This week, the government will unveil its review of Britain’s £8.4bn international development budget. But what is the Coalition’s vision for the future of British aid? According to Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, the future lies in partnerships with business that will decide on priorities for action, “drive innovation in health and food security,” and solve global poverty. What planet is Mitchell living on? Are these the same businesses who refuse to pay their taxes to developing countries to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars each year, far more than they receive in foreign aid, or whose activities have led to unprecedented levels of inequality despite their investments in third-world economies, or who couldn’t even be bothered to turn up to the World Economic Forum’s only session on world poverty last month, which was subsequently cancelled?
There’s nothing wrong with engaging business where this makes sense – to reduce the costs of new vaccines for example, or get environmentally-friendly technologies to those who need them – but creating a whole new “paradigm” of aid around a single, untested strategy is misinformed, misguided and ultimately a misuse of public money. There is something desperately sad about reducing a project of collective liberation to another bout of deal-making by corporate elites in Davos. What on earth do Mitchell’s colleagues at the Department for International Development think about this move, an agency that led the way in focusing aid on poverty, governance and institutions, but is now in danger of becoming an extension of corporate interests and agendas?
Read the rest of this essay, on Open Democracy, here.