„How does Covid19 impact development aid short and long term?“
4th Combined Meeting of Global South and Global North 3rd of June 2020
Participants: Himadri, Svenja, Enock, Caesar, Opolot, Saikat, Bright, Charles, Edward, Aklam, Katharina, Leo Moderator: Himadri
Protocol Writer: Svenja
"Reducing poverty is not a task of charity, it is a task of justice."
- Nelson Mandela
Already while participants were joining the meeting room, the topic of the locust swarms destryoing harvests in India came up. After the locust plague has hit East Africa and destroyed harvests a few weeks back, it is quite a new phenomenon in India particpants said. One particpant form Uganda told how the Ugandan government had borrowed money from the EU for protecting harvests. Although this might not be a classical form of development aid there are some similarities in this money being transferred from richer countries to poorer countries and development aid. The participant said in this case it was a big sum of money that was meant to be used for flying helicopters and spraying pesticides which did not happen though other than during the locust invasion before.
With this opening we dived right into our topic of development aid, recalling the protocols from the last separate meetings on the question how does Covid19 impact development aid short and long time. Both protocols, of the Global South meeting and the Global North meeting last week, were full of criticsm as to what extent development aid is doing good or harm to the receiving countries and questioning who actually benefits from it. Furthermore, we elaborated on the question why development aid is still in existance although its ineffectiveness is known. Here are only a few brief points that have been validated in the joint meeting:
Harm done by development aid:
it furthers dependency of receiving countries and its people on aid
holds global power structures in place
harms local markets and industries
it supports corrupt leaders and governments
money is being misused
it is not helping as it promises
Reasons development aid still exists:
market and business interests of the socalled donor countries and organisations that profit from the aid they give
bilateral agreements support and strengthen political and business relationships between two countries
greed of leaders who use the money for personal interests and the interests of very few people
powerful people and countries strengthen their positions and profit from it, so why should they stop?
Although there are also charity organisations with primarily good intentions, development aid can be seen as a continuation of colonialist structures - now in the name of development aid or foreign aid.
We recommend this short video "The Problem with Foreign Aid"answering the questions why development aid still exists and what motived drive it.
The questions „What is our understanding of development aid, personally and in our communities or in the wider public? When and how did you learn about the underlying factors and structures of it?“ revealed striking similarities in Global North and Global South. After having shared our perceptions of development aid also in the separate meetings before, in the joint meeting we were able to learn from the respective other group, Global South or Global North, which opened up new perspectives and made similarities and differences visible. Especially striking is that the participants from Uganda, Germany and India revealed a lot of similarities in their perceptions of development aid and how it has changed especially while working with Global Match.
Ugandan participants shared how they perceived the Europeans bringing gifts, the UN goal trying to alleviate poverty and the food aid given to orphans firstly as entirely positive and as good hearted actions. One member mentioned that development aid was something to brag about. Having contact to people from the UK for example who visited their school in Uganda or supported their education, was something to feel proud of and to show off with. Participants stated that they started to understand more about the negative and disappointing aspects when in school and even more when reading about it and joining Global Match where this topic is discussed tirelessly. Only people exposed to the criticsm learn about all the bilateral contracts that exist between countries and come to understand that behind those contracts is not solely the will to help but strong motives related to power and wealth and that the money comes with a lot of strings attached (such as high interest rates which puts receiving countries into high debts). The publicly voiced perceptions of foreign aid remain positive though.
Also participants from Germany said that people feel generally good about development aid for example making personal donations to charity organisatiosn or youth taking part in volunteering projects abroad. The latter is something that is considered as positive in a CV and is something to brag about, too. One participant criticised that mostly the volunteer who is said to be a "help" to local people ( although he has no more professional expereince in the respective field) benefits in terms of personal experience. At least some of the volunteers seem to question their motives afterwards and start to learn and understand the structures behind development aid after returning. Some participants in our meeting could tell from personal experiences here.
We concluded that ignorance about the harmful side of foreign aid as well as pride taken in helping and receiving aid does exist on both sides, Global North and Global South, if people are not exposed to criticsm. In the Global North we get indoctrinated the messages that Africa is worse off and that our actions in the Global North can give a relieve to the suffering. It is not talked about structural levels, not talked about historical reasons for the current situation nor about the fact that the Global North's wealth is sustained by oppressing Global South countries.
It is easy to blame volunteering programmes as their structures and problems are more easy to see and understand than bigger development programmes run by governments or funded by lobbies. It is almost impossible to follow up on the money given by governmental or EU or UN funds, where exactly it comes form and on what it is spent. So the interest of the wider public is often very little. It is always crucial to ask what kind of institutions are behind it, what kind of companies and what are their interests. It is also important to understand the whole machinery of colonialism and slavery and the structures that are still being supported today.
We also came to realize that it is often the very privileged people who reproduce these structures for example by taking part in volunteering services abroad. At least the scepticism that some people develop while and after taking part in „voluntourist“ projects should be taken up and supported through reflection. Global Match discussion groups can provide the space for sharing and learning about the imbalances inherent in development aid programmes.
What is the situation related to development aid now in Covid times? Ugandan participants stated that some leaders are using the current crisis especially the lock down to obtain more foreign aid which is not used to help people who are suffering. Cases in Uganda for example are not very high compared to other countries but lock down has been extended a few weeks ago although it puts lot of people into hardships.
The case of India provides an interesting example on recent restructuring and redefining development aid and its definitions of donors and receivers. India's GDP has risen steadily and a lot in recent years but how come it is still called a developing country? Clearly, health care is problematic and poverty remains a big struggle. India was receiving lot of aid but is now giving aid itself to African countries. The UK is now boosting Indian economy as a different form of aid in order to stop Chinas influence. It is thought that if the prominent donor countries such as UK step back China will have the upper hand which many countries such as USA and also the UN don't want to see. It becomes clear how much global politics and power relations play into the business of development aid. While India is currently fighting for a seat in the UN-Security Council (a seat that China apparently doesn't want to have), other countries in power don't want China to take up the space that would become free in case they stopped the funding.
The moderator concluded the session by saying that we can see a lot of reformulating, restructuring and redefining of international relations and foreign aid programmes. It is still too early to see in which direction this might go and to early to see the multiple effects of devolpment aid in Covid 19. However, Global Match argues for more sustainability and transparency in development aid. We believe that it is high time to rethink development aid, to look at the underlying structures and motives and that rethinking needs to happen on both sides, the givers and the recipients of development aid. Meanwhile, it seems governements, companies and organisations are rethinking and finding new ways of keeping these money flows alive which is to be seen very critical! Sign up here for our next Postcolonial discussion coming Wednesday!
About GlobalMatch's Postcolonial Meetings Do we want to go "back to normal" or is there time and space for change?
At GlobalMatch we aim at bringing people together and we believe that it is even more important to do so in times of a global crisis. While the world is at lock down and social distancing is key we invited people from Global South and Global North to come together in online meeting rooms and to talk about more than the everyday-corona-talk.
Originally, this series of Postcolonial Meetings started in Kampala, Uganda, offline. When we planned to start these discussion groups in Germany, we didn't know yet how much a pandemic would alter our everyday lives and global relations so quickly.
However, the crisis shows how deeply connected everything is, how much connected we are. And it brings up a lot of questions!
Why do we meet separatly first? Each topic will be discussed on two following Wednesday evenings. On the first Wednesday, two meetings take place simultaneously, one for Global South (8 pm EAT) and one for Global North (7 pm CET), each in their own online meeting room. At GlobalMatch we aim to connect people and to provide a safe and open space for discussion. Reflecting about postcolonial topics can become quite sensitive at times. For the sake of more openness and comfort we will first have the discussion separately to get familiar with each topic. On the following Wednesday we come together for a combined discussion. Everyone is welcome to join!
Sign up here for our next Postcolonial discussion coming Wednesday!