Poverty reduction and increased human security are the overarching objectives of most international efforts, notably Peacekeeping operations and Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration (DDR) programmes. Recently, the intent of these programmes has been questioned, considering recent deteriorations in their effectiveness in promoting peace, bringing economic stability and protecting those living in post-conflict areas. This was seen in the loss of life and the gender-based violence during recent DDR missions to Colombia, Somalia and Ethiopia. This calls for a more human-centric approach to peacekeeping and poverty reduction, requiring increased foreign spending.
As an intern at The Borgen Project, a non-profit organisation aiming to make global poverty and injustices the centre of the UK’s and US’s foreign policy, I have come to understand the correlation between poverty reduction and reinstating stability in post-conflict states as well as the participation of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). Increasing foreign aid would streamline more funding into the local CSOs, which re-frame security in terms of the human rather than what can be provided by the state or local militia, which in turn has a positive impact on the reduction of global poverty levels.
“The Borgen Project’s primary focus in the UK is to build robust cross-party support for legislation that minimises the devastating impact poverty has on people globally. In my view, all G7 members – who possess roughly half of the world’s wealth – have a moral responsibility to help combat poverty”- Jonathan Main, Assistant Manager, The Borgen Project
There are numerous ways that global poverty impacts local communities – even in our Edinburgh community. Firstly, in a world of political instability, tackling the root cause of instability in developing countries is a step towards securitising the UK. Development aid addresses three causes of insecurity: poverty, inequality, and lack of access to essential services. There are numerous studies demonstrating that when people have access to education, healthcare, and prosperous economic opportunities, they are less likely to engage in criminal activities or join extremist groups. The reduced risk of conflict in these countries would limit the risk of terrorist and extremist spillover into the UK.
Secondly, supporting global health security is a way in which development aid contributes to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, which can pose a global threat to health security and humans worldwide.
Thirdly, with Foreign Aid having the potential to address global challenges, such as climate change, pandemics and humanitarian crises, the UK can aid in creating a more stable and secure world, which brings me back to my initial statement. The need for military intervention as a way of ‘protecting’ the people who live there is only necessary when there are threats to human security in the first place. While it may seem utopic or idealistic to believe that Foreign Aid alone can ‘fix’ the insecurity the world sees today, it would be a failure not to recognise the repercussions of reducing the Official Development Assistance (ODA) fund.
“Abandoning the 0.7% target for aid would be a moral, strategic, and political mistake. Moral, because we should be keeping our promises to the world’s poorest. A strategic error, because we would be signalling retreat from one of the UK’s vital acts of global leadership” – David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the UK
The Borgen Project calls for more humanitarian efforts to approach civil or tribal conflicts in areas where civil wars have been ongoing for decades. Military intervention on numerous occasions has failed to stabilise democracies, encourage cooperation and reduce civilian casualties. However, in 2021/22, defence was the fifth largest area of government spending, accounting for £71.4 billion of its overall expenditure. Currently, the funding of foreign aid remains at £8.175 million, having decreased from £11,423 million in 2021. Humanitarian approaches in the form of foreign aid should be funded and developed as much as military ones.
Image: “Thousands Displaced by Floods and Conflict near Jowhar, Somalia” by United Nations Photo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.