A large part of this morning's Radio 4 "Today" programme was devoted to international aid: does it help development or hinder it, and is it just a gravy train for the well intentioned?
For those who wish to "knock" aid there is no shortage of ammunition. Though now rather dated Graham Hancock's "Lords of Poverty" (1989) is a rich source. The frontispiece contains this extract from a delightful poem:
We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution --
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting
For the full text see "The Development Set" by Ross Coggins.
Having been a campaigner for more and better aid for half a century, and actively engaged in it (in Papua New Guinea and Malaŵi) for over ten years in total I'm well aware of the problems of misdirected aid, of waste and the dangers of the culture of dependency, but also the inestimable good that well directed aid can do.
Here is a 12 point "Good Aid Guide."
1. Aid by itself will not bring justice to the World's poor, but can help. Always see aid in the context of trade, debt relief, human rights, the arms trade and other relevant issues.
2. Campaign for better quality aid as well as increased quantity.
3. Good quality aid involves local people : make sure that the poor are consulted about what they need and involved in providing it.
4. The most successful projects seem to be small scale ones directed at the needs of the poorest (often women) rather than large scale prestige projects.
5. Non-government organisations on both sides have a good record.
6. Good aid is in an appropriate style...
7. ...and uses appropriate technology.
8. Provision for long-term follow-up is essential.
9. The motivation should be justice rather than charity.
10. Aid should be in the interests of the recipients, not just the donors.
11. Good aid aims to develop people rather than things.
12. Aid directed at individuals rarely solves the cause of the problem: aim to help communities.