In our development dilemmas piece we consider what progressives should do now the split between foreign and development policy no longer exists:
Should aid be used as an instrument of foreign policy? If so, how? If not, why not? If policy coherence’ really means ‘foreign policy first’, how should DFID prioritise if the countries which are the breeding grounds for terror are not the same ones with the greatest incidence of poverty? Should a combustible Nigeria, at 153 in the UN Human Development Index, command more attention than stable Sierra Leone, languishing at 177? Should aid money be spent, as it is by the United States, more in the powder keg of the Middle East than the desperation zones of sub-Saharan Africa?
The Fabian Society has a new pamphlet out this week which lays bare some of the big strategic fights underlying Labour’s emerging foreign policy. I’ve attempted to summarise them here.
Labour politics has taken an inwards-looking turn since 2010 but a new pamphlet, published by the Fabian Society this week, sees the party’s internationalists limbering up for a ruck with the opposition, the leadership and each other all at once. If the IPPR’s Influencing Tomorrow was a genteel debate in the officers’ mess, the Fabians’ collection is a squaddies’ bar room brawl between, in Mark Leonard’s words, “the New Labour tribes of globalisers, liberal interventionists and pro-Europeans and the Blue Labour apostles of localism and disengagement”.
The painful choices facing left interventionists, part of our series on #progressivedilemmas.
Labour left office three years ago this month and may return to it just two years from now. That’s not a very long time in which to formulate a distinctive foreign policy for government, nor to game out responses to the massive shifts in the global strategic context in which the next Prime Minister will be operating.
To lend a hand, Labour think tank/ pressure group Progress have commissioned a series on progressive dilemmas in foreign policy, addressing the 12 big questions where the tensions between different left-of-centre first principles are most acute. Whatever your politics, we hope seeing how that debate plays out inside what could be the next governing party of Britain will be of interest.
UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening in a speech today:
“South Africa has made enormous progress over the past two decades, to the extent that it is now the region’s economic powerhouse and Britain’s biggest trading partner in Africa. We are proud of the work the UK has done in partnership with the South African government, helping the country’s transition from apartheid to a flourishing, growing democracy.
“I have agreed with my South African counterparts that South Africa is now in a position to fund its own development. It is right that our relationship changes to one of mutual co-operation and trade, one that is focused on delivering benefits for the people of Britain and South Africa as well as for Africa as a whole.”
Media release from South African Department for International Relations and Cooperation, a few hours later:
UK unilateral decision to terminate Official Development Aid to SA
The South African government has noted with regret the unilateral announcement by the government of the United Kingdom regarding the termination of the Official Development Aid to South Africa as from the year 2015.
This is such a major decision with far reaching implications on the projects that are currently running and it is tantamount to redefining our relationship.
Ordinarily, the UK government should have informed the government of South Africa through official diplomatic channels of their intentions and allowed for proper consultations to take place, and the modalities of the announcement agreed on. We have a SA/UK Bilateral Forum which is scheduled for some time this year and the review of the SA/UK strategy which includes the ODA, would take place there and decisions about how to move forward were expected to be discussed in that forum.
This unilateral announcement no doubt will affect how our bilateral relations going forward will be conducted.
What the hell happened?
Update: the Guardian has this from a DFID press officer:
Today’s announcement comes after months of discussions with the South African government. DfID ministers and senior officials have met with the South African government on many occasions to discuss our decision.
An observation: this looks like a retreat from the original wording of Greening’s speech: calling it “our decision” sounds rather different (read: unilateral) from Greening’s argument that she and her South African counterparts had “agreed” that SA was now in a position to fund its own development.
Update 2: Foreign Secretary William Hague has now entered the fray, intoning magisterially that “I am not going to fling accusations” while making clear – in the same sentence, no less – that the whole kerfuffle is the result of “bureaucratic confusion, perhaps on the South African side”. But here’s the key quote:
“We don’t continue to give aid to countries that are raising their incomes, that have growing economies.”
Surely this bold new doctrine rules out most – or possibly even all – of the countries that DFID spends money on? I love policy made up on the hoof. It’s always such fun.