Foreign Aid’s Role In War And Peace.

My article was originally posted in UWA’s Pelican Magazine.

Type “Foreign Aid” into Google and you’ll get a whole bunch of different messages. You’ll get links to Australia’s foreign aid page at, to Wikipedia’s entry on foreign aid, news articles about foreign aid in general, and some with the headlines “Foreign Aid Overhaul To Squeeze More Value For Money”, “Who Profits From Our Foreign Aid?” and “The shame that is Abbott’s foreign aid policy”.

Foreign aid is a topic that has different opinions vying for prime position on the Google results page. Foreign aid, or Official Development Assistance (ODA), is money, food, or other resources given or lent by a donor country to a recipient country (Bilateral) or to a multilateral development agency like the United Nations (Multilateral). There are many criticisms of foreign aid including its ineffectiveness and its inability to overcome an unjust international economic system. On the other hand, you have defenders passionately rebutting the critics’ claim. Yet at the core of things, no one denies the importance of aid in humanitarian crises.

The history of foreign aid is an interesting one. Australia’s aid programme started before World War II when the government gave grants to Papua New Guinea, then administered by the Australian government. When Commonwealth leaders met in Colombo, Ceylon, in January 1950, they launched the Colombo Plan as a venture for the economic and social advancement of the South and Southeast Asian region through bilateral aid. Australia also hoped that the Colombo Plan would allow the United States to be involved in the region, cultivate diplomatic and commercial relations, support Japan’s rehabilitation and allow the US to play a part in the Cold War.

 This isn’t the first time that a country used their foreign aid plan to promote diplomatic and political aims during times of conflict. Countries often use foreign aid in times of conflict to promote values of “democracy, human rights, and development”, with the belief that if these values are promoted, then the more stable and peaceful the world will become. This was an underlying theme of American foreign policy during the Cold War when foreign aid was used to promote democracy and the idea of free-markets. America was concerned about the “expansive tendencies of the Soviet Union”, and felt that to help regional security within western and northern Europe was to promote the integration of Western European economies. By promoting the integration of Western European economies, it backed US State Department official George F. Kennan’s call for “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies” and America’s political interests in the region.

 Theories underpinning development and foreign aid have changed quite dramatically over the years. The 1950s and 60s saw a focus on modernisation through a ‘one size fits all’ linear, economically centred development philosophy. The 1970s to the present time saw it change to widespread structural economic packages applied to the ‘developing’ world by global economic institutions to a more complex and culturally sensitive human-rights based approach. These changes have been largely in response to a significant increase in the amount and sophistication of empirical evidence from poverty-stricken regions of the world detailing success and failure of various programmes. Our understanding of poverty and its underlying factors has improved immeasurably.

 In our modern age of non-traditional security actors and concerns in a post 9/11 world, the political stability and security within our Asia-Pacific region is critical. As Australia lies geographically close to areas of conflict, it is not surprising that our foreign policy, including our foreign aid programme, focuses on conflict prevention, conflict reduction and humanitarian relief, as well as post-conflict recovery and peace building.

We only need to look at our close neighbour Timor-Leste’s (East Timor’s) history to see how successful foreign aid can be in helping fragile countries build up infrastructure and establish peace through community development. Timor-Leste was a Portuguese colony from mid-16th Century until 1975. It was then independent for only nine days before being invaded by Indonesia. After four centuries of occupation, Timor-Leste was internationally recognised as an independent nation in 2002. Timor-Leste’s turbulent history, marked with violence, led to 75 percent of its population being displaced before the UN peacekeeping force could arrive in 1999. Because of this, today 75 percent of East Timorese live in rural areas, and 37 percent live on the extreme poverty line of less than US$1.25 a day.

Since its independence, Australia has been Timor-Leste’s biggest development partner. Our foreign aid has assisted Timor-Leste in improving governance allowing its administration to take increasing ownership for poverty reduction efforts. Through helping Timor-Leste invest in strong governing infrastructure, as well as helping them to build a level of resilience to financial, social and emotional effects of disaster, the aid program is helping to minimise conflict and provide support in restoring the basis for development post conflict.

 Foreign aid helps rebuild communities after conflict and sustainably develops communities during peace however Abbott’s drastic cuts are undermining success. The Government’s decision to go through private contractors, Coffey and GRM International, has meant that NGOs overseas have to undercut each other in order for their bid to win funding from the Australian government. By undercutting and undermining each other, the quality of programs enabling the extreme poor to get out of the poverty trap through vocational training, secondary and primary education suffers in a race for efficiency.

 Foreign aid will always play a role in times of war and conflict, but for it to be effective, foreign aid cannot be tied to domestic political concerns and policies but rather consistent and sustainable. As a relatively rich and stable country in our region, Australia needs to show leadership in investing in the security, stability and development of our region. This means keeping to the once bipartisan promise of 0.5 percent of GNI for foreign aid.

Compare the two phrases: ”asylum seekers” versus ”illegal maritime arrivals”.

The conjoining of ”asylum” and ”seeker” is evocative. Who seeks asylum? A human in danger, distress and despair; someone who is hoping to survive on the lee shore of kindness. ”Illegal” + ”maritime” + ”arrivals” = the draining of the human. It is using language to drive and empower ideology. Language shapes public policy and discourse.

By changing the terms of reference, Morrison is trying to control the debate. Kon Karapanagiotidis, chief executive of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, believes the change in terms is ”profound” and that Morrison is ”deliberately trying to dehumanise asylum seekers by making them less than human”.

Warwick McFadyen | Calling as it is: the minister for debasing the language | Published on The Age on 26th October 2013


"When I first became Prime Minister, I thought to myself then I don’t need to put in the foreground being a woman. Of course I want to speak for women, of course I want to govern for women, of course I want to do good things for women, but I didn’t think I needed to put it right in the foreground because it was just so obvious, and you know it was gonna be commented on and it was gonna be so much of what came to define my prime ministership without me constantly pointing to it. Then as the days in office went on it just seemed to me increasingly I was getting the burden of this, that sort of you know misogynist underside, and really none of the benefits that could come with being the first female prime minister because I wasn’t putting it in the foreground. So all of this sort of swirled round, obviously I did want to speak to women and we did some policies which were terrific for women, equal pay, social and community services workers and the like. But this was all in and around me, in my head, in the environment, in our politics. And then we got to that parliamentary debate and, I must admit, it was sort of a track point in my thinking, that I thought after everything I’ve had to see on the internet, after all the gendered abuse that I’ve seen in newspapers, that has been called at me across the despatch box, now of all things, I’ve got to listen to Tony Abbott lecture me about sexism.”

- Julia Gillard former Prime Minister of Australia on how her now famous speech on misogyny spontaneously came about. (x) (x)

Reblogged from Cat Politics


Young Iranians combat Netanyahu with ‘jeans protest’
October 6, 2013

One of the crowning glories of Benjamin Netanyahu’s “media blitz” last week, following his speech at the United Nations General Assembly was an interview with the BBC’s Persian service. In an attempt to characterize the interview as historic, the prime minister’s bureau pointed out that this was the first time Netanyahu had given an interview to a Persian-speaking media outlet, addressing the Iranian people directly.

The prime minister’s bureau marketed the interview aggressively. In addition to text messaging journalists direct quotes from the interview and sending out detailed press releases, Netanyahu’s spokespeople circulated video clips from the interview to the Israeli television channels, posted parts of the interview on YouTube, tweeted on it and shared it on Facebook.

To be honest, I was surprised by this initiative. Netanyahu has been giving fiery speeches about the Iranian nuclear threat for 18 years and only now has he found it appropriate to address the Iranian people or try to speak to Iran over the ayatollahs’ heads. But it’s better late than never.

The interview with Netanyahu wasn’t really in Persian. Most of it was simultaneously translated in subtitles. In fact, Netanyahu said about two words in the Iranian’s language: “harf-e pootch,” which can loosely be translated as “nonsense,” and “Sadeh-lowh” - “sucker.”

According to one of the announcements made by the prime minister’s bureau, some 12 million Iranians watch BBC Persian every week. Netanyahu’s words were received loud and clear on the other end, although instead of eliciting positive reactions they spurred antagonism and fury, especially among Iran’s liberal youth who voted for Iranian President Hassan Rohani en masse in the last election.

The young Iranians were not angry over Netanyahu’s strange choice of Persian expressions, rather a single, ridiculous sentence that he uttered in English: “If the people of Iran were free they could wear jeans and listen to Western music.”

Over the past 24 hours, dozens of young Iranians responded to Netanyahu with a “jeans protest” - tweeting pictures of themselves in jeans. Some of them mocked Israel’s intelligence agencies, saying they were so busy with the surveillance of the Iranian nuclear program that they neglected to update Netanyahu on fashion trends in Tehran.

“2day I’m wearing jeans, I can send my photo 4 Netanyahu if his spies in Iran didn’t see people who wear jeans and listen to Western songs by their Iphone!” Sadegh Ghorbani, a young journalist from Tehran, posted on Twitter.

Mohamad Nezamabadi, a student at Tehran University, was even more cynical. “Not only we wear jeans, but also listen to the foreign language musics! I bet he thinks that we ride horses instead of cars!” he tweeted.

It is not clear who advises Netanyahu on Iran’s internal politics, the attitudes of its young or the daily life in Tehran or Isfahan. 

In conclusion, if Netanyahu is interested in contemporary fashion in Teheran, he can enter an album titled “Tehran Street Style" on the image-sharing website Imgur. 


Reblogged from Mohandas Gandhi


Clarke and Dawe - Immigration (by ClarkeAndDawe)

Reblogged from Devil's Avocado