Statement by Mr. Gauri Pradhan, International Coordinator, LDC Watch at Reality of Aid Global Assembly and CSO Strategy Meeting on Development Assistance Committee (DAC) on Aid, Peace and Security

Reality of Aid Global Assembly and CSO Strategy Meeting on Development Assistance Committee (DAC)
Aid, Peace, and Security
13-15 September 2017, Paris, France

Respected Chair,
Honourable Chief Guest,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

We are standing here against the backdrop of the 2016 Development Assistance Committee (DAC) High-Level Meeting decision to revise the reporting directives of Official Development Assistance (ODA) on peace and security expenditures paving the way for the eligibility of certain security and defense costs, including measures to prevent violent extremism and provide limited military training. This redefinition of ODA has expanded the relationship between security and development and can be termed as a step toward the “militarisation of aid”. In the days to come, this would be promoting the use of development and economic assistance for the security interests of the donor countries. Recent surges in terrorist attacks have been used to justify the need for the inclusion of peace and security expenditures in ODA. In reality, addressing poverty, promoting socio-economic development, and narrowing the development gap would ultimately contribute to reducing conflicts and wars in the world. Contrasting to this sustainable solution towards maintaining peace and security, the reporting of security-related expenditures as ODA would promote a heavy-handed approach to tackle the already worse situation in war-torn countries.

The new reporting directive is against the primary purpose of ODA which is “the promotion of economic development and welfare of developing countries”. With the latest development, despite the specific rules and exclusions as explained in the Communiqué of the 2016 DAC High-Level Meeting, there is going to be only a thin line of distinction between whether the ODA is channeled towards “counterterrorism” or “promoting the providers’ foreign policy priorities”. This is a grave concern for all civil society organizations (CSOs) because the shift of focus of ODA to “peace and security” not only contributes towards the geopolitical interests and imperialistic goals of the donor countries, but also takes away the share of ODA means for poverty eradication and socio-economic development (example: health, education, manufacturing, and infrastructure) of developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs).

The new definition of ODA is also against the international agreements that have been endorsed to improve the quality of aid and its impact on development, including the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA), and the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. The acceptance of military expenses as aid violates most of the agreed principles, including predictability and transparency, harmonization, country ownership, and untied aid, and it is a regressive step in the move toward aid effectiveness.

There are chances that the aid money diverted in the name of peace and security further provokes conflict and instability such as in the case of Israel-Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. If it happens so, it is against the spirit of international treaties and conventions, including the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions. The Charter of the United Nations mentions the purpose of the United Nations as to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to international peace and security by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law (Charter of the United Nations, 1945: Chapter 1, Article 1.1). Sometimes, military aid to both the conflicting parties, for instance, Israel and Palestine, thus perpetuating the war tends to violate Common Article One of the Geneva Conventions, which states that “third states have an international legal obligation not only to avoid encouraging international humanitarian law violations committed by others, but also to take measures to put an end to ongoing violations and to actively prevent their occurrence”. Furthermore, the reporting of security expenditure as ODA is in conflict with the three humanitarian principles – humanity, neutrality, and impartiality – enshrined in innumerable UN General Assembly Resolutions. Militarisation of aid also casts doubt that a considerable portion of the 0.7 percent of the Gross National Income (GNI) aid commitment by the developed countries, and specifically, 0.15 to 0.2 percent to the LDCs as per Addis Ababa Agenda for Action (AAAA) may be delivered in forms of security expenditure, and not in value-adding economic sectors.

Militarisation of aid has already turned some of the LDCs into battlefields. Providing security-related aid in the name of counterterrorism has resulted in protracted conflicts and wars, undermining the human rights of the civilians in the partner countries and their neighboring countries, as observed in Afghanistan which received a huge amount of military aid from the US and its Western allies clad in their campaigns for peace, security and democracy, but the country has not stabilized yet. Among the LDCs, militarised aid to combat terrorism can also be seen in countries such as Mali and Uganda. Similarly, there have been U.S. base in Djibouti, new drone base in Niger, airstrips in Burkina Faso and various other airfields and facilities across Africa in the name of countering terrorism. There are also instances, for example in Mali, when the foreign-trained local army have staged a coup d’état overthrowing incumbent government. We have also faced bitter experiences in the world when the transition from military to civilian development failed to occur, giving rise to new insecurity and illegitimacy.

We have also observed the trend of militarisation of humanitarian aid. In Haiti, one of the LDCs, militarisation of humanitarian aid was observed during the 2010 earthquake. During the critical 72 hours after the earthquake, the US military seized control of the airport and prioritized military flights over flights carrying medical supplies, doctors, and relief experts. The military definitely has a role to play in case of emergency, for instance, in the evacuation of wounded civilians and protecting the civilian population during wars. In fact, under Geneva Conventions, they have an obligation to do so. As long as there is a clear distinction between the roles played by the military and humanitarian actors, it should not be a problem. However the main concern is the confluence of military agenda and humanitarian agenda to pursue military or political interests. Humanitarian efforts are being used in forms of counter-insurgency to win the hearts and minds of the affected population. Such targeted efforts often take sides which raises doubt over the impartiality of humanitarian action. Moreover, the security forces in such situations tend to be least accountable to the public, and their activities and approaches are not transparent.

Violent conflict and civil strife pose severe constraints to LDC graduation, especially the conflictaffected African and Arab LDCs which account for more than half of LDCs globally. Exacerbated by political instability, conflict affected LDCs are facing daunting challenges related to their structural vulnerabilities. In this regard, the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 (IPoA) recognises the close link between peace and security and sustainable development in LDCs, and urges the development partners to provide appropriate assistance at the request of the conflict-affected LDCs in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, to help prevention and resolution through peaceful means and support post-conflict situations. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) has also acknowledged the nexus between peace-security and achievement of sustainable development.

There has been a very poor understanding among the donor countries on the fundamental causes of conflicts. In West Africa, the international community takes the Mali crisis, for instance, as caused by Islamist terrorist groups in the region and terms it as “fight against terror”. But the failure to understand the root causes being bad governance, corruption, discrimination and ethnic marginalisation, has further exacerbated the problem. Simply pouring large amounts of aid money in training the local military and conducting military intervention in the name of “counter-terrorism” will not put an end to the current crisis. Only by analysing what is broken will we know how to fix it. Targeting development finance in different areas, including poverty reduction, infrastructure, trade, education, and health among many others, would be a long-lasting solution towards ending violent conflicts.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) can play an important role in the mediation and peaceful resolution of conflicts because of their impartial and people-centered approach. CSOs have much greater role in engagement with local, national, and international actors in establishing peace and security. They can contribute towards creating a zone of peace, delivering humanitarian aid, making DDR (disarmament, demobilization, and re-integration) programs a success, monitoring human rights abuses, and maintaining social cohesion at times of civil strife and conflict. There is an increased need for international advocacy for specific conflict issues, and lobbying for more civil society involvement in peace negotiations. In this context, I want to cite the efforts of the South Asian Alliance for Poverty Reduction (SAAPE), a South Asian CSO that has been advocating against increased military expenditure in the region. In South Asia, military expenditure is expanding at the cost of the standard of living of the people there. In 2015, Pakistan had the highest military spending (3.4 percent of GDP) in South Asia followed by India (2.3 percent of GDP). SAAPE bemoans such increasing military expenditure. It advocates that unless a yearly reduction of at least 10 percent in the military budget is not implemented and this amount is not allocated for socio-economic development in South Asian countries, the hope for a real reduction in poverty will remain unrealized. Manesar Declaration, adopted by the South Asian Civil Society Conference in 2000, called upon the European Union (EU) to mobilize its member states to agree not to sell military arms to countries of South Asia. Similarly, the Kathmandu Declaration 2009, adopted by the 3rd General Assembly of SAAPE, demanded the countries in South Asia to significantly reduce military expenditure and give up nuclear weapons. Kathmandu Declaration 2012 further went a step ahead and urged India not to give military aid to South Asia. The 2014 Declaration of People’s SAARC, a people-to-people forum in the SAARC region, also pointed out that militarisation among the SAARC member states has been increasing in the name of combating terrorism and defending national security.

LDC Watch, as a voice of LDC CSOs, condemns the renewed definition of ODA which promotes a new aid system in which human rights will be used to justify wars, as in Afghanistan, while help comes in the form of military presence. We believe that economic development can aid the government of the fragile states with legitimacy problems, and ODA should be directed towards the same. For this, CSOs and NGOs are much better suited to help the government than military agencies. Politicization and militarisation of aid undermines its credibility and loses its effectiveness. We also demand that the developed countries fulfill their commitment of providing 0.15-0.20 percent of their GNI as ODA to LDCs and also uphold the principles of aid and development effectiveness. It is also crucial for development partners to give more priority to productive sectors and infrastructural development while allocating aid, and refrain from using aid in any security-related expenditures.

As an organization representing Southern civil society, we are more ambivalent and more suspicious towards the intention of the donor country with the recent revision to the definition of ODA. This also further validates the concern of the Southern CSOs that it is the North, particularly the G7, the DAC, and the European Union (EU), which controls the international aid system, and developing countries and LDCs are seldom consulted. We believe that until the voices of the aid recipients are given due concern while making efforts towards reforming the aid system, such efforts will go in vain. We urge the decision-makers in the aid agencies in the North to fully engage CSOs in the South in the process of identifying proposals on how to make aid more effective. Both the development partners and recipient countries agree in principle that the effectiveness of ODA must be increased, and providing more policy space to Southern CSOs and being responsive to their priorities are the ways to achieve it.

We demand that the DAC revoke its decision to expand the eligibility of ODA to include certain security and defense costs on two major premises: firstly, the decision takes the share of aid money away from socio-economic development; and secondly, the decision supports the imperialistic interests of the developed countries, rather than the needs of the poor powerless civilians. It is also high time the Southern CSOs strengthened their capacity and built unity among them to effectively participate in international debates, thereby bringing out a Southern voice. We urge all the Southern CSOs to pressure the DAC, the developed countries, and the development partners to annul this decision. Instead, the DAC and development partners should focus on the current humanitarian crises in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria (which has been termed as the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War), and how to garner the much-needed funds to end the famine and spread of epidemics. We believe that realigning aid towards humanitarianism, infrastructure-building and socio-economic development through CSOs and NGOs would yield much more than channeling it through the military. For the same, LDC Watch seeks a strong cooperation and coordination among the development partners, governments, and civil society organizations.

I thank you once again for your invitation and I wish you all the best for the successful outcomes of the Reality of Aid Global Assembly and CSO Strategy Meeting on the Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Thank you all!

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