RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

writing for godot

For human rights, improved terms of trade are more important than foreign aid

Written by   
Saturday, 11 July 2020 18:18

Human rights: Food for a dependency-creating thought   ‘HR and foreign aid’


Human Rights Reader 535


Never forget: Much of external funding (deceptively called ‘foreign aid’) is spent on goods and expertise imported from the North


-External funders are good at throwing products at development problems, i.e.,  ‘paying for things’ is what it is mostly all about for them. (David Sanders and David Werner)


1. For too long development assistance(?) has been a combination of money and ideas from the North imposed on the South. It has been more muscular in deploying arguments and less muscular in using the power of money for the right causes --i.e., too often offering simplistic and politically neutral solutions. (James Deane) …wither human rights (HR).


2. External funding cannot transform anti-democratic structures of power. It can only reinforce what is there. Government to government ‘aid’ only gives the elites a greater stake in protecting the status-quo. It thus contributes to increased powerlessness of the rendered poor majority. In short: External funding has been about patching up things while maintaining an unjust system rather than contributing to change it.


3. Moreover, concentration of US and EU external funding (the ogres in chief?) in only a few countries shows that its objectives are strategic rather than humanitarian. Local elites in these countries use this external funding to strengthen their hold on power --not that these funders mind…


[A special consideration in this domain: The notion that, other than in emergencies, food aid yields development benefits is a charitable fiction. The assumption that any external funding or contribution in kind can be neutral is as shaky as the now discredited notion of a value free education. Food aid, at best, only treats the symptoms of poverty, not its causes].



4. External funders have to bring with them the HR-based approach! They are not; they ought to. But the prevailing winds are blowing cold in the opposite direction. Has the time come for recipient countries to impose reverse conditionalities?


5. As HR workers, we must keep our eyes constantly open or this funding will continue to be used to bolster the existing system while purporting to ‘aid’. Our work simply cannot maintain the status-quo externally-funded projects bring with them. (Always to keep in mind: Procrastination is the lifeblood of the status-quo).


6. We must think and act both at local and global levels. Unfortunately, this also calls for fighting for a more democratic governance at the international level --an uphill battle and challenge for us, no doubt.


Global governance is a broad concept relating to (regulating?) the functioning of international institutions generally


7. Global governance strongly depends on it being accepted by a majority of those it affects. But it is a political myth that public interest civil society actually actively ‘participates’ in global governance with any chance of influencing decisions. This renders the representativeness of global governance a myth.*

*:Rather than as a detachment from reality, myths should be understood and analyzed as narratives that make something seem to be true today.


8. The myth continues with assuming there is such a thing as all global civil society backing global governance. This probably has a useful political function for the haves of this world; it brings together a series of desired images and sentiments for wide public consumption. This mythical narrative becomes powerful by presenting global governance as a complete story of equal protagonists and antagonists, both needed to complement each other since the lack of a global antagonist would put in question the role of protagonists. (Charlotte Dany, Katja Freistein)


9. The symbolism this story entails is expressed, for example, in the idea that CSOs are the transmission belt from-the-local-to-the-global. But the overall picture painted of CSOs in global governance as critical voices (but at the same time as reliable partners), is really larger than life. It is part of the ten worst clichés in our profession. Civil society representatives (which??) are often portrayed as playing the role of heroes, at least in the sense of moral superiority vis-a-vis dominant authorities (states). Measured by realistic standards though, this view is doomed to fail since it lends a fake legitimacy that ultimately only saves states from having to justify their collective deaf-to-grassroots-claim-holders-demands decisions.


10. Allow me to add another parameter or angle --and I think history bears me out: Selected CSOs have become willing participants and have thus perpetuated the myth. The problem of inequality within the CSO community is well-known yet the myth effectively silences it. This obscures the fact that cooptation often takes place, e.g. when only some CSOs are included in a meeting and others are left out for opaque reasons. It is for this reason that CSO participation too often depoliticizes global governance. Once public interest CSOs are included and become part of influencing the process(es), they are more likely to be coopted and tamed, which reduces the diversity of views they bring into the global policy making process. --wither HR.


11. Civil society organizations reproduce the myth that, at the same time, produces them in the first place as antagonists (to powerful states) on the world scene. This all challenges how we think about the so-called ‘CSO-community’, beyond what they are able or not able to achieve.


12. Global governance fora have thus reinforced exclusionary practices fostering power hierarchies within civil society itself. As a consequence, many CSOs have been found to reproduce the North-South divide in international politics, not routinely serving as oppositional or corrective forces to global politics when they are most willing to compromise for the sake of being invited to participate in governance processes at all.


13. Possibly, CSO participation may simply have become normalized to an extent that one of its main functions is upholding the myth rather than exerting any form of needed opposition or antagonism to states’ politics. It is remarkable that despite these ambivalent and often critical findings on the actual achievements of CSOs, the mythical narrative remains unchallenged. The myth thus helps keeping the idea of global governance-as-we-are-made-to-understand alive --wither HR. (C. Dany, K. Freistein)


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

Your comments are welcome at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

All Readers are available at



R​e​sponse to an article written by the internationally known scientist John Scales Avery for the Transcend Media Service (9 March 2020)

Dear John,

Your writing is always a joy to read and I also agree with much of what you say. There is however one point, where we will always disagree. You write ” the problem of achieving a stable, peaceful and sustainable world development remains serious, challenging and unsolved.”, whilst I write “the problem of achieving a stable, peaceful and sustainable world remains UNSOLVABLE, IMPOSSIBLE TO SOLVE, EVER!” and I’m using capitals because I’m really shouting.

I’d love you to one day swap your comments on politicians and write about the many thousands of you colleagues, who accept very good salaries to help politicians destroy humanity, destroy our planet. Without scientists we would have never had Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Without scientists we’d have never had landmines, grenades, bombs, rockets, torpedoes, teargas, and …Coronavirus!; without scientists we would never have had mortars, rocket launchers and interceptors, Scud missiles, Apache helicopters, tanks, WARships, air-FIGHTERS, drones with their killer laser beams, etc.

We hear all the time about the shortage of cash among the scientific community trying to help Humanity live better, healthier and longer lives. Communities are continually organizing fund-raising event for Cancer, Aids, Malaria, Multiple Sclerosis, Asthma, Heart, Diabetes, Kidney research. However, scientists wishing to develop faster and lighter spying and killing drones, faster and more powerful rockets, tanks, torpedoes, etc, have all the money they need. The message to children growing up is: “efforts to prolong life, don’t pay; efforts to shorten life make you rich”.

When a business (shoe factory or shop, bookshop, supermarket, hair salon, etc, is not doing well, they have to cease trading and/or declare bankruptcy. If a tank or rocket business has had a bad year, a Government subsidy is readily available for the business concerned, so that production of killing toys can continue unaffected.

People selling goods of services for the enjoyment or better life of Humanity, advertise in newspapers, radio stations, TV channels, street posters, etc. Those making and selling machine guns, bullets, landmines, tanks, rockets, torpedoes, nuclear submarines, etc needn’t advertise; they offer commission or pay bribes to certain politicians, diplomats, top brass, etc, and deal done.

Whilst Humanity naively accepts the BIG lie that Armed Forces are only necessary as a deterrent or for defense, the planet is doomed. (Alberto Portugheis, President, Humanity United For Universal Demilitarization, your social media marketing partner
Email This Page


THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.