Provost: Donors Should Tackle Aid's Relationship With National Security

Protesters march on the streets of Cairo in Egypt. Critics have blamed the U.S. foreign aid money for bolstering Egyptian President Hosnik Mubarak's three-decade regime. Photo by: Mariam Soliman / CC By-SA

In the age of austerity, when donor countries’ budgets are under extreme scrutiny, campaigners for development funding have played up the relationship between overseas aid and national security. But the ongoing political uprising in Egypt has called for a rethink of this argument, an opinion piece in the Guardian says.

“With budgets on the chopping-block in the US and a commitment to rapid deficit reduction in the UK, these images are a thorn in the side of those who argue that stability and security are essential preconditions of development (and thus argue for aid programmes to strengthen a state’s ‘capacity’ to maintain such stability and security),”  Claire Provost writes in the “Poverty Matters” blog published in the Guardian.

Critics have blamed U.S. foreign aid money for bolstering Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade regime, with the bulk of the U.S. government’s USD1.3 billion annual aid to the Arab nation going to military and domestic security programs.

“While the images from Egypt are extreme, the role of US foreign assistance there fits the trend of aid programmes becoming increasingly involved in ‘state-building’ – training police, raising taxes and helping governments to win and maintain legitimacy,” according to Provost, a contributor to the Guardian’s “Global Development” website. 

The U.K. and U.S. governments have made the case for keeping, and even increasing, their foreign aid budgets to help counter threats to national security.

>> Rajiv Shah Responds to House Republicans: Foreign Aid is Key to National Security

>> In UK, Development Key to Promoting National Security

The European Parliament and non-governmental organizations, on the other hand, have opposed the “politicization” of aid, saying it compromises the neutrality of humanitarian workers.

>> EU Parliament Opposes ‘Politicization’ of Humanitarian Aid, Calls for Better Coordination

Provost says that the ongoing aid reviews in some donor nations should tackle the relationship between foreign aid and security.

“It’s clear that there are few other foreign policy debates as timely and as controversial as the relationship between security and development,” Provost says. “Ongoing and intensifying scrutiny of government aid budgets offers an opportunity not (just) to ‘remake the argument for aid’ or to ‘relearn how to campaign for aid’, but also to rethink what aid should do and reimagine relationships between aid donors and recipients. An opportunity not to be overlooked.”

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About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.