Failing States: The Global Challenge
Populations in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen have been protesting against their respective governing regimes. An influx of refugees fleeing from the ensuing instability is reaching Europe. While lack of rule of law or presence of weak systems to enforce rule of law facilitates the spread of conflicts across borders, other factors also play a big role. Problems emanating from weak rule of law are not localized. On the contrary, they pose a big challenge to foreign policy and global security.
|Tunisians protest Photo courtesy|
Europe’s provision of development aid has come under scrutiny on whether it contributes to weak rule of law especially when the support is given to failing states. In such states, disbursed funds reach the wrong people and places. The absence of a direct contact or negotiator and the lack of clarity in the intentions of the funds becomes a massive problem. A huge chunk of the funds goes to the military, the administration and the promotion of politicians at the expense of independent and sustainable development.
In Uganda for instance, as Andrew Mwenda observes, development aid covers around 50 percent of the state budget. Without this, based on common opinion, Uganda would not be able to put the necessary effort in education or health policy among others. However, 50 percent of the state budget is used for military and administration every year or even gets lost through corruption.1
Generally speaking, governments in Africa do not pay attention to their own development tasks as they do not need to. They do not have to listen to the needs of the population as long as the costs incurred are covered through aid funds. Looking at this development, aid subsidizes corrupt and inefficient governments and gives wrong incentives.2
A number of African academics are probing the reason behind failing states and poverty on the African continent. While development aid is a contributing factor, a much better answer would include measures urging governments to act in a more responsible way within the field of tax policy. Via this, the dependence of development aid could be reduced and an independent system would result fitting with the several conditions. As long as governments stick to development aid to cover their expenditures, they stay dependent on the donor. Rather, it should be their final goal to be strong and stable, to create a strong but independent rule of law.3
Of course, development aid is able to promote regeneration, security and wealth. However, it most often has strings attached. It is always connected to the interests of the donors and given at their terms. This often makes it clash with the best interests and priorities of receiving countries. Looking at the west’s reactions on the riots in northern Africa documents this, too. In fact the west has reacted restrainedly to the situation in Egypt and Tunisia, among others. Both the USA and Europe have got high political interests in this region. This underlines that aid is not given without a benefit for the donor. In the contrary it is strongly connected to the donor’s benefits.
Development aid has caused unintended circumstances. It has not achieved the purpose it set out to achieve. That is why donors start to rethink their methods.4 Measures should be created that involve less dependence and respect of country priorities. Recipient countries on the other hand ought to tackle corruption and improve the living standards of the electorate. The final goal should be a political accountability, a stable and free global system, global security and sustainable development. These will result from mutual cooperation of equal partners.
By Dorothea E. Müller
The author is a student of Political Science and Sociology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.
1.http://www.cato.org/pubs/fpbriefs/fpb88.pdf Andrew Mwenda (11.10.2009)
2 As evidence see e.g. : http://www.modernghana.com/newsp/255360/1/pagenum1/an-analysis-of-the-proposed-federal-government-bud.html#continue; Hauser, Emily. "The Impact of International Aid on Nigerian Poverty" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, Hotel Intercontinental, New Orleans, LA, Jan 07, 2009 Online <PDF>. 2011-02-20 http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p277564_index.html
3 See e.g.: "The west supports democracy when democracy supports the west. But Egypt further proves that, for the west, freedom is a question of strategy not principle." Younge, Gary: The west can no longer claim to be an honest brother in the search for peace. In: The Guardian, 13.February 2011
4 See e.g. http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/reports/index.htm
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