Thursday, 1 March 2018

Aid, authoritarianism and how it all plays out

Last week I went to Oxford to give a talk to the Oxford Central Africa forum. I was presenting a chapter that I wrote for Tobias Hagmann and Filip Reyntjens' 2016 book "Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa."
It was really fun to meet the DPhil students and others who came to the seminar, and to hear about their research. The issues surrounding aid and governance are played out in so many different ways, and surrounded by a host of different narratives. At the centre of the discussion is what aid is for and how it achieves its stated  aims. The observation of the editors of the book, and many of the contributors, is that aid is often used to shore up the power of authoritarian leaders who are able to impose an agenda that produces positive development indicators, and who violently suppress opposition to their continued power.
A side-line to the discussion concerned the scandal that is currently shaking Oxfam, as we were considering the role of public opinion in aid provision. It is interesting to reflect on how the actions of errant individuals within an organisation are judged - publicly - more harshly than organisational policy that has fortified abusive leaders, and that has completely failed populations in Syria and Yemen, to cite just two examples.

Oxford, always worth a visit :)

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