Elections in the UK and the debate over aid

A clear sign that I am reading too many blogs written by British nationals – at least 2-3 pieces each day on the sparring between the three contenders (see, I am that updated). Of course, I mostly read development blogs and the concern predictably has been about the visibility development issues get in the manifestos – what they say; what they don’t; and what they ought to be asked. Here is Duncan Green, writing a post-script after the televised debate on foreign policy

“Update, 22 April: international development, poverty, hunger etc got not a single mention last night. Foreign Policy, it seems, is about war and Europe”

There is first, the question of what matters more for international development itself. I personally find it much easier to support the view that there are bigger issues that fall in the realm of international relations (trade, technology transfer, climate negotiations, financial regulation, diaspora funding for terrorist/separatist activities etc) that would have to be addressed if developed countries want to make a difference to the standard of living in poor countries.

If the aspiring PMs choose to duel on wars, nukes and social security – there is nothing I find wrong with these concerns (although I couldn’t quite figure how pensions became a foreign policy issue). Politically, this probably reflects what they think British voters care about. In any case, I cannot imagine any candidate expecting to win by announcing that they will double international development assistance even as they ignore calls for increasing public expenditure from their domestic electorate. And this in no way means that British citizens don’t care about poverty and hunger – only that these concerns are not uppermost on their minds when they go out to vote. And rightly so, I think… 


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