What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On a golden age of aid enthusiasm

MStFB Comment

In a post published on her blog, President of the Center for Global Development Nancy Birdsall posed the question, are we seeing the end of a golden age of aid enthusiasm - as the years 2001-2005 might be described. She cites the examples of the Millennium Challenge Account, PEPFAR (the US President's five-year, $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) or the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, as well as the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, among others, in overviewing the period mentioned.
Her exact question was: 'Are we really at the end of a Golden Age of Aid Enthusiasm? If so, why? And what would that mean for development? What do you think?'
I decided to throw in my arguments, in a comment on Dr. Birdsall's blog, which you can also read here now:
"I think part of the answer to the question you raised is there in your post. 'The years 2001-2005 were marked by the reaction to 9/11' [Dr. Birdsall points to a number of other things these years were marked by, but that's the one I built my arguments around]. All those initiatives you mentioned were, at least partly, a reaction to the securitisation of unstable areas of the world. So what we are witnessing is not an ebb and flow of humanitarian interest really. It's an ebb and flow of security interests. Just like back in the Cold War aid wasn't only about humanitarian interests (not at all). [On my blog] I'm regularly writing about 'negative spill-over effects' - a key to my conceptualisation of state failure. One of the most brutal such spillovers one can think of is obviously a jet airliner crashing into a skyscraper in a metropolis piloted by a bunch of people trained in some 'stan far away. So as a result of terrorism the problem of weak states became strongly securitised - see e.g. the oft-cited volume by Rotberg et al., 'State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror' - the title speaks volumes, doesn't it? Now, migration, the drugs trade as well as potential global epidemics are also securitised in connection with weak states. However, nothing captures public attention as much as the chance of a terror attack. What happened over the years 2001-2005 was that the world got used to terrorism in areas far from the centre, as well as, to a degree, even to relatively small and rather infrequent attacks in the centre of the world economy (e.g. in Western Europe). So interest has waned, and with it the aid enthusiasm has waned as well. Many people have also realised that aid in general will not as directly reduce the threat of terror attacks as aid enthusiasts tended to suggest after 9-11."
Up for a debate, as ever.

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