the international community should be ready to
act with a standby civilian force including police and judiciary who can
be deployed to rebuild civic societies; and that to repair damaged
economies we sponsor local economic development agencies ---- in each
area the international community able to offer a practical route map
from failure to stability.’

It is not difficult to imagine the questions that might arise in
implementing this vision. And they stretch well beyond the fragile
states agenda into questions of how we deal with global security or with
climate change. For example:

    What are the shared values that operate across the development,
    humanitarian, foreign policy, military and environmental spheres? What
    is meant by a ‘progressive foreign policy’ or its Conservative
    Does the new doctrine of integrated engagement apply only to
    current or potential ‘fragile states’ (however defined), or more widely?
    Should humanitarian action be co-opted to this agenda or does it have a special status?
    Who is responsible for defining and managing integrated strategies, and with what accountability?
    What (in the International Development Act and more widely) is
    meant by ‘poverty reduction’? What can money legitimately be spent on?
    Should the DAC criteria on what is allowable as oda be revised?
    What would be the implications of an integrated approach for
    the level, geographical allocation and sectoral composition of spending?
    Even if aid money remains ring-fenced, would a better
    appreciation of the foreign policy or defence or environmental context
    change spending priorities?

We are planning a meeting series which will explore these questions,
using a combination of conceptual challenges, institutional perspectives
and geographical case studies.