Blurred vision: Why aid money shouldn't be diverted to the military

The military exist for our national security, aid workers work to alleviate poverty. One may benefit the other, but they shouldn't share jobs

Share
Related Topics

On the face of it makes sense. You are more likely to be able to reduce poverty in a country that isn’t at war than you are with bombs and bullets flying over your head, right? That’s the logic being applied by David Cameron who says he is "very open" to the idea of spending more of the money marked for reducing poverty on trying achieve security in fragile countries because, in the long run, this might very well help to reduce poverty more quickly.

It all sounds very sensible but by 9 o clock this morning some of the UK’s leading NGOs were on the radio insisting that we should be spending our aid on "schools not soldiers". So why do they think it is such a bad idea?

Let’s be clear. It’s not because David Cameron is about to start spending our aid money on soldiers, not schools. There are very clear rules, agreed by countries across the world about what you can and can’t call ‘aid' so in order for the Government to meet its commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of the UK’s Gross National Income on aid they won’t be able to get away with funding the army through DFID budgets. 

Despite the fact that David Cameron hasn’t gotten too trigger happy with the aid budget it is still worth noting why the idea he set out today carries risks and a very uncertain reward.

Value

We know that aid spending on stabilisation efforts is one of the least effective ways of spending aid. If we are looking for value for money and impact then we should focus on programming that has a proven track record of effectiveness.

One option on the table is increasing funding for the Conflict Pool, a joint MoD, DFID and FCO fund for stabilisation in fragile states with an annual budget of a quarter of a billion pounds. A recent evaluation of the Conflict Pool by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact raised serious concerns not only about the effectiveness of such programmes in creating peace, but also about the oversight and monitoring of funds.

We need to be very careful to avoid blurred objectives. The military exist for our national security, aid workers work to alleviate poverty. Just because one may benefit from the other doesn’t mean that we should be getting them to share their jobs, we should let professionals stick to what they are best at.

While development requires security, development alone cannot bring security.  In Afghanistan, the vast influx of money to insecure parts of the country was often dangerous and ineffective.  One side of the conflict building schools in a contested area means that they are likely to be attacked by the other side.  This is exactly what the Taliban did and attacks on schools skyrocketed. Building roads through conflict areas often resulted in construction workers being attacked and the roads being mined anyway.

The army and DFID are both very good at what they do but they need to be seen to be independent. We should be proud of the fact that DFID is recognised as a world leader in reducing poverty and suffering, including providing humanitarian aid to victims of conflict

Targets

When armies fight too hard to win the hearts and minds of local populations, this taints aid workers by association and provides insurgents with highly visible - and in their eyes, legitimate - targets.

In interviews with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, many claimed to have attacked aid workers and cut off aid access to areas under their control after they came to believe that they were collaborating with western forces.  In places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan, the perception of being allied with the “other side” has resulted in increased attacks on aid workers: the number of violent attacks on them has more than doubled since 2003.

By blurring the lines of military work and poverty reduction efforts we risk aid to those who desperately need it no longer being seen by all sides as neutral.  This is something we need to avoid, not encourage.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Blairites for and against a Miliband victory

John Rentoul
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in debt to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before