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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Systems Analyst (Retail)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Up to 20% bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An...

Technical BA - Banking - Bristol - £400pd

£400 per hour: Orgtel: Technical Business Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £400pd...

Head of Digital Marketing,London

To £58k Contract 12 months: Charter Selection: Major household name charity se...

Lead Hand - QC

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Hand - QCProgressive are recruiting...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice