Sunday, April 18, 2010

World poverty day

Today is World Poverty Day, an initiative to help raise the profile of international development issues during the General Election. I thought Vote Global's coverage of the Green Party Manifesto was interesting, but I was more interested in John Hilary's comments on development over aid.

He makes a telling point when he states that "we must resist any suggestion that aid is the lead issue when it comes to international development." Rather we need to be looking at our policies on trade and investment, the corruption of UK corporations in the developing world and arms exports. I think this is a very strong approach.

Bragging about raising the aid budget is like putting someone on the dole and then raising their unemployment benefit a little. You don't get to boast you're good to the poor when you've actually impoverished people.

The policies of unrestricted free trade, propping up friendly undemocratic regimes and bolstering the enormous power of oil companies, for example, are direct attacks on some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in the world.

Issues like debt are used to reinforce these failed international policies - but that is just one of the sticks we use to make sure that our ex-colonies know their place.

I know it's an old phrase but I'd find it difficult to support any party at this election that was not looking towards a truly "ethical foreign policy". That doesn't just mean natty soundbites and a small increase in the aid budget but a real reappraisal of the British government's approach to the rest of the world.

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