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[Opinion] Is cooperation aid the way towards development? Part I
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[Opinion] Is cooperation aid the way towards development? Part I

woensdag 7 maart 2012 14:16
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Part I: How cooperation aid was born

Poverty and inequality between countries and within countries themselves are the biggest human rights problems that we currently face. 

Cooperation aid has now existed for several decades, serving to help develop those countries in need. But what is development? Is it having a high GDP, or at least an acceptable one? Or is it having a lifestyle like that in the northern countries? I just feel a developed country is one where people have enough resources and freedom to live as they want to live. 

Cooperation aid was started to cover all the deficiencies that governments couldn’t cope with. The problem is that the causes that made it necessary are, 65 years after the “first world” birth, still alive. 

Context of the Cooperation Aid

After the end of the Second World War, the U.S. introduced the Marshall Plan, which is considered today as the first example of international cooperation in the world.

The purpose of this plan was to transfer 3% of the USA’s GDP to European countries affected by the devastating consequences of war. The aim was to rebuild their economy, trading and education system.

This plan was a success and the key action for the quick and effective recovery of the European nations. However there was a series of geopolitical and geo-strategic interests. A bilateral cooperation was developed in which only the countries that were part of the U.S. political circle were helped. 

Europe was living a very delicate political situation. The communist parties were becoming very strong in Western Europe. The whole continent was suffering the The Cold War, a threat for each nation’s stability, and at the same time there were the years of decolonization. And here arrived a matter that can help us to understand the world today. Decolonization brought a fight for the natural resources. There were 300 newborn states in the world market, creating 300 new governments with the need to set-up new contacts and associations to please the interests of their old colonizers. This is the key factor to understand the cooperation for development. Cooperation appears right at the moment a third world is born. A world with borders drawn not by cultural and historical differences, but by colonizers geopolitical and economic interests. Thus, these new states were born within internal political conflicts because they were directly affected by the Cold War and the colonial interests depending on their natural resources. At the same time, the North-South differences became stronger and appeared a demographic “boom”: mortality decreased and birth increased.

Between approximately 1945 and 1970, many economic development models were settled. There was the thought that the economy could drive the desired development. There were two main actions. The first was promoting growth of the informal economy, making it become industry, commerce, business development, etc.. The second was the improvement of infrastructure. Before 1945, many of these countries did not have an internal market so they never had effective infrastructure. Preference was given to infrastructure that could create energy, such as water canalization. Throughout those years some ex-colonised countries were seeing a high rate of development and were successfully exporting their natural resources. For instance, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) was enjoying a good and active period as well as several development plans in Africa with western tools.  

During the 60’s and 70’s, there was the general feeling that the government should be the people’s protector. However everything changed at the end of the 70’s. The world then encountered a very strong world crisis in many aspects: rise of fuel prices, external debt with international private banks, the raw materials’ price drop on international markets, and the depletion of the U.S. protectionist model itself. During that critical period a liberal wave appeared that completely changed the views held on cooperation: now there was a will to let citizens cope with the deficiencies that the government could not or want not cope with. According to the most conservative waves, NGO’s meant  a rupture with the government. 

A decade after, in the 80’s, this feeling reached its peak. The idea of the government as a “promoter of development” finished. At the same time the “boom” of economic inequalities inside and in between countries appeared. The last colonial states achieved freedom, so an elite formed by native specialists from “Southern countries” and from the “first world” appeared, willing to promote development.  

For first time NGO’s, governments and international associations wondered… is this the correct way to get development? There was an awakening about the development dream. 25 years after the cooperation for development started, the inequalities are not only still there, but have actually increased.

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