Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Aid That Empowers

Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Aid That Empowers

Article excerpt

INFORMED participation in open, accountable and effective governance: that's a pretty good working definition of development. Governments have been using foreign aid for many purposes over the decades, and their first purpose is not always development or alleviation of poverty, as Ian Smillie points out in this issue of Alternatives.

But if durable and democratic development is indeed the priority, it can only mean one thing: empowering people in poor countries to understand, decide and improve their own futures. Achieving real development--and sound environmental policy--in the South requires leadership by people in the South. If we have learned anything from the contentious and unruly history of aid and development, we have learned that development cannot be commanded by outsiders. It needs to be designed and carried out by people in their own countries--people who are in the best position to identify their own problems, to choose and apply and judge their own solutions.

The obligations this places on the rich countries of the North are inescapable. The first imperative is not to impede the South's development with pernicious policy or harmful advice. The obligation beyond that is to support the development of poor countries with wise investments of money and intellectual resources--aid that empowers people, especially poor and otherwise marginalized people, to explore and expand the choices that define their lives. In this vein, Stephen Lewis calls for a forum where African women can bring their incredible creativity and strength to bear on the problem of HIV/AIDS in Africa and its solutions.

For poor countries to develop, they need a competent and self-confident indigenous research capacity. Building that research capacity calls for educating researchers in the best and most applicable of the world's new science and technologies. …

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