UK Aid Won't Stop Security Threats, Experts Say

U.K. Department for International Development workers prepare bridge materials for transport to Pakistan. Experts says U.K. foreign aid will not curb security threats. Photo by: U.K. Department for International Development / CC BY-NC-ND U.K. Department for International DevelopmentCC BY-NC-ND

British foreign aid can’t buy security.

Con Coughlin, the Telegraph’s executive foreign editor, doesn’t buy the idea of using U.K. aid money to counter security threats posed by fragile states, a key theme of the British government’s new national security strategy.

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“Call me old-fashioned, but I suspect the oppressed of the world would be far more impressed if we helped them confront and defeat the militias and terrorists who make all our lives a misery, as we did in Sierra Leone,” Coughlin writes in the Telegraph, criticizing the increase in the U.K.’s foreign aid budget.

Foreign aid, he argues, has “an unfortunate habit” of ending up in the hands of dictator governments, such as the case in Africa, where “brutal dictatorships … have been funded by well-meaning foreign donations that have been diverted into the wrong hands.”

Sam Bowman, research manager at the Adam Smith Institute, voices a similar concern.

“Over 95 percent of the money that the government gives in aid is goes to the governments of developing countries rather than to charities like Oxfam and the Red Cross. Many of the governments that we give aid to are corrupt dictatorships: for example, the top five recipients of DfID [Department for International Development] government-to-government aid in 2008/09 were Sudan, Burma, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe,” Bowman writes in The Spectator’s “Coffee House” blog.

Bowman further argues that aid money causes bad governance.

“When governments are not reliant on their own citizens for revenue, they have no need to be accountable to them either,” he notes. Overseas aid worsens the situation in the developing world, and Britain cannot afford it. It should be abolished, for the good of the country’s finances and for the world’s poor. 

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.