“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”
Ukerewe, the island in the Tanzanian half of Lake Victoria where I am currently spending a few months, is famous for witchcraft. Witches are found in every village, in every street. They earn a living by selling curses. If you want to punish a friend or destroy an enemy, you pay a witch to smite him with some misfortune – illness, injury, impoverishment, death. Because these things are so common anyway, it is easy for witches to claim that it was the curse that did the damage, and easy therefore for them to stay in business. And there begins the vicious circle – bad things sustain belief in witchcraft, belief in witchcraft absolves you (or your government) of any responsibility for your lot, so more bad things happen, and the witches grow ever more powerful.
I have a 3,000 word essay in Aeon, the online magazine of ideas, on the United Nations and morality. Here’s the opening…
‘We will integrate human rights into the life cycle of all staff.’ This phrase, with its strange mix of bureaucratic and moral ambitions, might sound like a piece of Orwellian doublespeak. In fact it is a sincere statement from a policy paper circulated among senior United Nations staff this summer on the need to renew the organisation’s ‘vision’ in the face of massive human rights violations. UN officials have been despondent over their failure to halt the Syrian war and the organisation’s performance in persistent trouble-spots such as Darfur, so the soul-searching is timely. But will it make any difference?
You can find the answer to that question, and the full article, here.
Micah Zenko of CFR has just blogged this transcript of a 1975 telephone call between Henry Kissinger and his long-time aide Winston Lord on the knotty problem of what to say about Africa in an upcoming speech:
KISSINGER: Are you redoing the African thing?
WINSTON LORD: Yes. We had versions which is in the front office and we are redoing it some more. You can look at what you have [or?] wait for what is in the typewriter now. It will not be tremendously different. We gave you a draft about two days which was bounced back.
K: It was not much.
L: We don’t have much of a policy.
K: What would be a policy?
L: That it is, I think, it is sober, restrained…
K: I don’t mind giving them what our intentions are. It is not always possible to do a hell of a lot.
L: Right. It is our lowest priority, but it cannot say that. But it is a fact of life.
K: We can say something about forthcoming aspirations.
L: You mean for development.
According to the full transcript, Kissinger goes on to say: “See if you can give it a little more lift without promising them much more.” Of course, no policy-maker would ever be so cynical about development policy these days…
There’s some interesting stuff in the latest Spending Round, including the new Conflict, Stability and Security Fund which looks rather interesting (not least because the numbers don’t seem to add up and I have no idea where the other £217 million comes from). That said…
The Government will provide more than £1 billion in 2015-16 for a new Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). This builds on the success of the Conflict Pool by bringing together existing UK capabilities and resources from across government (including conflict resources worth £683 million in 2014-15) and £100 million of new funding.
The CSSF will fund a broader range of activity to help prevent conflict that affects vulnerable people in the world’s poorest countries, and tackle threats to UK interests from instability overseas. This will include actions the UK delivers directly or through third parties and its contribution to multilateral interventions overseas to help prevent conflict and instability, and support post-conflict stabilisation.
These resources will be used more strategically to deliver better outcomes. Priorities for the Fund will be set by the Government’s National Security Council to ensure a strengthened cross-departmental approach that draws on the most effective combination of defence, diplomacy, development assistance, security and intelligence. This will include funding to ensure the UK can respond quickly to crises. It will also ensure longer term conflict prevention work to tackle the root causes of conflict abroad, such as providing military training and capacity building, human rights training, security and justice sector reform, and facilitating political reconciliation and peace processes.
Interesting because the NSC will now set priorties for the fund rather than the three departments did for the conflict pool (you can read their latest guidance here). Will the Home Office and Intelligence Agencies now have seats at the table – with the MoD, FCO and DFID. And what does this mean for DFID in particular? Other GD folk are much better informed on whats happening at 22 Whitehall but I can’t help feeling that DFID is increasingly part of the national security debate – even if some insiders would rather remain at arms length. This can only be a good thing. There are clear benefits to both the UK and priority countries to have access to DFID’s skills, expertise, and presence in countering terrorism and violent extremism as well as tackling organised crime. The security and development nexus has always been a sore point and the cause of plenty of arguments between sides – the European Commission, as I type, is having similar issues – perhaps we have reached a moment when things will really change – for the better.