Jan Pronk

Do Good and Don't Look Back

Translated from Dutch: Doe wel en zie niet om, Evert Vermeer lecture,
Amsterdam, 1 February 2007

Translation: Ruth Hopkins

Virtue has its own reward
'Evert Vermeer' Lecture- Amsterdam, 1 February 2007
Jan Pronk
Approximately ten years ago, the book The History of Fifty Years Development Cooperation in the Netherlands 1949 - 1999(De Geschiedenis van Vijftig Jaar Nederlandse Ontwikkelingssamenwerking 1949-199), was published, compiled by Peter Malcontent and Jan Nekkers. It consists of thematic contributions, selected by an editorial board under the supervision of Prof. Duco Hellema. The authors Peter Malcontent and Jan Nekkers chose the slogan 'Do good and don't look back' for the introductory chapter of the book, in which an attempt is made to provide an analytical summary of the entire period. They continued: '…in sum, the policy philosophy of Development Cooperation could be summarised as: “Do good and don't look back.”'. In the final chapter, entitled The Netherlands' Exceptional Role in the World. Fifty Years of Policy in the field of Development Cooperation, Duco Hellema adds: 'analyses of the policy as a whole remained rare and furthermore continued to play a minor role in the ongoing policy.' The tenor of this quote has surprised me. Apparently, the researchers are of the opinion that the Dutch policy in the field of development cooperation has not been assessed entirely or insufficiently and that, insofar as evaluations took place, the ensuing results were never accounted for through changes in policy.
Inspection and evaluation
In fact, it was in the Netherlands that the first national evaluation of policy in the field of development cooperation took place. A team of researchers from all Dutch universities, under the supervision of a professor from Tilburg, Leon Jansen, conducted this evaluation of Dutch development aid. I was part of this team, as a young researcher. The then Minister of Development Aid, Bot, the father of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ben Bot, commissioned the evaluation.The fact the assignment was commissioned is as such in contradiction with the aforementioned conclusions of Hellema et al. In other publications, I have dealt with the methodological problems of the investigation. The central question; what is the optimal investment of the marginal Dutch guilder spent on development aid, could not be answered without departing from several abstractions. The most important one was that in the practice of the development process not a single variable would change, other than the scope and structure of Dutch aid, which leads to attributing all changes in the outcome directly to this aid. In reality of course, this works out differently. That is why the researchers opted for a more sectoral approach in which every part of the policy - the financial aid, the technical assistance, the co-financing of specific programmes and the like - was subjected to a separate evaluation analysis.
At the time the research was finalised, Uddink was Minister of Development Cooperation. He did not display much satisfaction about the findings and results of the study. Parliament was more positive. The parliamentary parties did not agree with all policy recommendations, but the debate ended with several motions that aimed to increase the quality of Dutch development aid.
Hellema, Malcontent and Nekker ignored the report. They do not even mention it, any more than the authors who wrote the individual chapters. This surprised me, because when I was appointed Minister of Development Cooperation in 1973, I had expressly argued - also in Parliament - that two main goals should be foregrounded. The first concerned quantity. The volume of the aid should be heightened to the level of 1 % of the national income as soon as possible. The second goal concerned the quality of the aid. I stated I planned to improve the quality by implementing all the recommendations of the Jansen commission. Contrary to what Hellema claimed, evaluation played a more than subsidiary role.
Incidentally, both goals were met. The aid was increased to the level of 1 % of the national income in the national budget of 1975. This corresponds with the later commonly accepted aim of 0.7% of the gross national product. All the policy recommendations of the Jansen commission were realised towards the end of the government period of Den Uyl, with the support of a majority in Parliament. It was a clear example of 'looking back' in order to learn from history so as to increase the effect of aid and to do justice to the doing of good deeds.
This has remained an essential element of Dutch development policy - contrary to what Hellema asserts - irrespective of the question of who was minister with which political affiliation. During my first term of office as Minister for Development Cooperation, I took the initiative to establish an Inspectorate for Development Cooperation. This body was awarded the task of inspecting the field and starting evaluations, on their own initiative or commissioned by others to do so. The objective was to examine to what extent development aid was taking effect and how it fitted into the local development context. Inadequacies had to be detected and solved immediately. All findings and recommendations of the Inspectorate for Development Aid would be brought to the attention of Parliament. Not one report would remain confidential. Every evaluation report would be supplemented by policy documents of the Minister. In these documents, he would put forward which conclusions he concurred and with which he disagreed, what kind of policy consequences it would have and which policy changes the Minister envisaged.
All ministers have followed this procedure, as far as I know. The conclusion of Hellema that analyses were rare and played a marginal role in policy, lacks any substance. The evaluations have always played an important part in policy making. Parliament made sure this actually happened. The policy was analysed and evaluated systematically and it was ensured there was sufficient political support for policy changes.
There is no component of the National Budget that is as thoroughly evaluated as development aid. We have now been involved in development cooperation for over sixty years, and not just in the Netherlands. The same applies to many countries and multilateral organisations. They have evaluated a lot as well. The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD has functioned as a pioneering frontrunner in this respect. Numerous academic studies have been conducted, by international organisations, consultants, independent researchers, human rights watchers, and NGOs. All in all, there is a treasure of information material at our disposal. There are countless conferences, workshops and seminars devoted to the findings of such research. However, there is no cause for complacency. Given how much we have evaluated, how in-depth the analysis are and how considerable the willingness to change policies when the research reports provided the reasons to do so, the policy results remain anything but satisfactory.
Allow me to present two examples. It was alarming that we established, around the millennium, that despite all our efforts, more than two billion people were still living in dire poverty. It led the international community to readjust its policy goals; priority for the Millennium Development Goals and a new approach were introduced to avoid making the same mistakes again. The main goal is to halve the poverty in the world by 2015. We are now at the halfway mark. We know by now that we will not meet this goal. A second example: Sudan. A civil war raged there for forty years, the longest in African history since the colonial era. Nowhere in Africa have war and poverty caused so many victims. It's said to be two million. This was a forgotten war, for which the international community could not summon attention, apart from humanitarian aid for the victims. That aid even resulted in the postponement of a political solution. But when it did finally arrive, in the form of a peace agreement, the aid to support this agreement was not forthcoming. Quite the contrary: the humanitarian aid was scaled down, the reconstruction stalled, there was no development to speak of, the food, water and energy shortages and lack of health care and education are greater than ever, also because the scarce available means and provisions have to be shared with millions of repatriated refugees. Many people in the South of Sudan wonder what the peace has brought them. It is one of the poorest regions in Africa, if not the poorest. The population will have the possibility, in a couple of years, to speak out through a referendum on the question if they want a continuation of the current situation - a more or less federal state of Sudan, with relative autonomy for the South - or for the complete independence of a new state; South Sudan. The chance that a majority will vote for this independence is considerable, in my opinion, just as considerable as the chance that a new war will erupt, because the regime in North Sudan will not accept this. This can be prevented by fighting poverty in the South of Sudan, which will convince them to continue the current model, by guaranteeing the rights of minorities and by sustaining the peace in the whole of Sudan, including Darfur. However, international politics with regard to Sudan have failed and the development policy is inefficient. The perspective for Sudan is war and poverty instead of peace and prosperity. Economic growth is taking place, even considerable growth, but the millions of people in the South, in Darfur and in the camps populated by displaced persons around Khartoum, are not noticing it.
How is it possible that, despite numerous evaluations that have had an influence on policy making, there is still such a lot of poverty? Has the policy not been modernised enough? Or are our insights inadequate?
I believe inadequate understanding of the development process still plagues us. The practice of evaluation has not increased but clouded over this insight. Inspection is badly needed. Inspection focuses on the execution of policy. This practice has to be tested in relation to the policy, otherwise means will be squandered and counterproductive effects will be achieved. Evaluation is more encompassing. It does not concern the execution of policy, but the policy itself. Evaluation assesses if the policy concurs with the situation one is trying to influence. In practice this usually takes place with the aid of concepts of efficiency (policy focus), effectivity (appropriateness), and effectiveness (impact).This practice links up perfectly with the programming, which results in new proposals for financing. This is needed, because there should be a relation between analysis and policy, between the contemplated effects and the achieved results, and, in a later phase, the results that will be achieved in the future. This is needed from the viewpoint of checks and balances. Nowadays, in contrast to the seventies and eighties, this is a requirement. Development aid is past its infancy.
The policy is measured in terms ofefficiency and effectiveness, in order to draw comparisons and to judge if the aid, if applied in a different way, could not have more effect. This is a helpful presentation of the issue, but it does increasingly lead to an abundance of abstractions. Situations are being compared that are incommensurable; different countries, different regions, villages, cultures, periods, histories, geographical circumstances, and differing power relations as well. To abstract from this is an over-simplification. Policy requires quantifiable results. Omitting hardly or not quantifiable matters is the next abstraction. As a result, policy will develop a blind spot in relation to cultural and political factors, the third abstraction. Development is a process; it is not two moments that can be compared to each other; before and after the aid. If you do not realise this, you will be guilty of making a fourth abstraction. It is really a nonsensical simplification. This simplification has evolved from theories of business administration and management, that are based on concepts of cost-benefit analysis, and that are currently widely accepted.
Such abstractions and simplifications have caused a lot of harm to development policy. Development cooperation has evolved into a separate entity, and instead of being integrated into a coherent policy approach to developmental processes, it is detached from war and peace, detached from climate and the environment, detached from migration, religion and culture. In theory, the concept 'development' refers to all elements of change and development processes in a society. This was the aim of development aid and development cooperation: to contribute to the effect of the domestic efforts of the population of a developing country, from the inside, to help them to realise progress. What progress meant, would be defined by the people themselves, according to their norms and values, not according to those who intervened in the process from the outside. Development aid has had a catalysing function from the outset; by introducing an extra element, processes within society would be stimulated, accelerated, supplemented, adjusted, and preserved. This was the idea. It started with technical assistance; the lack of knowledge, experience, professional skills was addressed through transfer of knowledge and education, as a result of which there would be no need any more for foreign experts. This approach was applied as well to financial aid. The aim was to top up the scant domestic income, in order to increase investments and economic growth. This would enable a more rapid attainment of a standard of living than usual which would mean the national means of existence would suffice to perpetuate this, which would lead to the aid not being needed anymore. A similar approach manifested itself in the socio-political sphere: the aim was to contribute, through the support of governmental institutions, to the social middle groundand civil society, to capacity building, democratic processes and the rule of law, with the aim of enabling the countries concerned to tackle their problems effectively, in compliance with international norms in the field of corruption, human rights, rights of minorities, social network and the like. Once the rule of law and good governance was established, further aid could be stopped.
The aid was meant to play a role there where the market failed and in cases where there was no supply of individual commercial capital. Foreign aid was also meant to support the population of a developing country when the government failed to fulfil their duties. This was the case when the government did not have sufficient means, but also if a regime was not prepared to help their own citizens. In both cases, development aid can bring about processes in which the population - the farmers, the trades people, the grass roots organisations, NGOs, women's groups, human rights lawyers, national education and health care organisations, local governments, etc. - can employ initiatives themselves. This applies to changes in domestic politics, transformations in power relations, culture, in other words, matters that cannot be measured and processes that take place gradually.
It was never the intention to achieve all this directly via development aid. That might sound like stating the obvious, but the abstraction and simplifications of the last few years have led to a situation in which no one expected development aid and development cooperation to have a catalysing effect, just a lot of benefits. Positive issues in developing countries had to be reduced directly to the aid - which means; only to the aid - and negative matters were increasingly attributed to the aid. This was not caused by the myopic approach of the managers and the outside world. It was also the attitude of the policy makers themselves. Increasingly, the principal motto was that all the conditions had to be fulfilled before the aid could be given. The stability of the developing country had to be assured beforehand, in order to avoid the loss of the effects of the aid. It was forgotten that development in itself encroaches on the status quo. Development always leads to change, it always leads to conflict, therefore it can lead to a desired instability, which will pressure those who have profited from the status quo. This should preferably take place during the process itself, not beforehand, but from within, on the initiative of those who have felt left out and treated wrongly. However, in practice, good governance became a precondition in advance, instead of an achievement of the development process. Stability, security and peace had to be guaranteed beforehand instead of achieving and sustaining them through 'more development for more people'. The market durability of activities had to be ensured beforehand, instead of taking the risk that these would prove to be commercially sound after some years, or maybe even never. A price in accordance with the market had to be asked as quickly as possible for socially necessary goods and services - such as fertilizer, drinking water supply, sanitation, medicine, aids inhibitors - without subsidising these for a considerable time. It is possible to give subsidies and to continue them for too long. That does not amount to an efficient employment of scarce means. But it is also possible to do this too little, which will lead to the loss of external social effects. This would neither serve the interests of development cooperation, nor development aid.
Development cooperation and development aid are increasingly perceived along established lines. Justifiably there has been a lot of criticism on the template approach of the Washington consensus regarding adjustment as a condition for development. This criticism has been expressed fiercely and knowledgably, especially by people who have a track record in the field of development cooperation. However, all they did was replace the template with a new one; the Paris consensus, which is the consensus of aid workers on what is and what is not aid, how the aid should be distributed and under which conditions. International coordination of development aid is an achievement. Thanks to donor coordination it is not so easy any more to use food and emergency aid, tied aid, export credits and support for investments in the competition for influence in the Third World. But the coordination has gone too far. The donors conform to the judgements of the international bureaucracy. If the IMF does not decide positively, then the World Bank will follow suit and refuse aid and the same goes for the donor countries. This means there will be no debt relief, or new aid and the country in question will be instructed on how to act before it becomes eligible for new aid.
The clarity created thus has to be viewed as beneficial. But when everyone walks in line, there is a loss too. Nobody is taking risks, insecurities are not being assessed separately, innovation fails to occur. All donors are applying the same criteria. Sectoral programmes and individual projects have to fit into a general plan. They are being assessed according to the same criteria and are carried out based on uniform procedures, which have been designed to realise trustworthy control and evaluation. Thus, a circular development repeatedly occurs. Risks are being avoided. In this way, there is assurance that as little as possible goes wrong, which will prevent the amount of aid being pressurised as a consequence of the criticism of the quality of the aid. This leaves enough work left over for the aid bureaucracy, the consultants and the development NGOs.
The net result is rigidity. Development aid and development cooperation have more of an internal than an external focus. It has become a fenced off area. Achievements of the past are emphasised; retaining the 0.7% GNP aid. The goal of 0.7% is indeed a success. Assessments from other chapters of the National Budget have been discontinued. Excessive pollution of the maximum has been prevented. However, as a result of having to ensure this time and again, the definition has become rigid. The ceiling pushes the aid downwards instead of elevating it into a powerful catalyser for coherent policy in favour of sustainable global development. Instead of forging connections with climate and environmental policy, humanitarian aid, reconstruction, migration politics, peace operations, cultural policy, the supposed 'real development cooperation' and the so-called 'pure development aid' are being screened off. Humanitarian aid, reconstruction aid, and development aid should form a continuum, should gradually merge into each other and should complement each other.Unfortunately, the fences between the fields are high. The fence between these three fields and everything the development bureaucracy does not consider Official Development Assistance is even higher. The non-ODAbility of many activities that could contribute to the establishment of peace, cease-fire or conflict control is no achievement. It is a hindrance. Risks are not being taken any more. Innovation is not taking place. Continuity is the main thing; the continuity of the aid bureaucracy. This applies to the UN organisations as well as to the NGOs. It applies to bilateral aid as well. It has not always been like this. Development used to be change, progress, innovation, reversal of the national power relations, adjustment to new international circumstances. Everyone understood this, including the policy makers who had not yet become bureaucrats or managers. Managers reason from the policy, from intervention, from the aid, from the determined procedures. Development workers try to reason from the development process itself, from the specific local situation, which can differ from country to country and from region to region. Yet only when the development process itself is the starting point, will development cooperation be able to renew itself.
This modernisation has coincidentally taken place over the years. Development cooperation adjusted itself regularly to rapidly changing circumstances after the Second World War. It started, supposedly resulting from the ethical politics of the colonial era, with humanitarian aid and food aid. However, during the recovery period after 1945, there was a need for reconstruction aid to countries that were affected by the war and support for countries that became politically independent in the world wide liberation that followed. The first led to Marshall Aid and the foundation of the World Bank. The second led to development cooperation and new states, the majority of which were former colonies that had become independent. Initially, the aid was only given through technical assistance, yet pretty soon the necessity of financial aid was recognised. During the course of half a century, the aid was refined and adjusted. Numerous new forms of development aid came into being: project aid; programme aid; sectoral aid, aid to districts; loans; donations; soft loans; dept relief; trade financing; aid from government to government; direct aid from governments to specific groups and organisations in receiving countries; and indirect aid, by subsidising work of NGOs of the affluent countries; direct private assistance through private professional organisations as well as through groups of individuals; dispatching of experts and volunteers at varying professional levels; scholarships; remittances by migrants; subsidised private commercial investments and so forth.
The increasing diversity of aid was partly an answer to a growing understanding of the problems developing countries were struggling with. Improved agriculture and food supply demand different interventions compared to the improvement of the road system and infrastructure. Education, health care, industrialisation, drinking water supply, energy supply and housing all demand different approaches. This led to an approach not just via the public sector, but also through the market and the private non-commercial sector. Complicated structures evolved in order to prevent them cooperating with another. The orientation and channelling of aid became more and more refined. It became linked to economic and political preconditions: economic adjustment and political good governance. This did indeed lead to improvement, sometimes through regime change, when an existing regime could not meet the needs and aspirations of its population.
Quite soon the insight arose that this approach entailed two dangers. First: a new form of external intervention, not in compliance with the wishes of the population. The answer to that was, in the fifties: community development, in the seventies: providing for basic human needs, and in the nineties: development from the bottom up, ownership and participation. The second danger was compartmentalisation and fragmentation. The answer to that was macro-aid, which would enable developing countries to decide themselves to which sectors they wanted to give priority, in order to prevent overlap or blind spots. International relations changed. That also demanded an adaptation of development cooperation. In the fifties, developing countries emphasised the necessity of trade not aid. In the sixties they presented a broad range of demands in the field of natural resources, debt relief and industrialisation, that elevated development cooperation well above 'mere' development aid. In the meantime, as a result of decolonisation, these countries had acquired a numerical majority within the United Nations. They used this during the sixties and seventies to proclaim these the Decade of Development. Those decades were meant to enable them to accelerate their economic growth in such a way that the income and wealth gap with the developed nations would gradually be narrowed. When it turned out the promises were not being kept though, the developing countries formulated a new demand: A New Economic Order. This demand entailed a different distribution of income, knowledge and power, world wide. Interestingly, this corresponded with the domestic aims of the Den Uyl cabinet.
It never happened, neither in the Netherlands, nor on a global scale. What actually happened was that the priority position of the West in the international political and economic arena was questioned. Western countries viewed the demand as an affront. They ignored the claim to a New International Economic Order and did not comply with the demands of the developing nations. But two other developments did take place. Firstly, in the field of development cooperation and development aid itself. This field was brought into line with the priorities of the people of developing countries, also when the regimes in the countries concerned held different views. A connection with human rights was established. A more direct fight against poverty evolved, which differed from the expected, yet hardly ever occurring, trickle-down effect of macro-economic growth. The realisation was born that the fight against poverty demanded concrete labour programmes, adapted technologies, gender policy that connected with the very particular position of women in the development process, aid to sustain the natural environment which was being threatened as a result of the economic growth and, last but not least, debt relief. This was not enough, often incomplete, yet it indicated an understanding of the need for a continuously changing policy, because the issues concerned were continuously changing.
The second development was that, even though the western nations were little concerned about the demand of the newly independent states to change the relations in the world, the relations themselves changed as a result of economic growth and technological changes. The arrival of newly industrialised nations in South and South East Asia and the strengthened position of oil-producing countries gave the initial impetus to this change. The eighties put a spoke in the wheels. The debt crisis that plagued numerous Latin American, Asian and African countries and the adjustment policy that was forced onto nearly all developing nations - not only the states with a debt problem, but all states that needed development financing - by the Bretton Woods institutions, led to a stagnation in of the economic development and to an increase of poverty. There was less money available for social policy. Furthermore, a number of sectors - education, food agriculture, drinking water supply and health care - were subjected to the discipline of the market, without ensuring the poor would have access to that market.
Stagnation occurred as well in the international negotiations about international trade and financial and monetary reform and debt relief. The end of the economic impasse, characterised by high debts, slow growth of the global trade and inward looking economic politics, was being awaited. The Cold War still had an enduring influence on matters. A thaw was forthcoming, but it still had to be awaited. In the West, the stagnation meant that a breakthrough in the field of globalisation, technological innovation and a high economic growth was being slowed down. The stagnation led to a deterioration of the situation for the developing countries. It was a lost decade for them, as the UN stated in their documents.
After the Cold War
A sudden change took place after the fall of the wall. Everything, it seemed, could be done differently. Peace was possible, just as democracy and the protection of human rights, the opening of the borders, the opening of society for new ideas that from then on could be expressed without the fear of being locked up, new ideas about progress and development, the relationship between humans and economic growth and the natural environment.
The fall of the wall offered a perspective on other forms of international cooperation. Initially, this mainly concerned Europe. European integration had evolved as a reaction to the Second World War. Economic cooperation within Europe served to prevent a Third World War. After 1989, the circle was widened. Regimes did take power in several former Soviet states, which were - as is the case in many developing countries - more interested in their own pockets than in their people, but this did not endanger the peace. It was a side effect of a shock therapy, which can be attributed to a too swift transition from a socialist system to forms of pure capitalism, which allowed considerable wage gaps and crime to flourish. However, it seemed a matter of time, a transition period. The expansion of the European Union and NATO with some of the countries behind the former Iron Curtain proved the time was being well used to provide international relations with a new impetus.
The end of the Cold War between the West and the East also meant the end of the tepid peace between the South and the North, which characterised the years after the liberation of the South from its oppressing colonial past. A tepid peace; there was no conflict, but there was southern distrust and northern indifference, except in cases where the influence spheres of the East and West were under pressure in the South. When, after 1989 the First and Second World politics were no longer opposed to each other, the concept of non-aligned countries of the Third World became obsolete. The former blocks were no longer out to strengthen their sphere of influence in the Third World through supporting regimes that were well-disposed towards them and to stop unwanted developments within those countries. The developing countries were left free, at least in a political sense. They were no longer inhibited in their development by neo-colonial considerations of their former colonial rulers or by geopolitical considerations of the great powers. They could start their liberation, the second after the decolonisation.
This second liberation was a painful process. Violent conflicts erupted in many places. It turned out to be very difficult to control them through peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid. Peacekeeping operations had to be re-invented. Increasingly, they had to deal with internal conflicts rather than conflicts between states. Humanitarian aid had to be scraped together. It sufficed to create the impression something was happening, which accommodated a dilatory attitude of the international community. The North of the world was occupied with itself; the East with the transition from communism to capitalism and the West with capitalising on the ideological victory by boosting the unlimited globalisation of their economies.
In 1990 and 1993 the Lubbers/Kok cabinets presented two memos to the Dutch Parliament: A World of Difference and A World in Dispute. The North-South relationship in the world has attained a different face, we concluded. The world has become smaller and, as a consequence, the policy margins of individual countries have narrowed. Borders between countries are fading. Risks are increasing. There is still severe poverty. The development process has entered into a crisis. Is sustainable growth possible without damaging the natural basis of human development, without a fundamental disruption of the ecological balance? Is an improved distribution of wealth possible without posing the power question? Is the advancement of freedom not more important than the direct fight against poverty, because regimes in unfree countries will always aim to withhold means of living from certain groups of people, to keep them poor? Can development cooperation provide space for people in developing countries at all, without the wealthy and powerful North having to take a step backwards? Is poverty not first and foremost a result of the crisis in the world system? All these queries pointed to a crisis not only in the policy of development, but also in the theory, a crisis in the views on development.
We have all struggled with this and tried to find answers. New concepts were developed. They were laid down in resolutions after numerous conferences and long discussions. A stronger emphasis was put on good governance and human rights; a reciprocal relationship between development and peace; sustainable development; human development; sustainable human development; human security; humanitarian intervention; the responsibility to protect; the Millennium Development Goals; capacity building; nation building; ownership; development from the bottom up; democracy.
Not everyone was referring to the same definition. The New World Order of Bush senior was an entirely different thing from the New International Economic Order, as advocated by the G77. Democracy as championed by Bush junior had less to do with internal democratisation processes than with regime change. The interpretations of good governance, just as the concept of sustainable development, fanned out in all directions. This was partly because of political reasons. Interests continued to play a role. Sometimes it led to lip service being paid to the codified concepts. But often the correct understanding of what was taking place elsewhere in the world, was lacking. It could not really be any other way. Globalisation did bring everything within reach, but that did not mean the understanding if it had deepened. There is a significant danger that everything that was different and what used to be out of reach, once it is within reach, is measured in terms of your own culture. In two speeches during the consecutive anniversaries of the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, I demonstrated scepticism and subsequently pessimism regarding the international developments. The euphoria seemed to have evaporated. I stated that the concrete practice of the nineties was characterised neither by development, nor by cooperation. It was at the most a transition period, during which conflict control moved to the forefront. However, I claimed, development cooperation is not old fashioned, not a thing from the past, on the contrary, it is still indispensable. Several preconditions had to be fulfilled to create a stable balance, in which development cooperation would flourish. Only then would real development cooperation be productive, on equal terms for all countries and focussed on banning poverty from the world, for all parties involved.
I described a number of those preconditions: a reasonable measure of control of internal conflicts, as well as a broadening of economic globalisation - Mc World, in the terminology of Benjamin Barber - to the economic and political field. The realisation of both preconditions demanded political willingness to counterbalance conflict escalation as well as the market forces that endanger the liveability on earth. For that purpose, strong institutions are needed, effective, credible and generally accepted, based on shared standards.
Event took a different course than I indicated at the time. The transition period I envisaged is now behind us. Globalisation has pushed forward, unbridled and with great strides. International terrorism has erupted. Contrasts surrounding the debate on Islam have sharpened. The decision of the United States to bypass the United Nations and to invade Iraq has weakened the international order. If there was a crisis in development cooperation in the nineties, by now it has deepened.
The above mentioned demands re-evaluation, not only of the policy, but also of the context. In my opinion, development policy should be based on four principles, which are at right angles with what is currently generally accepted.
Firstly: culture and politics are just as important as the economy. The pursuit of freedom, identity, respect, influence and power by people and groups is just as important as their pursuit of economic progress. This applies to developing countries just as it does elsewhere.
Secondly: development is conflict. Conflict is the rule, not the exception. Development manifests existing conflicts and creates new ones. Conflicts cannot be prevented, just managed a little. Attempts to prevent conflicts are senseless and counter productive. The only thing that can be avoided is the escalation of the conflict into irreversible and cross-border violence.
Thirdly: globalisation creates scope and opportunities for many, yet leads to suppression and exclusion of many others. Globalisation stimulates the middle classes in the world to appropriate the scarce available space and the limited financial means and to reserve it for themselves. That which is good and provides perspective, is occupied and what is bad, isolated, dirty and unhealthy, is assigned to the poor. Globalisation has led to new forms of Apartheid. The underclass, the poor, are being driven away and relegated to areas with less opportunities; less water, worse land, old city districts and slums, located further away in less accessible districts, with expensive transport connecting work and housing, a polluted living environment, worse education, worse health care and sanitation, no credit, because there is no security, increasingly less public investments to improve all of this. The poor are being excluded. Globalisation leads to greater inequality not only in terms of distribution of income or wealth itself, but also in terms of access to markets where the economic opportunities are determined, as well as access to the public domain where the political decisions are being made.
Therefore, and this is the fourth principle: poverty is consciously being sustained. Poverty is not a case of bad luck, not an unpleasant side effect of growth that will end when growth has led to a more general wealth, it is not collateral damage. No, poverty is intentional and calculated. Reduction of poverty does not only require a redistribution of wealth. Politically, that would not be too complicated. No, reduction of poverty requires a redistribution of that which is physically scarce and which can only be rendered less scarce through high costs. This means that reduction of poverty can only be realised at the expense of the people who had appropriated the scarce means. People who have a better life compared to the rest, will have to take a step back. This will not only be required of the rich, but of everybody who has succeeded, approximately two thirds of the world population, the global middle class. Those who own the better land, who have settled in economically attractive areas, who are assured of provision of energy, water and sanitation, who have organised for themselves and the others who belong to the middle class, access to education and good health care, who have come up with the costs for this and who know how to contact politicians, public officials and experts - who belong to the same class - to ensure the continuity of everything. They will try to stop an alternative distribution of these scarce means, or the increased governmental spending that will go to the global underclass, with political means.
The line between the global underclass and the global middle class is obviously not absolute. Ascent and descent on the social ladder still takes place in all countries. But the possibilities of ascending have diminished and the pace has slowed down. The opportunities to rise are determined by access to schooling, technology, the market, reasonable housing and living conditions, an acceptable place to work, reasonable minimum provisions in social security and health care, or the access to credit or public means to change these and other things and to improve the chances of rising. However, all these matters are scarce in absolute terms or expensive. More fertile land for the poorest parts of the world population, more water, more and better education and good health care for all those who belong to the global underclass means less land, water, and so forth for the global middle class, or more money the middle class will have to generate for the others.
Why would they do that? In the eyes of the middle class - i.e. everyone who has more or less made it in the world, in other words, everyone with 2 dollars a day - the underclass is dispensable, a burden, a cost item that could better be left behind, a closing entry in a cost-benefit calculation. After all, the labour the underclass can perform is less and less needed and the public purchasing power is too small.
The global middle class has no interest in helping the underclass to catch up on their disadvantage. Quite the opposite: the underclass is increasingly being disadvantaged and hindered. On an international level it is because the countries that represent the global middle class hang on to the status quo. On a national level, this is because the middle class will attempt to retain the decision-making powers, through democratic procedures or otherwise. This applies to decisions regarding subsidies, liberalisation of agriculture, the allocation of land, but also decisions on how much money will be available for education and health care, for which categories of education and health care and who can profit from this and how the financing is organised. Thus, poverty and exclusion are knowingly being maintained. Poverty is political.
I have purposely formulated these principles in a simplistic way. They do not stem from evaluation or inspections. In my view, they are lessons learned, advanced understanding based on experience, study and analysis. Experience with policy. Study of development processes and analysis of the context. I advocate choosing these experiences and insights as the starting point for future policies. Let us not paint the situation as being prettier than it is, as we do not want to fool ourselves. Many people in this world have benefited from progress, but it has taken place at the expense of others. This cannot be denied. And it cannot remain without political consequences, e.g. revolt against the experienced discrimination, bigger conflicts and more violence. That is why I argue to at least choose the described principles as the starting point for strategic studies on future policy to eradicate poverty and to prevent escalation of violent conflicts.
What is the relationship between globalisation, politics, poverty and conflict? What consequences should that have for development cooperation?
Before, the global conflict between poor and rich occurred along national borders: North versus South. The management of the conflict - even though it was paralysed by that other global conflict, between East and West - took place in the North-South negotiations between states and by easing the glaring discrepancies through humanitarian aid and development aid. This was the essence of development cooperation. It led to economic growth and it created perspective. The prospect of further betterment in its turn led to an improved containment of the conflict. This is no longer possible. Conflicts can no longer be localised or demarcated. This applies to the global conflict between the rich and poor as well as to conflicts within individual countries. The perspectives on possible progress, within one and the same nation state, are not the same for everyone. Nation states have an increasingly less univocal character, in an economic, cultural and political sense. It also applies to the military aspect: even though nation states have never had a de facto monopoly on violence, the state has been driven to the defence on that point too since the end of the Cold War. Other groups have obtained control over means of violence with which they can intensify conflicts, cause them to escalate and blow them up to catastrophic proportions.
Borders have faded away, in all fields. This does only apply to national borders. When taking economic decisions, the factors time and space have obtained a completely different meaning, compared to twenty years ago. Neither distances nor time differences play a role. Everything can happen everywhere simultaneously, real time. This revolutionary change of context is not reserved for technologically advanced countries in the former rich North of the world. This is taking place everywhere, also in the South, also in poor countries, in the metropolis as well as in the slums and in formerly inaccessible areas. Everything can be brought within reach easily, if the market so requires. And what the market demands, will happen, everywhere. There are no differences left between North and South, East and West, just between those who, in both the South and the North, the East and the West, have access to the global market and those who have nothing to offer the global market and as a consequence are excluded from it. Globalisation neutralises differences. Technology and economy reinforce the tendency on the global market towards uniformisation. Yet diversity remains, especially when other than purely economic factors are taken into account. Moreover: globalisation does not only standardise, it divides just as much, in many ways. Firstly, because globalisation produces counter forces. Resistance will arise against the uniform values of globalisation, cultural and political resistance. Secondly, because - as I indicated - globalisation leads to exclusion and Apartheid. And thirdly, because resistance will arise against this too. Resistance of those who feel left out, ignored, not respected, treated unjustly, humiliated. Resistance of those who see no chances to participate fully, through regular economic and political channels - the market, democracy - in society. They will withdraw into their own identity they themselves constructed, within their group culture. They will be tempted to turn on that which has been imposed on them from above. In many developing nations, and not only there, this has led to resistance and violence: indigenos in Bolivia and Ecuador have witnessed how their means of living have evaporated through the interference of multinationals, nomads in the Sahara have seen their lebensraum scaled down, African tribes in Darfur, who are being ethnically cleansed from their villages because Arab tribes need grazing grounds and water, Palestinians on the West Bank who are being forced to give up their habitat in favour of settlements, Muslims in Europe, immigrants in Moscow, Nepalese in Bhutan, unemployed youth, whether or not they belong to a minority group, in all big cities of the world, and so on and so forth. Not every poor or excluded person will seek salvation in resistance. Most people put all their energy in attempting to survive. Resistance always starts with a vanguard. Not everyone chooses to use violence. But violence, once started, breeds violence. And it calls for counter violence. It fascinates people who want to show solidarity, also when they do not belong to a suppressed minority. It leads to coercion: if you do not participate, you are an opponent. In this way, conflicts spiral into an outbreak of fire, cross borders, irreversible violence, into a clash of cultures across national borders, creating increasing alienation toward each other, into hostile images, xenophobia, demonising and racism.
The internal conflicts, the second phenomenon that, in addition to intensive globalisation, characterised the nineties, have not diminished. On the contrary. It has not been restricted to the Balkans, Rwanda and Afghanistan. Practically the whole of Africa, the entire Middle East and large parts of Central, South and South East Asia are locked in deep internal conflicts. The conflicts are structural, they belong to change and development. Economic growth creates insatiable demands and they appeal to means that, as a consequence of that same growth, become more scarce. The allocation and distribution of that scarcity goes hand in hand with conflicts of interests, clashes and struggle.
Conflict and globalisation are both structural phenomena, it is impossible to imagine life without them, impossible to halt them, at the most they can be controlled a little. Just for this reason I was still too optimistic when, in the nineties, I expressed the expectation that it seemed to be a transition phase, in which there could not be real development or real cooperation, to speak of. Cooperation and development could only recuperate when, I claimed, globalisation and conflict could be controlled. But that is impossible. Globalisation and conflict are inextricably entwined with processes of technological and economic progress. They can neither be prevented, nor stopped. Only the intensification of the conflict into violence and the unfettered functioning of the global market can to some extent be taken care of and curbed. Conflicts were not controlled. Globalisation has not been curbed. The encroachment of the capitalist globalisation process on limited resources such as water, fertile land, energy and natural resources is endangering the survival, life and cohabitation of many on earth. This same globalisation is forcing many people in nearly all countries on the way to economic progress, but this is taking place in such a manner that others, in many countries, are knowingly being excluded. There are no real equal opportunities for everyone on the global market, something which cannot be solved through an improved organisation. No, the process is wilfully excluding people, because the people who are benefiting from it, can only keep it up by expelling others, and by occupying their place.
Add to this the fact that these two phenomena, more internal conflict and more globalisation, have conflated. A globalisation of internal conflicts has occurred. Every internal conflict is, in one way or another, connected with the situation in neighbouring countries, as is for example, the case with regard to Sudan and Chad. But there is more going on. The conflicts are occurring between groups, identities, tribes, nations, linguistic groups, cultures, religions, regions and ethnical groups. These communities are not restricted to the country where the conflict arose. All religions and ethnical groups, cultures and peoples are also represented elsewhere. Sometimes they are in a minority position, yet sometimes they are big and strong. The members feel connected with one another across borders. There is a growing feeling of international solidarity when there is a conflict of identities, an increasing feeling of being an individual victim of discrimination, defamation and injustice, also when the factual event takes place elsewhere.
The ultimate form of globalisation of internal conflicts is represented by international terrorism. International terrorism is the relocation, recurrence and globalisation of domestic clashes. It does not concern a conflict between states. It concerns identity groups who revolt against states they view as protectors of other groups. But this is not the only form of globalisation of internal clashes. Migration, driven by poverty or caused by the lack of survival opportunities, belongs to this category as well, as do the global clashes of cultures. You can deem it undesirable, and it is, but it has its roots in, exists thanks to, and is fuelled by, also in the Netherlands, opinion leaders and politicians.
Risks and dirty hands
This has everything to do with development cooperation. It is not a matter of waiting and seeing till the preconditions, such as good governance and peace, are fulfilled. We can no longer maintain that development cooperation can thrive only then and only after this fulfilment can we expect a positive effect of development cooperation. On the contrary. Development cooperation and development aid itself will have to focus on the fulfilment of these prior conditions. These conditions are mainly determined politically. Essentially, the question development cooperation revolves around is if it accepts the existing balance of power or if it is also aimed at questioning the balance of power. Do we assist in relieving distress caused by an unequal balance of power, in anticipation of political change or are we prepared to catalyse these changes through instruments of development cooperation? Do we turn away completely when we see no way ahead because the balance of power is unfair, or are we prepared to dirty our hands? Do we leave the risk taking and dirty hands to policy in the field of foreign affairs and peace and security, or is there a mission to be fulfilled by development cooperation?
In the sixties and seventies, after decolonisation, the central issues were the fight against poverty and the simultaneous liberation of nations and support for the ambitions of the new regimes. The New International Economic World Order and the realisation of basic human needs followed naturally from each other. At least, that was the starting point. In the eighties and nineties the same reasoning applied to economic adjustment, political good governance, human development and human rights. It was not easy to heap them all together. Sometimes the support for the newly independent nation states was diametrically opposed to poverty reduction and the protection of human rights. New rulers emerged, only to evolve into despots. Support for regimes of countries that in principal were eligible for aid to support their independence, yet whose regimes were pruning away the fruits of progress for the benefit of themselves and their own group, did not mesh well with the slogan: development of, for and by people. But often it was a question of time. Education, political democratisation, strengthening of the social middle ground, and the broadening and deepening of domestic markets would awaken the regimes of the emancipating nations to the notion of a public interest, according to which the interest of the ruling class was incorporated into the interests of others. At least, this is what we were hoping for. And we attempted to drive home this notion with the elites and regimes by increasingly conditioning, differentiating and refining development cooperation and development aid. Stability, peace, development, progress, the observance of human rights, as well as the fight against poverty, all in one package: this is the public interest.
However, this public interest does not exist. At least, it does not exist any more. At any rate: not by definition and not everywhere. There is just the possibility of progress during conflicts.
The catalysing function of development aid and development cooperation has had effect. External support served to kick-start and strengthen a process from within. This entailed: increased growth and improved governance. This was successful in many countries. They are successful countries: open markets, integrated into the world economy, good governance. These are countries that have fulfilled the preconditions for further aid. They have deserved support. It is not risky to continue to support them.
I have a completely different take on the matter. It is exactly these countries that have fulfilled criteria under which further support is no longer required. They meet international criteria, are part of the world economy and have good credit ratings. They do not pose any insurmountable risk any more for the market. There is enough money available on the market for them. More than enough to be eligible for commercially reliable financing. Trade has been liberalised and international private capital knows no borders. Countries that are distinguishedby relative stability and reasonable governance do not need public capital in order to realise their further emancipation. Development cooperation needs an exit strategy, particularly in these countries.
Sixty years after the start of development cooperation, there are countries that have still not reached that level. These are the so-called failed states, broken up, fallen apart, subjected to plundering by their own regimes, who continue to suppress their people and remain in power thanks to obscure support by arms traders, multinationals, and secret services. International development cooperation is not dirtying its hands with these countries. This is right, if you base your views on criteria that are viewed internationally as politically correct. It is not right, given the consequences: more misery, more violations of human rights, insecurity, across the borders of countries. Development cooperation will have to dirty its hands with these unstable states with bad governance. Don't abandon them to international profiteers. Get involved. But not only through pure development aid. Development cooperation for the benefit of the population of these countries should become an integral part of foreign policy aimed at peace and security. Combine it with political pressure, peace operations and nation building. This should be done in cooperation with others, in a multilateral context, to prevent other individual countries with geopolitical interests - neighbouring states, superpowers, former colonial powers - controlling the situation for their own benefit.
Some will not refer to this as development cooperation. But it most definitely is. It is different than before, but focussed on contemporary problems. This applies to a greater extent to a third category. The states in conflict. I am not referring to states that suffer from an all-out civil war in their entire territory. That phenomenon does not take place so often. I am referring to states that are half at war, half at peace. In these states, parts of the country are free and other regions are destitute. The contrast between booming Khartoum and scorched Darfur is extreme, but it reflects a general pattern: half war, half peace, half in richness, half in misery, half in the global market, half outside of it. The regimes of these states are firmly embedded in domestic power relations. They have good relations in the global market and excellent positions in the international diplomacy. They themselves are half good, half bad, for example in the administrative respect. There are people in the civil service that mean well for their country, besides persons that just want to cash in on it. Recovery and reconstruction, of the infrastructure as well as of the administrative capacity and provisions, is needed in those parts where the conflict swept the country. When reconstruction is omitted, as in South Sudan, the perspective of an improvement of the living conditions perishes and a breeding ground for unrest, resistance and new outbreaks of violence materialises.
Nowadays these are the most difficult situations development cooperation and development aid have to deal with. These are no exceptions. Many countries have this dualist nature, e.g. most countries in Africa, lots of states in the Middle East, many in Asia and some in Latin America. Humanitarian aid to these countries is considerable, albeit not enough. The reconstruction aid to these countries is failing badly. Traditional development aid to these countries struggles with big problems. In the more stable parts of the country the administration is not meeting the criteria and therefore aid is not really justified. In regions where conflicts are still being waged, or are on the point of breaking out, there are big risks. This results in an anticipatory attitude; doubtful, with a lack of consistence, and, similar to failed states, a lack of coordination with foreign politics, peace and security policy, human rights policy, trade and investment policy and so on. It is a half-hearted approach, as a result of which people who were being excluded by the national regime are left out in the cold. Moreover, this half-hearted and inconsistent policy enables these regimes to play off their partners in the international arena against each other.
I argue to focus specifically on these countries in the framework of development cooperation. But not separately. Development aid and development cooperation have to be integrated as much as possible with the rest of international politics. Globalisation and conflicts impel us to do so. Borders have faded. Break down the fences. Conflicts are dominating. Face them together. Really together. The world has changed. The world of development as well.
Inspection and evaluation and contemplation on the lessons learned is badly needed, but that is not enough. It is not just about correcting mistakes made in the past and preventing recurrence. Contrary to what Hellema et al. want us to believe, that has already happened, maybe even with too much dedication, in the Netherlands, as well as in other donor countries. What is lacking is regular reflection on the context, on the process of development itself, on the changes in the nature of the process and on the local situation. After 11 September and Iraq, contemplation and continuous renewal of international cooperation, including development cooperation, is needed more than ever before. It is crucial to consider the practical local situation, as well as the altered international context.
We have left the Cold War between the East and West as well as the tepid war between North and South behind us, yet still there is no peace. On the contrary. At the moment, there is a cold war between those who have benefited from progress and those who have purposely been excluded. In the first decade of the new century the mentality of the middle class has become cold and merciless. This cold war has to be halted. We have to care about the fate of those who feel left out; humiliated by the coldness of indifference, irrespective of which country they live in. This is the responsibility of development cooperation.
Why? Because we are obliged to 'do good deeds', not only morally but also politically. We have bound ourselves to this through international treaties and declarations, such as the Charter of the United Nations and the Millennium Declaration 2000. International cooperation is inseparably connected with the obligations we have entered into in the framework of the international legal order. 'Doing good deeds' is more than giving aid or dealing with the results of injustice. Doing good deeds also means fighting injustice itself and combating the roots of conflicts.
'Do good and don't look back', is how Malcontent et al. have characterised development cooperation. They meant this as a reproach: doing good without thinking. But that is an affront. We have been looking back and analysing endlessly. Maybe even a bit too much, as I argued. Now it is time to look back less and provide ourselves with better insight into processes that that are currently taking place and subsequently, to look ahead.
Incidentally, I have consulted my copy of the Nederlandsche Spreekwoorden en Gezegden, verklaard door Dr. F.A. Stoet (Dictionary of Dutch Proverbs and Sayings, interpreted by Dr. F.A. Stoet). The saying has a completely different meaning to that Hellema attributes to it. I quote Stoet: “Do good and don't look back, i.e. do good without paying attention to the consequences of your actions for yourself, without awaiting praise or gratitude.” This is how it is. Live up to obligations you have entered into as a nation within the framework of the international legal order, without expecting a particular reward. This reward is implied in the cooperation itself. Working together to fight poverty and conflicts far away, with dedication, understanding and knowledge, increases the chances of establishing peace and security.
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