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Ending aid dependence: Asserting national autonomy 0

Oct29

In an interview with Pambazuka News, Yash Tandon, the former executive director of the South Centre in Geneva, discusses the problems of ‘development aid’, his differences with Dambisa Moyo’s arguments in ‘Dead Aid’, the importance of Southern countries’ right to autonomy and his own book, ‘Ending Aid Dependence’.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: How did you come to write ‘Ending Aid Dependence?’

YASH TANDON: The book was written just before the September 2008 conference in Accra organised by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank on the Accra Action Agenda. The AAA was based on the OECD’s Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDAE). It was clear to me that hiding behind its benevolent exterior lay an insidious formula to subject aid-recipient poor countries to the collective discipline of the donors. Like colonialism that was sold to us as something ‘for our own good’ and in recent decades the ideology of globalisation and neo-liberalism, the PDAE was packaged also as something ‘good’ for us, especially for Africa.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: The aid taxonomy that you have come up with is a useful tool. How did you come up with it? Did the colour-coded work of the World Trade Organization (WTO) inspire you?

YASH TANDON: Actually not, there is very little inspiring about the WTO. No, I invented the colours myself. It wasn’t difficult. And the main purpose behind it was to disaggregate the phenomenon of ‘development aid’. Too much is made of the fact that some countries have met their 0.07 per cent of GNP quota for aid to the poor countries and others have not. It is when you deconstruct the aid package that you realise that these figures are quite meaningless, and often used for propaganda purposes.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: If western nations use aid to make developing countries respect human rights and be responsible to their people, what is wrong with that?

YASH TANDON: I am aware that a number of our friends from the West, especially in the civil society, are disturbed about the conclusions I derive in relation to what I call ‘Red Aid’, which is in fact the most dangerous form of aid. I include the donors’ use of the aid instrument to enforce human rights and ‘good governance’ on our countries as the most intrusive, and indeed, imperialist, form of aid. Donors have often used ‘human rights’ as a cover to push money into many of our own civil society organisations in the South to advance their own agenda in our countries. And let’s not forget that the Western nations have double standards on human rights.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Do you believe that the financial crisis facilitates and brings the wanted cooperation forward?

YASH TANDON: It is interesting that the impact of the current financial crisis is directly proportional to the degree of the South’s integration into the North’s globalisation agenda – the deeper the integration, the bigger the negative impact. This does not mean that we abruptly cut off from western countries, but it does reinforce the point I made about the imperative of the ‘national project’ as opposed to the globalisation project. Would the present crisis help or hinder South–South cooperation? Well, it is going to be a struggle.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Do you believe that the ‘national project’ – the continuation of the struggle for independence – has died in developing countries?

YASH TANDON: Things are indeed changing. There are telltale signs that the Western world is on the defensive. It is losing its dominant and domineering position in the South. It is losing moral authority. Its global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the WTO and the OECD are losing legitimacy and credibility. The countries of the South, on the other hand, are beginning to reassert their national independence. Of course, it will take a long time before they gain total liberation from the economic domination of the West.

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Interview by Pambazuka News

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