Summary: Sticks, Carrots and Room to Manoeuvre
In the early 1990s, Western governments financed an exhaustive study of foreign aid. Its conclusions, summarised in the second of the above quotations, don’t exactly set the pulse racing, but they do capture the reality of outside help, and not just foreign aid. There may be little similarity on the surface between the experience of a country like South Korea, the work of NGOs such as PREM in India, and the complex political emergencies examined in Chapter 5, but the lessons they teach are remarkably alike. External assistance is never the key factor in promoting internal change, and always a blunt weapon in the fight against poverty and violence. Nevertheless, the right sort of help at the right time can be very influential in creating more space for local forces to get things right. US aid and trade preferences with South Korea and Taiwan in the 1950s, or the support given to PREM by international NGOs in the 1980s, were important in giving early development efforts the extra push they needed. When
local efforts break down, outside help can be even more important in fostering the basic conditions required to get them going again. The support provided by the UN and its ‘Group of Friends’ to the nascent peace process in Central America is a good example. So we can help in important ways, even though our help is never the deciding factor. Finding better ways to resolve this paradox is the central challenge facing international co-operation in the 21st century.