International aid is facing the biggest cut in modern times. The money that today goes to education and health care can soon be eaten up by expensive peacekeeping efforts. To find out what the consequences will be, Blank Spot Project today launches an open review of development assistance, writes journalist Nils Resare.
In the late 1990s, Prime Minister Göran Persson wanted Swedish aid to be used for the marketing of the Jas fighter aircraft in South Africa, Chile and Brazil. With full force he pressed to get his will through.
The Prime Minister's stubbornness led to an infected conflict within the government and on Sida. The critics considered that it could hardly be considered poverty reduction to market fighter jets - thus the aid could not be used. In support of them, they had the list of rules on what aid may be used for which the OECD member countries had agreed.
Although these rules were not crystal clear, the marketing of war material could not be classified as aid, it was obvious. The Prime Minister was therefore largely forced to resign. Only a few minor efforts were ultimately taken from the aid.
The gift aid can soon be a thing of the past
But now, almost 20 years later, it looks as if time has caught up with Göran Persson. The OECD's regulations are under severe pressure and thus the very concept of aid. The more or less altruistic gift aid, financed by the taxpayers of the rich countries, may soon be a thing of the past. Peacekeeping operations, refugee reception and climate operations will probably be included in what is called development assistance. Perhaps marketing of war materials can also be sneaked into future aid.
How this will affect the world's poor, we can only speculate today. But given the enormous sums that peacekeeping efforts and climate adaptation cost, most of the world's aid is likely to be eaten up.
Negotiations on the future definition of development assistance are currently underway in closed rooms. The discussions are not over and so far not much has been leaked, but there are many indications that we are facing the biggest cut in global poverty reduction in modern times.
Many creative interpretations of aid
During the 20 years that I have monitored development assistance, the regulations have been under constant pressure. Countries like the United States and Japan have always wanted to use it for their own purposes. But thanks to a consensus system, and the fact that some states have stubbornly sat on the sidelines, they have never succeeded in shaking up the regulations.
On the other hand, rich countries have often made creative interpretations of the rules to benefit their own economies. Sweden is no exception. For example, I have been able to show how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, against the rules, used aid to pay rent for properties in central Stockholm and that Västa Götaland, as a result of receiving refugees, receives more Swedish aid than Mozambique. I have also been able to reveal how Göran Persson tried to sell Jas planes with assistance.
But what is happening now is likely to have significantly greater consequences. Poverty reduction, as we know it today, is under severe pressure. We at Blank Spot Project want to review what is happening now. Not just the negotiations that are going on, but what consequences it will have for the world's poor.
But we want to do this in a new way - together with our readers. We need your eyes and your knowledge. Your tips. Together we can create the most important journalism about and for the people who have the worst conditions to make their voices heard.
Read more about Blank Spot Project's new venture here.