Conclusion and Alternative Proposals for British Aid
This concluding chapter will examine the options which exist for overcoming some of the problems which this thesis has highlighted in relation to aid. A number of writers of reports and books on aid have come up with proposals for improving the way aid is used in order to make it more effective in alleviating poverty, safeguarding the environment and relating to the specific problems of women. Other writers have proposed the complete demolition of aid giving as it is presently carried out, and its replacement by a kind of Third World economic solidarity which they would see as only being capable of implementation by a radical socialist government. A further group of writers see the only way of overcoming the problems created by aid itself (in their view) through the abandonment of aid giving altogether.
To take the former view first, there are those who advocate reforms of aid who accept that aid can play a positive role in meeting the needs of Third World development. The churches, the NGOs and the development lobbies which they support are the most obvious and largest of the institutions which adopt this view. For example, in Britain the churches and the NGOs support organisations like the World Development Movement, which campaigns and lobbies for improvements in the quality and quantity of aid.
Then there are those who call for "solidarity, not aid", who, starting from an ideologically socialist standpoint, argue for a more root and branch critique of aid. Typically, it is said that on balance aid as it is used today by Western governments does more harm than good and that reforms of the sort advocated by the churches do not go to the root of the problem. Reforms advocated by the development lobby leave intact the underlying political and economic purpose of Western aid, which is primarily to promote, through the mechanism of IMF/World Bank conditionality, the economic model favoured by the wealthy donor countries a model which preserves the very inequalities between North and the South which aid is supposed to end. The changes which would be required go beyond what might be regarded as reforms of aid in its present form to question the validity of the economic model upon which aid is conditional. This approach might be termed the "Third World solidarity" critique of aid.
Then there are those who reject the possibility of doing anything positive until the whole edifice of Northern aid institutions is completely destroyed for varying political motives, both right and left. One view from the right is that of Bauer, as we have seen, who wishes to leave development to market forces; another view which does not appear to have any readily identifiable political axe to grind, but which is critical of the corruption surrounding aid-giving institutions and recipient governments, is that of Graham Hancock in his provocatively-written book, Lords of Poverty. Unfortunately, this approach does not provide an alternative, concluding merely with the expressed hope that one day people might learn how to:
"help one another directly according to their needs and aspirations, as they themselves define them, in line with priorities that they themselves have set, and guided by their own agendas."
Hancock thus fails to offer any concrete proposals beyond this sentiment. Bauer thinks the market will do everything for us. In contrast, the other two groups of writers do at least put forward some proposals which can be compared as follows.
On What Basis Should Aid be Distributed?
The development lobby typically proposes that aid should be distributed to countries on the basis of such criteria as income per head and sectors closest to the poor, such as agriculture and social and community services. The Third World solidarity critique argues in contrast that the only guarantee of getting aid through to poor communities is to give it to governments that have a proven record of aiding the poor, looking after the environment and specifically relating to the needs of women. A list of "progressive" radical and communist Third World countries with redistributive and positive environmental policies are cited, such as Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, Angola, Mozambique, Cuba, Vietnam and China, as examples of countries which have been supported by Scandinavian countries and which, it is argued, should be supported by Britain.
In the immediate post-war period, the IMF was set up to provide short-term balance of payments support to Third World governments in financial difficulties. The World Bank, on the other hand, was set up to provide long-term development aid. While IMF funds were quick disbursing, World Bank funds were spent largely on project aid which was slow disbursing, sometimes taking as long as ten years. In the aftermath of the oil crises of 1975 and 1979, the recession of 1980-83 and the subsequent debt crisis meant that increasingly debt-ridden developing countries regarded both these sources of finance as inadequate and sought a more long-term, quick-disbursing form of aid. In June 1980, the World Bank initiated structural adjustment lending to fill this gap. At the same time, the conditionality previously associated with IMF loans also became a feature of structural adjustment loans. As Mosley has pointed out, after initially expressing the fear that this would create conflicts with the IMF, Britain has been one of the strongest supporters of this form of conditional lending.
The difference between the "development lobby" and the "Third World solidarity" critique of official aid hinges around the question of the role of policy-based lending by the IMF/World Bank, support for which is also a condition of other multilateral and bilateral aid agencies. Behind this question lies the economic model which policy-based lending promotes. The development lobby is not uncritical of structural adjustment and austerity, which it sees as causing much hardship; but whereas the "solidarity, not aid" critique denounces all such conditionality and demands that it ceases, the development lobby calls for adjustment with a "human face" or, in the case of the green lobby, adjustment with an "environmental face". The "solidarity, not aid" critique says that structural adjustment promotes an economic model which does damage to the poor which far outweighs any good that aid might do. It is argued that it is not sufficient merely to emphasise that structural adjustment should be made more humane with a few measures to cushion its impact: it is necessary to expose the fact that it is a means of preserving the inequalities which exist between North and South.
There is, nevertheless, a degree of overlap between the development lobby and the Third World solidarity critiques. For example, the 1986 report of the Independent Group on British Aid contains the following formulations in its list of recommendations which typifies the development lobby's approach:
"21. Britain should seek to ensure that the adjustment policies demanded by the IMF and the World Bank take full account of the impact of those policies on poorer sections of the population in the country concerned.
22. Britain should not threaten to withhold bilateral aid as a means of pressing a developing country to accept an IMF or World Bank programme.
23. In considering appropriate adjustment policies, Britain should act on the basis of her own independent appraisal of the appropriate policies required and not only rely on judgments made by the IMF or other authorities.
24. Britain should support proposals to ensure that adequate funds are available, from the World Bank and private sources, to assist adjustment in debtor countries, but should seek to ensure that this policy is applied to all debtor countries, especially poor African countries, and not confined to the select few defined in the Baker plan."
Point 22 challenges directly a mechanism by which the donor countries and the IMF/World Bank impose their will on developing countries. However, the text of the report at no point says that structural adjustment should be opposed as such. It merely argues that undue pressure should not be applied to Third World governments through the threat of cutting off aid. For example, Britain suspended programme aid to Kenya in 1983 because it had not carried out quickly enough the privatisation of maize marketing required by a World Bank agreement.
An example of the approach of the solidarity critique on this issue is the following:
" campaigns should centre on exposing the harmful effects of existing forms of structural adjustment and conditional programme lending on poverty, the environment and the forests.
Britain and other European governments should cease to back, or in the case of the European Commission, should not begin to back, the conditions imposed by the World Bank and the IMF through structural adjustment lending.
European governments should dissociate their aid from these programmes, and should be willing to provide aid to progressive governments whose policies do not meet with World Bank/IMF approval."
According to this view, aid is increasingly being provided in the form of programme aid rather than project aid, which has tight conditions in the form of structural adjustment lending. This form of aid is primarily to release funds in developing countries to service the debt. The increasing poverty resulting from austerity and the emphasis on increasing exports has a greater effect on forests and soils than do individual aid projects. Sectoral adjustment aid aimed, for example, at the energy sector, can also be similarly highly conditional and policy based.
The importance of this discussion lies in the fact that it is not just that attempts by governments to implement a poverty-focussed programme are in decline with the project aid budget at the micro-level aimed at meeting basic needs. This decline also has to be seen alongside the trend away from project aid towards more conditional programme aid. Increasingly, the declining attempts to introduce a poverty focus at the micro-level are overshadowed by the contrary effects of policy conditions at sectoral and macro-level attached to the growing number of sectoral and structural adjustment loans.
The support of IMF and World Bank conditionality by the regional development banks, national aid agencies and private banks provides a formidable force in imposing their economic model on developing countries. Any attempt to chart a way forward for aid, it is argued, must confront this question if it is seriously going to make aid more poverty-focussed. EC aid, as the above quotation indicates, has not thus far been linked to IMF/World Bank conditionality, although there are attempts being made to change this situation. According to the "solidarity, not aid" critique, this must not be allowed to happen, and the delinking of aid from policy-based lending must be extended to national aid agencies.
Political Pressures for Action
What political pressures can be brought to bear on the obstacles to helping the Third World? Promoting green/ethical consumerism, international North-South cooperation with the trades unions, anti-racist, anti-sexist and Third World development education in schools have all been suggested as possible ways of developing a greater consciousness of what is going on in the Third World, which might be a means of generating a broader political movement on development issues.
The Labour government promoted development education in schools in the 1970s. This had died a death as a top-down government initiative in the 1980s under the Conservatives. The only thing that remains is the network of development education centres in the teacher training institutions. The National Curriculum introduced by the Conservatives restricts what can be taught in this area, whereas previously there was latitude to deal with development issues as a topic or as a theme running through all aspects of the curriculum.
It is an undeniable fact that the nearer one gets to the workplace, especially in industries that compete with Third World products, the harder it gets in terms of gaining support for the Third World except for a politically aware minority of workers. The trades unions do not have a very good record on this question, despite a certain amount of rhetoric about the need for solidarity with workers abroad which occasionally may be heard coming from their international departments.
The question arises: do working people in Britain have a common interest with their counterparts in the Third World? Why should workers in Britain be concerned about workers in Africa or South America? When it comes to jobs during a recession there is often little room for sentimentality in the minds of some workers about the plight of immigrant workers in Britain, let alone in the Third World, as the recent growth of far-right organisations across Europe demonstrates. However, the working population in the North is not homogeneously self-centred and "me first". It is possible to identify a small but important layer of younger trades union activists, marginalised/unemployed workers, gender-conscious women, ethnic minority groups conscious of racism, students and a wing of the intelligentsia on issues to do with class, gender, race and other issues, who are willing to campaign on issues other than those connected only with their own self interest. The effectiveness of this layer in politically isolating the more short-sighted elements, which can potentially become the cannon fodder of the racist far right, depends on how well organised and politically conscious they are. The effectiveness of this layer is limited in Britain. It is marginal, in practical political terms. It faces an uphill task in implementing its aspirations.
It is necessary to deal with the question of whether there is a common interest between workers North and South, and the problem of Northern self-centredness. It is a common complaint of the working class in the Third World that Northern workers are uninterested in the problems of the South. This is undoubtedly true for the vast majority of workers in the North outside the small minority described above. Racism, national chauvinism and First World egoism abound, and the Northern trades unions are not immune from it. It is important not to idealise the Northern working class in this respect. It is also true, according to the "solidarity, not aid" view, however, that an objective relationship exists between the working people nternationally that is independent of its egotistical, subjective attitudes. Even if many British workers do not yet comprehend it, their fate is inextricably bound up with the fate of their counterparts abroad. British labour history can provide some evidence of this phenomenon.
Since the time of the French Revolution, events on the continent have played an important part in shaping the conditions and rights of British workers. The French Revolution itself provided a strong impetus to those forces within British society which were struggling for democratic rights, and this included the labour movement which was struggling against anti-trades union legislation. The upsurge in the struggle was so strong that the Combination Laws of 1799 were enacted to drive the movement underground. Ultimately, the creation of the British trades unions may be seen as being largely the result of the influence of the French Revolution on British workers. The defeat of Napoleon, which strengthened the landlords, led to restoration of the Bourbons in France and was a factor in the introduction of the Corn Laws in Britain. The July Revolution of 1830 in France was in turn a factor in the enactment of the first Electoral Reform Bill in 1831 in Britain. This is a good example of reform as a by-product of revolution. It was also followed by the development of the Chartist Movement, which achieved the ten-hour day and the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1844-47.
The defeat of the revolutionary movement on the continent in 1848, however, was accompanied in Britain by the decline of the Chartist movement, and it also undermined the momentum for electoral reform for a long period afterwards. The victory of the North against the slave owners in the American Civil War was a crucial factor in the enactment of the 1867 Electoral Reform in Britain, which gave the vote to a part of the British working class. In the wake of the 1905 Russian Revolution the Labour Party formed for the first time a substantial parliamentary group of 42 members. Likewise, after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the 1918 Electoral Reform Act gave the vote to a wider section of the working class and allowed some women to vote for the first time.
The objective interrelationship between workers across international boundaries is thus a fact of life, regardless of their subjective attitudes to other workers abroad. An example of this phenomenon at work between workers across the North/South divide is the expropriation by Mexico of British oil interests in the late 1930s.
The rivalry between the US and Britain in this period allowed Cardenas to get away with nationalising British interests without fearing a reprisal from either Britain (because of the tensions this would have created with the US) or from the US, which was itself experiencing the growth of radical developments within the working class in the form of the growth of the militant trades union confederation, the CIO. The "New Deal" policy, which may be understood as a concession to appease the militancy of the American workers, was parallelled by the "Good Neighbour" policy in foreign relations which reflected the same kind of concession to the Latin American working class, ie to cede on secondary questions in order to preserve what is fundamental.
Thus, a peaceful step towards economic independence in Mexico was possible thanks to a more vigorous development of trades unionism in the US. This was in spite of the fact that Lewis, the leader of the CIO, or indeed the majority of the US working class, was lacking in "sympathy" for the Latin American people. It was also in spite of the fact that the majority of the Latin American working class was unable to see that there was a common interest between themselves and the North American working class. A common, informal objective alliance between them was, nevertheless, at work.
Although only a small percentage, North and South, of the working class is able to comprehend this reciprocal relationship, it is argued that they can play a crucial role in a relationship of mutual "solidarity". The importance of direct links between working-class organisations across the North-South divide becomes apparent in the light of this, so that the full benefit of the informal alliance can be realised as far as possible in the form of a conscious international collaboration.
In the post-war period, the Cuban Revolution severely shook the US. It was a major reason for the Alliance For Progress programme of the Kennedy administration, which provided aid to prevent a recurrence of the same thing on the Latin American continent. Aid may thus be seen in this case as another example of a reform conceded as a by-product of revolution.
There are, however, certain problems with seeing aid simply as a "reform". Given without conditions, it might well be described as such. The tendency, however, is towards greater conditionality in the present period, not less. It is in this context that aid must be understood to be primarily a lever for imposing the donor government's preferred economic and, increasingly, also political model.
The conclusion which the "solidarity, not aid" view draws is that Third World governments must try to do without conditional aid where possible. This does not mean that attempts to make aid less conditional should be abandoned. A scenario is presented in which a radical socialist government would exclusively direct non-conditional aid to those governments with a record of redistributing wealth to the poor. This exclusivity is justified as a means of correcting the existing bias in international aid which discriminates against these countries.
The objectives of many campaigns to reform aid have to be seen in perspective. As we have already noted, the Labour Government attempted to introduce a poverty focus into the British aid programme in the mid-seventies. An important focus of the development lobby's proposals at present is also for a return to this policy. The "solidarity, not aid" critique, however, makes the point that, while conditionality exists, attempts to introduce a poverty focus will be greatly outweighed by the overriding negative effects of the imposed economic model.
Calls by the development lobby upon the donor countries to bring pressure to bear on recipients to implement a more poverty-focussed or environmentally-conscious development policy are quite widespread and are another form of conditionality. This approach, presented in isolation from a more general analysis of the aid-giving process, can express a somewhat patronising attitude towards the Third World. In the absence of a perspective which explains that the overriding purpose of official aid is the imposition of the economic model favoured by a self-interested North, a misconception is created about the reality of North-South relations. Such a misconception presumes the right of the "civilised" North to lecture the "backward" South about the need to look after its environment and to assist the poor. Such a perspective also assumes that this same self-interested North can play a generally positive role in helping the South. It also makes the assumption that the North has a superior environmental and poverty-relieving record.
The "solidarity, not aid" critique, on the other hand, argues that it is necessary to avoid creating unrealistic illusions about the likelihood of Northern donors implementing genuinely progressive policies in the South. On the contrary, the dismal record of the North in terms of its own environment, for example, means that a perspective of relying on the North's pressurising the South is both naοve and hypocritical. If the North wishes to preserve the forests of the South, it is largely because it want to use them as a sink for its own wasteful practices, it is argued.
The conclusion which this approach leads to is that the Third World must break out of dependency on conditional Western aid and learn to do without it until aid is available without strings. It recognises, however, that it might be problematic for the very poorest of countries to do so immediately, but stresses that this is what they must try to achieve at the earliest opportunity.
This thesis has shown that Northern aid as it is presently constituted is primarily an instrument of Northern interests, of Northern economic and political objectives. It plays an overwhelmingly negative role in the South. The growth of policy-based lending and Structural Adjustment Lending within the multilateral and bilateral agencies essentially promotes an agro-export model. It opens the economies of the recipients to unrestricted imports of Northern goods while Northern markets are closed to the majority of Southern products competing with Northern equivalents. If aid is conditional in the sense of perpetuating this model, it should be rejected by Third World countries. Allies of the Third World in the North should also press for the abandonment of conditional aid. It is necessary to recognise, however, that Northern aid agencies will not abandon conditional aid in the foreseeable future.
While defending such a perspective, it is also necessary to support every attempt to reform aid, however modest, until such time as it becomes possible to end conditionality completely. It is important not to let Northern government off the hook. Although, as we have seen above, an objective reciprocal relationship exists between the working class in struggle internationally, the problem of subjectively racist, chauvinist and Northern-centric attitudes remains as a major problem in relation to developing a supportive attitude towards the Third World. What strategy should be adopted towards overcoming this problem? A government committed to a perspective of Third World solidarity would have to confront this problem, and there are obviously no immediately easy answers.
However, a strategy for changing the existing attitudes must probably include the following very schematic elements.
Firstly, it is necessary to develop the efforts of those in the existing Third World groups in Britain to win to a perspective of Third World solidarity the minority, described above, of socially and politically aware activists: those who can empathise with the plight of the Third World; those who may be able to see their own enlightened self interest also in the realisation of this perspective. Secondly, the long-term strategic task consists of assisting this stratum to engage in a struggle to raise the awareness of sufficient numbers of the mass of the population in order to neutralise the prejudices of the majority as well as to isolate politically the actively racist/chauvinist minority of the population.
What evidence is there in real life that might lead us to conclude that working-class people would be willing to dig deeper into their pockets for the Third World?
One indication is the very existence of voluntary Third World charities the very large amounts that can be raised through the medium of television shows what might be achieved if this very powerful medium were to be made available on a consistent basis. A government genuinely committed to helping the Third World would have to attempt to legitimise an aid programme which disbursed completely untied grants without any conditionality whatsoever. Consistent access to and use of the media would be an invaluable asset in this task.
Another indication is the very existence of trades unions, working-class institutions for mutual support. The support which working-class people sometimes provide to fellow workers in dispute with employers is also important in this respect. International trades unions in the US and international trades union confederations are evidence of a desire to provide mutual support across national boundaries. The fact that this is not realised very often indicates the continuing problem of chauvinist attitudes. The actual existence of these international working-class institutions indicates, nevertheless, that there is a recognition of common interests across national boundaries, however modest.
Some Elements of Policy
This concluding chapter will set out some essential elements of policy in relation to reformulating the character and direction of British aid. This will be based on the idea that attempts to reform aid in the short term can be combined with a longer-term objective of completely replacing conditional aid with non-conditional aid. Attempts to dilute conditionality, for example, do not necessarily conflict with attempts to eventually remove conditionality altogether. An attempt is made here to integrate the policy proposals from a number of development lobby and "solidarity, not aid" sources.
1 Quantity of Aid.
It is clear from what has been said about Third World countries avoiding conditional aid dependency where possible that demands for greater quantities of aid have to be linked to the dilution and the eventual complete removal of all conditionality. More aid without this qualification is counter-productive. In this sense the conclusion of this thesis is not anti-aid, but anti-conditionality. It is with that perspective that the following policies should be supported in relation to the quantity of aid:
Bilaterally, a timetable should be immediately established for rapidly reaching a target level of aid equivalent to 0.7 per cent of GNP.
Multilaterally, Britain should commit itself to the development of a universal system of automatic compensation of Third World countries for loss of income owing to external causes through a fusion and extension of the existing Stabex, Sysmin and CFF arrangements. This should be based on an index, calculated by Third World countries themselves, derived from loss of income as a result of all external causes. This should include such things as falls in export prices, increases in import prices, increases in debt servicing etc, and should be additional to normal aid allocations. The objective should ideally be to provide complete compensation. However, an agreement to compensate them for a percentage of loss of income might well result from the bargaining process, depending on the relations of forces operating internationally.
2 Quality of Aid
The negative effects on the quality of the aid programme, stemming from the use of aid to bolster Britain's political and commercial interests, should be eliminated.
The use of aid to impose economic models favoured by the North, Britain's notion of "sound" economic policy, or Britain's notion of "good government", should cease.
The ODA should not link its aid to acceptance of the conditionality of Structural of Sectoral Adjustment Lending (SAL). A government committed to helping the Third World should oppose this type of conditional lending within the World Bank.
Commercial influences on the aid budget should be ended. The Aid for Trade Provision (ATP) and tying of aid to UK products should be abolished. The Commonwealth Development Corporation should receive the same level of scrutiny as the rest of the aid programme.
The ODA should abandon the "good government" policy, a form of paternalistic political conditionality which infringes the self determination of recipient governments. It is sufficient to note that, while the government of Somoza was regarded as being "good" enough to qualify for British aid, the redistributive Sandinista regime was evidently not.
The only important consideration is whether a government has a proven track record of redistributing wealth to the poor, and whether it looks after the environment. Given the small size of Britain's aid budget, aid should be concentrated exclusively on those countries to redress the existing negative discrimination in international aid allocations.
3 The Administration of Aid
In keeping with the call for the ending of political and commercial influences on the aid programme, the following measures at governmental level are necessary:
The ODA should be reconstituted as a Ministry independent of the Foreign Office. The Minister for Overseas Development should have Cabinet status. The Select Committee on Overseas Development should be reconstituted independently of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The ODM should establish policy towards the Third World.
4 Poverty-Focussed Aid
Demands for more poverty-focussed aid have to be seen in perspective. Compared to the negative effects of conditionality, the scope of campaigns for more poverty-focussed projects is relatively limited. Nevertheless, even small improvements such as this should be supported. Until such time that all conditionality can be removed, it is necessary to choose between less satisfactory options.
A shift toward conditional programme aid and away from project aid must be rejected. Until such time as the ODA is willing to disburse non-conditional programme aid, an attempt to implement a larger and more poverty-focussed project aid sector is preferable to more conditional programme aid.
There should be no restrictions on aid in the form of untied local costs, so that poverty-focussed projects can be implemented.
The ODA should massively increase projects aimed at the landless which provide income generation and employment schemes, and supply work-related skills training and access to credit.
The ODA should vastly extend the number of rural development projects which provide basic education, primary health care, rural water supply, sanitation, housing and nutrition programmes, which presently account for only 8.8 per cent of British aid.
More aid should be provided without conditions through the joint funding scheme with NGOs in Britain and in the recipient countries, although there are limits to the amount of poverty-focussed NGO aid that recipient governments will tolerate without feeling threatened by it.
The ODA should reject the World Bank rationale for Structural Adjustment Lending, which argues that raising food prices would benefit the rural food producers. This ignores the fact that the majority of the Third World rural population are either landless or have insufficient land for subsistence, and who therefore have to purchase their food. Their position, along with the urban poor, is thus made worse by higher food prices. This argument may be seen as a diversion from the need to redistribute resources and promote genuine land reform.
5 Gender-Focussed Aid
Ideally, aid in the form of non-conditional grants should be directed to governments with a proven track record of adopting specific measures to redistribute resources to women generally the poorest of the poor in the Third World. Specific measures in Britain aimed at making aid more relevant to women include the following:
The ODA should vastly increase its consultation with women's organisations and NGOs on policy in relation to women. NGOs can be a mechanism for the, often unconscious, imposition of Northern values and interests in their own right. It is necessary for NGOs to be conscious of this problem, which stems from the fact that they are Northern institutions. A deepening of the collaborative dialogue with indigenous NGOs from the recipient country might be a way of mitigating such tendencies.
A gender unit should be established within the ODA to generate policy in this area and oversee its implementation. Far from ghettoising gender issues within the ODA, this would provide an institutional focus for promoting gender awareness by involving interested staff from all departments in its work. It would also provide a base for initiating projects explicitly for women rather than merely responding effectively on the basis of damage limitation to projects initiated elsewhere.
The number of ODA Women's Advisers without additional responsibilities should continue to be greatly increased to enable proper scrutiny of projects for issues which might affect women and to initiate projects specifically aimed at women, who are a massively disadvantaged half of the Third World population.
A mandatory statement assessing the impact of projects on women should be included in all aid documents.
A very substantial special fund should be created to finance projects established by Third World women's organisations.
Research should be stepped up, financed by the ODA, to investigate how to increase the number of women taking up scholarships funded by the aid programme, places in the Technical Cooperation Training Programme and positions in the higher ranks of the ODA staff.
A timetable should be drawn up for the rapid implementation of the 1985 Nairobi Conference proposals, "Forward Looking Strategies".
A 50 per cent quota of women should be imposed on TCTP trainees, and more priority should be given to subjects relevant to women.
The ODA must recognise that the population question can only be addressed effectively by eliminating social insecurity, empowering the poor, particularly women, and providing access to education for the poor, especially for women. Access to means of birth control is obviously essential. However, it is not a solution in and of itself. In this sense this argument, presented as the primary solution to the population problem, may be seen as another evasion of the need to redistribute land, wealth and power to the poor.
The ODA must oppose Structural Adjustment Programmes which hit women and children disproportionately hard. Austerity hits health and welfare services, including family planning provision. The shift to cash crops means that locally-grown food becomes displaced, more scarce and more expensive. The resulting poorer family security, health and nutrition is known to affect fertility. This is another reason why the ODA should oppose Structural Adjustment Programme conditionality.
6 The Environment
Likewise, aid, in the form of non-conditional grants, should be ideally directed to governments with a strong record of looking after the environment. Demands made on the British government to pressure Third World governments via green conditionality should be rejected on the grounds that they are based on paternalistic and, indeed, hypocritical assumptions.
An ODA genuinely committed to Third World development would recognise the agro-export model, which Structural Adjustment Lending conditionality promotes, leads to an intensification of the production of export goods and cash crops which create gluts of these products on the world market, followed by price collapses. It also leads to environmental damage as natural resources are over-exploited or simply destroyed, as in the case of timber for export. Projects and programmes which cause such environmental, soil and forest destruction should therefore not be funded by the ODA.
Multilaterally, the ODA should help establish an international convention to protect forests and participate in an international fund to compensate governments undertaking control of forest destruction.
An ODA genuinely committed to Third World environmental protection would recognise that redistribution of wealth in favour of the poor is central to taking the pressure off the environment.
An ODA genuinely concerned about the problems of the Third World would recognise that destructive colonisation schemes are often an environmentally unacceptable alternative to reversing the trend towards concentration of land ownership in non-frontier agricultural regions. The ODA should provide aid to governments which undertake genuinely redistributive land reform and other redistributive measures.
The ODA should also recognise that intensive, high-tech, green revolution agricultural methods can also be environmentally destructive, and can promote dependence on external chemical inputs. The promotion of these methods tends to benefit better-off farmers with access to sufficient good irrigated land and credit, because only they can afford to purchase the costly inputs. The perspective of increasing yields through intensive methods based on better-off farmers may be seen also as yet another diversion from redistributive measures and genuinely redistributive land reform.
The use of high-yield seeds in the traditional way by the selection of a small number of genotypes for general use decreases the genetic base and this, in turn, leaves them vulnerable to diseases. The ODA should greatly increase the number of "farmer participation" projects in rainfed areas where poor and marginal farmers tend to be concentrated. The use of alternative technological options to expensive high-tech inputs should be vastly extended. The use of improved varieties of the many existing traditional seeds used by farmers should also be extended in order to prevent the narrowing of the genetic base. Agricultural research and extension projects of this kind aimed at rainfed areas should be vastly expanded. Local cost restrictions should be abolished across the board to allow this expansion.
Finally, a few words are necessary to draw out points which have emerged in the course of researching and writing this thesis. A subordinate theme of this thesis was a comparison of the records of the Labour and Conservative Governments. The main conclusions of this thesis in relation to this can be summarised as follows:
On the institutional level, the 1974-79 Labour Government did not immediately return the Minister of Overseas Development to the Cabinet status it had had at the start of the first Wilson Government in 1964. It was only when Judith Hart, Wilson's most committed aid Minister was removed from that office and an agreement was reached between Wilson and the new Minister, Prentice, that he could retain his Cabinet position as a special favour, that this Cabinet status was reinstated. This could hardly be seen to be because of any priority attached to this Ministry, however, It was a deal to entice Prentice to take the job at a difficult moment. This provides one reason for the resignation of Judith Hart: she had been keen to see this Cabinet statue reinstated so that Overseas Development would be given more recognition and priority, but this had been ignored by Wilson during the period of her office. It was then granted to Prentice but not because of any priority given to aid. The Labour Government thus cannot be seen as having a different institutional policy from the Conservative Government.
While it is true that the White Paper, More Help for the Poorest, had announced a certain change of emphasis, it was pointed out by a Conservative MP, Sir Bernard Braine, that besides a poverty focus based on need there were other, "wider" considerations, including "political and commercial factors" which would determine the destination of aid. We have seen that local cost restrictions, administrative and other problems affected the ability to implement poverty-focussed projects. Alongside this went the political deal which Judith Hart negotiated whereby a significant increase in the volume of aid was facilitated in return for the acceptance of the Aid for Trade Provision (ATP). An increase in the quantity of aid thus went alongside a deterioration in the quality of aid. For reasons already given it would be simplistic to regard a quantitative increase as progressive in the absence of a sea change in the terms on which it is given. Given that this increase went with a deterioration in the quality of aid, this is even more the case.
It would be naοve to imagine that a Labour Government could effect a substantial change in the terms on which aid is given, let alone a complete sea-change without substantial opposition from the deeply-entrenched vested interests of the export lobby and the DTI in particular. Political opposition from the Foreign Office would also be very strong. The Treasury would resist any moves likely to affect the balance of payments such as unrestricted local or recurrent costs and the abolition of tying. The same civil service exists in the ODA, DTI, the Treasury and the Foreign Office, regardless of the political complexion of the government. It exerts a strong influence over what goes on in relation to British aid. Change in emphasis may be permissible, but only within certain limits effectively dictated by these vested interests mediated through the civil service bureaucracy.
Having said that, it is clear from the summary at the end of Chapter 3 on quantitative aspects of British aid that there was a clear deprioritisation of aid in quantitative terms under Thatcher compared to the previous Labour Government. Once again, however, the Thatcherite ideological preference for scrapping aid altogether was just as unrealisable as any attempts at a fundamental reorientation of the aid programme in the direction of meeting the needs of the poorest under Labour, assuming that the desire to do so had been present (which it was not, however). Even Lord Bauer had to adopt an uncharacteristically pragmatic approach in terms of government policy, as we have seen. The extreme economic-liberals did not get their way, as Judith Hart was able to note in the Commons (see Chapter 2). The export lobby and the Foreign Office had other ideas. The Aid for Trade Provision became a vehicle for off-loading unsaleable surplus stocks of British goods that were uncompetitive on the world market. The objectives of the ATP were analysed in Chapter 2. They included, as we have seen, "facilitating entry into a new market or sector, establishing or maintaining technological links, retaining a traditional market temporarily endangered": In other words, very little to do with aiding the poorest. Aid was necessary for the export lobby to enter a market. Once entry was gained it became a question of staying there. That commercial need was stronger than neo-liberal ideology.
On the political level, a continuity of policy between the Labour and Conservative Governments can be seen from the fact that the Somoza regime received aid from the Labour Government in the late 1970s even though the regime was well known to be oppressive. The Conservative Government subsequently slashed the aid after the Sandinista Revolution from £250,000 in 1979 to under £50,000 in 1982. This was in sharp contrast to the voluntary agencies, which did the opposite.
The ground for the qualitative deterioration in British official aid was in fact prepared by the policy of the previous Labour administration. The concessions to "wider" political and commercial considerations made in More Help for the Poorest, the agreement to allow the introduction of the ATP in exchange for a quantitative increase in aid, and projects like the Indian ships deal all paved the way for the even greater emphasis on political and commercial consideration under Thatcher. There is no escaping this fact. The comparison being made between the aid policy of the Labour and Conservative Governments in this thesis is thus, essentially, one of a continuity of policy dictated by the export lobby, the DTI and the Foreign Office.
While it is true that there was some attempt to give more attention to poverty-focussed aid in the form of rural development under the Labour Government the Integrated Rural Development Projects (IRDPs) and appropriate technology projects and the promotion of development education in Britain it is also true that the Conservative Government gave more attention than Labour to environmental and gender aspects of aid, particularly under Chris Patten. One reason for this, as we have seen, was the much greater public awareness of environmental and gender issues in the 1980s compared to the 1970s. Judith Hart acknowledged this fact when interviewed for this thesis. This is not a reflection, therefore, of superior Conservative policy so much as a reflection of the shift in the general climate in society. Another way of viewing this, as we have seen, and which is slightly more charitable to the Labour Government, might be to acknowledge that the perception of environmental issues shifted in this period from a desire to improve the urban environment (housing, sanitation etc) to one which recognised global environmental issues as well. The trends on tying of bilateral financial aid and loans versus grants, however, do not flatter Labour. Neither does the high percentage of cash crops in the early 1980s within agriculturally-related aid, although the most important conclusion here is that they were over-represented in this sector throughout the period being scrutinised. These trends undermine any simplistic notions about Labour's record on aid being uniformly superior to the Conservatives'.
When viewing the ocean of poverty that exists in the Third World, one is presented with a dilemma. On the one hand, most people do not like to see other people suffer and are driven by a desire to help if they can see a way to do so. On the other hand, it is clear that all sorts of problems exist in relation to official aid as it is now. Some critics of aid react to this by washing their hands of the mess, hoping thereby to absolve themselves of responsibility for the consequences of misdirected aid. Others say that it is necessary to campaign for improvements in aid in the here and now: to reform aid rather than scrap it. As has been argued above, both these approaches must be integrated. Third World countries should avoid resorting to Northern aid because it ties them into an economic model that is in the interests of the North not the South. Aid is an instrument of Northern interests. However, since it is a fact that many Third World countries will misguidedly continue to use Northern aid, it is necessary also to support in the meantime campaigns for reforms in aid as it is constituted now. This is so that the aid which Third World countries are driven to accept will be shorn of as many "strings" as possible.
But there is another important reason for not being content to give Third World countries good advice about avoiding Northern aid and for campaigning for reforms. To refuse to campaign for improvements and reforms lets the Northern governments off the hook. Unless an alternative is presented whereby aid might be dispensed purely in the interests of the Third World, the allies of the Third World in the North will be failing to put the maximum pressure on Northern governments to stop using aid in a way that harms the South. This can be done in such a way that unwarranted illusions are not created in the ability or willingness of Northern government to voluntarily undertake such action. It is also important to highlight, in this regard, the fact that major concessions in relation to aid will largely result, as we have seen, from the mobilisation of the working class and the oppressed generally in the South in its own interests. The mobilisation of the working class in the North can also play an important part in this process, as we have also seen. This has been evident from the point at which official aid became a feature of the post-war scene. One important factor responsible for Marshall aid, for example, was the threat to Western capitalism posed by the expansion of the Eastern Bloc. Internal factors within Western Europe were also, of course, important in this regard. Indeed, the very existence of the welfare state in Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe may be also seen in the same light, although, again, not exclusively in terms of external threat.
It is also important not to counterpose aid to the ending of unequal trade, the cancellation of Third World debt and all the other mechanisms by which the North oppresses the South. Aid should be additional to measures designed to compensate for and eventually remove altogether these mechanisms of Northern oppression of the South, as was indicated in the section on alternative proposals. Aid is to help the South to "catch up" with the North, but it is of itself inadequate if the mechanisms of oppression are intact. Behind this notion of aid is a view that the North has caused the backwardness of the South. It is beyond the scope of this work to analyse this phenomenon. Such a view, however, means that non-conditional aid should continue to be a demand addressed to Northern governments: not as a substitute for ending the oppression of the Third World, but as compensation for the past actions of the North which have kept these countries in poverty and misery. To fail to do this is to let them off the hook. The resources are there in the North. They are needed in the South. It is the task of the allies of the Third World in the rich North to make sure that the poor countries get the help they need without strings.
Hancock, G. Op cit, p193.
Mosley, P. "The World Bank and Structural Adjustment". In Bose and Burnell (eds). British Overseas Aid Since 1979, op cit, p80.
IGBA. Missed Opportunities, op cit, p58.
Hayter, T. Exploited Earth, op cit, p256.
In the following brief and necessarily schematic account, it is not being suggested that external foreign factors are solely responsible for events in Britain internal factors undoubtedly were at work also. It is simply to say that these external factors were at work because there is a tendency for people in Britain, and more generally in the North, to be rather insular in their view of history and not sufficiently take account of external factors.
Trotsky, L D. "Where is Britain Going?" In Chapell, R and Clinton, A (eds). Writings on Britain, Vol 2. London, 1974, p25; and "Ignorance is Not Revolutionary Virtue". In Writings of Leon Trotsky 1938-39.New York, 1969, p97-98.
Hayter, T. Exploited Earth. Op cit, p242.
The IGBA argue, in their 1984 report, Aid Is Not Enough (p16), in favour of a universal export price compensatory facility. The argument which is presented in this thesis is that such a facility should be broadened to include other forms of loss of income due to external causes.
Hayter, T. Exploited Earth. Op cit, p249.
IGBA. Real Aid, op cit, p57.
IGBA. Real Aid, op cit, p56.
UNDP. Human Development Report. 1992, pp43-45.
Mazza. Op cit, p53.
Moore Lappe, F. Taking Population Seriously, op cit, pp1-3.
Hayter, T. Exploited Earth. Op cit, pp246-248.
Percy and Hall. Op cit, p13.
Farrington, J et al. Op cit, p319.
Clark and Toye. Op cit, Appendix 11, p196.
Melrose, D. Nicaragua: The Threat of a Good Example. Oxford, 1985, p46.