Foreign Aid Tied to Terrorfight: Report

OTTAWA (CP) - A disproportionate amount of international aid is pouring into Iraq and Afghanistan for self-interested reasons that have more to do with the fight on terrorism than poverty reduction, says a new report.

The Reality of Aid Network’s annual 2006 global overview of development assistance states that Iraq and Afghanistan swallowed up $10 billion of the $27 billion in new aid added to donor budgets between 2000 and 2004. Only one quarter of the new resources, states the independent network comprised of civil society groups, was even available for Millennium Development Goal initiatives laid out by the United Nations.

The war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, states the report, has "created huge pressures to make national security the key foreign policy objective in many donor countries.

"As a result, the integrity of recent increases to foreign aid budgets is compromised and there is increasing pressure to change the criteria for what counts as aid."

The group sounded similar alarms in its 2004 report, but now worries that the rules governing overseas development aid may actually be changed to include more military projects.

"Just because it is true that you cannot effectively do development in insecure circumstances doesn’t mean that military operations become development," Gerry Barr, president of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, said in an interview.

"But it is a deeply persuasive trend as far as donor countries are concerned."

While the United States and Australia are identified as the worst offenders, Canada is also cited.

Between 2001 and 2004, about 28 per cent of new Canadian aid was targeted at Afghanistan and Iraq for reasons that the Canadian International Development Agency explicitly linked to global security.

"The result has been a distortion of the government’s commitment to allocate new aid resources since 2002 for CIDA’s program in its nine countries of focus," states a chapter on Canada in the 386-page report.

"Afghanistan has been the single largest recipient of Canadian bilateral aid."

The new Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has picked up where the Liberals left off in 2005, with Harper last week announcing another $15 million in rural development aid for Afghanistan - part of a Canadian aid package that will total nearly $1 billion over 10 years.

Harper called the latest announcement "another step in the journey we are taking with our allies and the Afghan people to establish a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan."

But the Reality of Aid Network questions whether these aid increases - linked as they are to security concerns - should count toward the Canadian government’s previously announced commitment to increase development aid by eight per cent annually.

Canada, which gave 0.27 per cent of gross national product to overseas development aid in 2004, was ranked 14th among donor nations in the report and is not closing ground on the Millennium target of 0.7 per cent by 2015.

The report states that donor nations, specifically the U.S. and Australia but also the Netherlands "and perhaps Canada," are pushing to expand the rules on what qualifies as overseas development aid to include military reforms and modernization.

A senior committee of development ministers is gearing up for an OECD meeting in 2007 to discuss rule changes.

"The inclusion of military assistance into ODA, whatever its intended purpose in donor foreign policy, is opening the door even wider for donors to divert scarce aid resources away from poverty reduction," states the Reality of Aid report.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2006/06/19/1640361-cp.html