Foreign aid doesn’t meet peace goals

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Norway sends huge amounts of foreign aid to developing nations and consistently ranks as one of the biggest contributors to the United Nations on a per capita basis, but its donations don’t necessarily lead to the peace and prosperity Norwegians want to create. A new study shows that aid can save lives, but prolong conflicts.

The study, conducted by Professor Indra de Soysa at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, concludes that Norway’s 50 years of sending humanitarian aid overseas have not resulted in more peace in the world, nor a marked increase in human rights.

‘Little effect’
“Even though Norway gives so much aid, it has little if any effect on more peace or better human rights,” de Soysa told newspaper Aftenposten, which has been reporting recently on how billions of Norwegian taxpayers’ kroner are used for foreign aid programs. State Auditor Jørgen Kosmo has also recently  urged better control over Norwegian foreign aid programs.

De Soysa and colleagues at NTNU have examined World Bank and OECD records from 1960 to 2009 and measured aid to various countries against the receiving countries’ development of human rights and civil war. The aid is generally directed to areas with poor and unstable living conditions and de Soysa claims it doesn’t always improve the situation. It can, in fact, make it worse.

“When a bad regime gets foreign aid to build hospitals or schools, the same regime can use money from other budget posts to buy weapons,” de Soysa told Aftenposten.

Support for de Soysa
US aid researcher Paul Collier estimates that at least 40 percent of African military expenses, for example, are financed by foreign aid. Norwegian aid is no exception, and De Soysa’s findings are supported by researchers at Norway’s foreign policy insitute NUPI.

“The aid’s cumulative effect on peace and conflicts is doubtful, because there are so many factors involved,” said Øyvind Eggen at NUPI. Aid, Eggen notes, has a hard time making a difference in a country’s path to war.

Officials at Norway’s foreign ministry, which is largely responsible for Norwegian foreign aid programs, called de Soysa’s study “an interesting attempt to see a relation between a country’s access to foreign aid and its development regarding human rights and peace.”

Ministry spokesman Svein Michelsen, however, said de Soysa’s study only examined bilateral aid programs. Michelsen stressed that 40 percent of the Nordic countries’ aid goes through UN funds and programs, which can make its distribution more fair and widespread. He said that Norwegian aid doesn’t entirely go through receiving countries’ authorities, and suggested de Soysa’s study was not detailed enough.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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