The argument about whether overseas aid money can be spent on the military seems to be kicking off again. Indeed, it seems not only to have started up but to be institutionalised in negotiations between the UK Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development.
In both low and middle income countries, well established arguments and solid evidence confirm that there is no real development without peace and only the peace of the graveyard without development. These conclusions have shifted the fulcrum of discussion about development over the past several years. But they have not yet added up to telling anybody how to do it.
Back in mid-2010, in time for the MDGs-plus-10-years summit, International Alert published a review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which criticised the MDGs for being too narrow and too technical; for confusing ends with means; for being top-down and for being used in statistically illiterate ways; and for creating perverse and unhelpful policy incentives.
There has been a great deal of noise, confusion, and at times sound and fury, over Value for Money (VfM) among overseas development NGOs based in the UK, of late. This is because so many of us depend on UK government funding from DFID, which has been taking VfM more seriously since the last election – and not surprising it has, given the degree of scepticism about overseas aid among UK taxpayers, some MPs, and journalists.
Conflict deaths are decreasing as a result of fewer civil wars and inter-state wars. However, a quarter of the world’s population still lives in the shadows of different types of organised violence, including armed insurgencies, terrorism and violent extremism, gang-violence and violence associated with organised crime. This suggests that the constituents, landscapes, cycles and dynamics of pervasive violence have changed.
The state is the organising principle of national and international politics and states are the subject of abundant historical research, academic theory and contemporary analysis. That perhaps makes it a little strange to say that both the state as a category and states in general tend to be taken for granted. But that’s how it is – and it’s a problem.
I recently read volume one of Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order (Profile Books, 2011) in which he explores how different models of governance have emerged and decayed “from prehuman history to the French Revolution”. Volume two is forthcoming, and will bring the story up to the present day. As someone who works in peacebuilding, which is largely about fostering good governance today, I have a keen interest in how different governance regimes have emerged and decayed in history, if they provide us with clues for the present.
The panel established by the Secretary General of the United Nations to determine a new global approach to international development has concluded that peacebuilding is a central part of that new vision for human progress.
Most of the trends that The State of the World Atlas looks at are ones that are visible across the last two decades since the Cold War ended. During that period, peace is one of the big, under-reported (though not unqualified) good news stories.
The state of the world is not just one thing.
The latest edition of The Spectator carries an opinion piece by Jonathan Foreman entitled 'The great aid mystery'. In a diatribe laced with rather tired tropes, and whose style undermines the argument he makes, Foreman’s main points when stripped of rhetoric can be summarised quite simply as: