Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Who decides?

Who decides what "poor countries" should be doing? World War II was fairly clear evidence that leaving (potentially) crazy dictators to their own devices is probably not a good idea and one quite likely to affect everyone else. But what part of the intervention and pressure should come from global bodies, often (perceived as) run by countries far away, and what aspects are more suited to the intervention and involvement of regional bodies and neighbouring countries?

Of course, this is all further complicated by the fact that, especially in Africa, far-away countries are often donors as well. The Centre for Global Development recently released their Commitment to Development Index 2010 (CDI 2010). Their CDI tracks how "rich countries" help "poor countries" in the fields of aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security, and technology, averaging over these areas and adjusted for size so that the contribution of small countries is fairly assessed. Unsurprisingly, the "rich countries" that come out best overall are Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and Norway, interestingly followed by New Zealand and Ireland. With specific regard to sub-Saharan Africa, the lead country turns out to be Ireland, with Portugal second (France and UK are 3 and 4). This would suggest that if international countries are going to be involved in how sub-Saharan Africa works, they should be Ireland and Portugal (possibly along with France and the UK).

In practice, the international community seems to have a lot more say than regional bodies or neighbouring countries. SADC has been demanding for ages that sanctions on Zimbabwe be lifted. On Tuesday Namibia again called for sanctions to be scrapped. Even Botswana's president, Ian Khama, a vocal critic of Mugabe, is calling for an end to sanctions. Whether or not sanctions on Zim are a good idea, the region has clearly made its position clear. Donors and the international community seem not to be particularly responsive in this case. One wonders if this is the manifestation of the general attitude or a specific exceptional case?

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