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By Rob Kevlihan
Introduction The maintenance of an independent foreign policy by small states has always been a difficult objective. Dominated economically, militarily and politically by larger, more powerful states, smaller states frequently have to tred carefully in order to maintain an appropriate balance between the necessity of maintaining cordial relationships with great powers, protecting their own interests and advancing their own foreign policy aims. While the great game of diplomacy is perhaps now played in a more civilised manner in western Europe than in the past, power relationships in this respect have remained essentially unchanged.
Ireland, as a small western European state with a colonial history similar to so many developing countries, has traditionally considered itself to have a particular empathy for the plight of such countries. The initiation of a development assistance programme by Ireland in the early 1970s was undoubtedly driven to a large degree by its new found membership to the European Community. Nonetheless, development assistance was quickly perceived to be a key part of Ireland's foreign policy, and in the words of the foreign minister of the time, was “necessary to give Ireland moral credibility internationally” (Sutton, 1977,9).
This paper examines changes in the application of conditionality to Irish development policy with particular reference to Irish aid policy towards Sudan. It will demonstrate a clear trend towards conformity with what one commentator has described as the international 'aid regime' (Gibbon, 1993,36). The implications of such a trend are profound. It implies a significant reduction in the scope for independent action in the provision of development assistance by Ireland and, more importantly perhaps, it implies the loss of a small but critical voice on behalf of developing countries among western states. The paper concludes that the Irish Government should closely re-examine this trend in its policy towards conformity with current international aid norms. Such a re-examination must of necessity involve a critical appraisal of the validity of these norms, the effectiveness of mechanisms currently in place to implement them (in particular aid conditionality) and the appropriate balance between pressure for reform and the needs of vulnerable populations. Finally, it concludes that the
decision by the Irish government to close it‟s bilateral aid programme in Sudan was flawed and should be reviewed.
First Generation - Economic Conditionality
Stokke (1995) describes two generations of conditionality to the provision of development assistance by western governments to less developed countries. First generation conditionality refers to the economic reform agenda imposed by western governments and Bretton Woods institutions, particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank on developing countries from the early 1980s.
In the early 1980s, developing countries suddenly found themselves in the midst of a debt crisis as a result of sharp interest rate increases. Western governments turned to the IMF and World Bank to act as lead agencies with developing countries in dealing with this issue. These institutions provided continued funding to highly indebted countries in return for adherence to strict reform packages. Such reform packages were typically enforced using Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), where continued lending and assistance was conditioned on adherence by the recipient government to detailed fiscal, monetary and economic policies. This first generation conditionality is referred to by other commentators as economic conditionality (Moore, 1993, 1). Economic conditionality is based on IMF and World Bank analyses of the failure of developing countries to develop. The prescriptions, known as the Washington consensus, are predicated on the assumption that the debt crisis of individual developing countries is fundamentally caused by excessive government spending. They include fiscal discipline, prioritisation of health, education and infrastructure over defence and administration, broadening of the tax base and cutting marginal tax rates, allowing market determined interest and exchange rates, liberalising trade, abolishing barriers to direct foreign investment, privatising state enterprises, deregulating industries to allow greater competition and securing property rights (Kirby, 1997,73).
These prescriptions reflect a neo-liberal economic perspective and, at least in the mid 1980s, were highly political. Criticism of economic conditionality was expressed in the period 1983-85 by UN agencies with poverty related mandates (UNICEF, International Labour Organisation) and certain „like
minded states‟. Controversy centred on the methods prescribed by the IMF and World Bank and the consequent effects on the poorest sections within these developing countries. While Gibbon (1993, 47) argues that a hard-hitting critique of the effects of adjustment, coupled with a serious exposition of an alternative redistributionist development model could have rallied broad international support and led to a thorough review of the principles of economic liberalisation espoused, this approach was not adopted. Instead, reform of economic structures within developing countries came to be commonly recognised as vital for future development, but their disproportionate effects on the vulnerable had to be mitigated.
Ireland and Economic Conditionality Ireland could perhaps justifiably have been classified as a „like-minded state‟ in its policy towards debt, structural adjustment and economic conditionality throughout the 1980s. Irish funded aid programmes focused on the necessity of meeting basic needs in priority countries. Initially, this policy was relatively low-key, with the government publicly recognising the need for and value of economic adjustment policies in developing countries, but not tying its own bilateral assistance to IMF agreements (O Fainin, 1988, 8).
Irish government policy in relation to economic conditionality was assisted by Ireland‟s longstanding policy of all assistance transfers being in grant rather than loan form. However, Ireland is owed money from developing countries relating to export credit insurance, where Irish companies were indemnified against any credit risk from overseas customers by the Irish government. In the event of default, Irish companies were reimbursed by the Irish government, which then assumed the debt. While the export credit scheme was scrapped in 1998, Ireland is still a member of the Paris Club. 1 This forum brings together debtors and their official creditors in a unified negotiating framework, with a permanent secretariat provided by the French Treasury (Concern, 1999). Though the total amounts owed to Ireland are small, they are still due and have not yet been written off by the Irish government. For example, approximately Ir£900,000
is owed by the Government of Sudan to the Irish Government. The debt
relates to the provision of barges by an Irish company to various Sudanese government ministries in the 1970s. Debt rescheduling was agreed with the Sudanese government in 1980, but was not adhered to by
them. Responsibility for the debt lies with the Department of Trade and Enterprise who managed the export credit scheme. 3
Irish policy towards economic conditionality remained unchanged throughout the 1980s and early 1990s until 1994. In that year, the Government committed itself to become a contributor to the IMF Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) for the first time. It committed Ir£500,000 per year for 14 years (total contribution Ir£7m), starting 1995. This decision effectively changed Ireland‟s stance towards first generation (economic) conditionality from a policy a passive acceptance combined with mitigation to one of active participation combined with mitigation.
The government‟s relationship with the Bretton Woods institutions is dealt with through the Department of Finance, rather than the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA - under whose umbrella comes the Irish development assistance programme) directly. In essence, therefore, it is the Minister for Finance that has the ultimate say on Irish policy dealings with these bodies.4 Extensive lobbying from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, NGOs and the Minister of State for Overseas Development, Joan Burton,5 to the then Minister for Finance, Ruairi Quinn, resulted in the government rolling back from full support for ESAF in 1996. A decision was taken to put the proposed Irish contribution on hold (no disbursement had been made to the IMF at the time of the funding moratorium). Reinstatement of funding was conditioned upon the implementation of effective debt relief provisions, rather than opposition to the principle of economic conditionality per se. Any further participation by Ireland in the fund was to „follow rather than proceed‟ the implementation of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief initiative (Creaton, 1996, 9).
In relation to the World Bank, the Irish government had been funding its constituent parts – the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) separately. In 1994, funding to the IBRD, the commercial lending arm of the World Bank, was halted, while funding for the IDA (which engages in lending on concessionary terms) continued on an annual basis. (The IFC engages in private sector development, while MIGA is mandated to provide investment guarantees to private sector investment and technical assistance.
Payments did not fall due to these agencies during this period). No comment is made in the 1994 Irish Aid annual report as to the reason for the funding moratorium to the IBRD (which had consistently received a separate annual allocation prior to 1994), but the 1995 report hints at the reason by omission, stating that the Irish Government continued to support the World Bank group, in particular the IDA, on account of its commitment to poverty alleviation and long term development in the poorest countries (DFA, 1995, 33). The inference can be drawn that, in the opinion of the Irish government, the IBRD did not have a similar commitment. This approach shows a careful differentiation in Irish policy, distinguishing between an emerging poverty orientation within the World Bank which was supported and the hard line economic rationality espoused by other sections of the World Bank and the IMF.
Ireland was the only EU country to adopt such a stance in relation to the IMF and World Bank. However, the government did not push this initiative any further at an EU level, believing (in the words of the then Irish Minister for Finance, Ruairi Quinn) its unilateral funding moratorium to be a sufficiently „potent and pragmatic‟ form of expressing Ireland‟s concerns regarding ESAF (Creaton, 1996, 9).
This failure to push at EU level is particularly unfortunate as the EU (and by extension, Ireland itself) has since 1988 acted in support of IMF and WB Structural Adjustment Plans (SAPs). EU programmes have attempted to address negative social costs, but have been conditional on a country‟s adherence to IMF and WB SAPs. The EU has in effect ceded ground by allowing the IMF and World Bank to dictate the pace and nature of the SAP programmes (O‟ Neill, 1996, 7), even while it has continued to be critical of the negative effects of SAPs as implemented (Smyth, 1996, 4).
Nevertheless, Ireland‟s policy was now focussed on reforming the existing system of structural adjustment, in particular debt relief. The 1996 Irish Aid Annual Report is specific in this regard, mentioning debt relief for the first time, noting Irish support for the recently agreed HIPC initiative and that the Irish government would continue to argue that the World Bank and other donors must give particular emphasis to the social aspects of development (DFA, 1996b, 40).
Ireland‟s policy therefore, from the 1980s through the 1990s was not to oppose the principle of economic conditionality. 1994 was a significant year, however, as Ireland withdrew its financial support for the IBRD while paradoxically committing itself to contribute to ESAF. The subsequent decision to freeze the ESAF contribution pending implementation of debt relief in 1996 represents a confirmation of a more proactive Irish approach towards the mitigation of the negative effects of SAPs. From 1996 onwards, lack of debt relief provisions became the focus of Irish objections to the application of conditionality. Furthermore, throughout this period, as before, bilateral assistance continued to be unrelated to recipient country adherence to structural adjustment.
The change of government in Ireland from the left of centre Rainbow coalition to the right of centre Fianna Fail/ Progressive Democrat government in June 1997 saw a modification in Irish policy. On the basis of improved HIPC debt relief provisions being put in place, the government announced in September 1998 a Ir£31.5m Debt Package. The package will be spread over 12 years, with Ir£17m being disbursed in 1999. The package comprises three components: Multilateral debt relief of Ir£15m (Ir£11m to the World Bank and Ir£4m to the IMF), bilateral debt relief of Ir£9.5m (Ir£6m to Tanzania and Ir£3.5m to Mozambique) and the ESAF contribution of Ir£7m. 6
The provision of multilateral and bilateral relief represents a major change in Ireland‟s aid policy, with debt relief now becoming an „integral part of Ireland‟s overall overseas development co-operation‟.7 The Ir£7m ESAF contribution is the same amount as that put on hold in 1996. It signals a return to Government support for IMF SAPs. Ostensibly, government concerns have been mollified by two reviews commissioned by the IMF on the impact of SAPs (one of which was performed by an independent consultant). Subscription to ESAF is now considered to be „consistent with, and should enhance the attainment of, Ireland‟s wider development co-operation objectives‟. 8
Policy makers have described this change as „strengthening the hand‟ of the government, (according to the current Minister for State for Overseas Development and Human Rights, Liz O Donnell), by allowing the government to argue for debt alleviation as 'a player' (Cullen, 1998, 9). Exactly how conforming to the policies of large states strengthens Irish policy making abilities remains unclear. What is clear is that the Irish government now perceives active involvement and contribution to ESAF,
together with multilateral and bilateral support for debt relief packages, to be important in its policy of supporting further debt relief, in effect putting Irish money where its mouth is.
In conclusion, the Irish government has moved from the passive acceptance of the status quo to the active acceptance of the principle of economic conditionality, though as of yet, Irish bilateral assistance continues to remain untied to adherence to structural adjustment. Policy since 1994 has been focused on the need for reformed SAP programmes. As a result of perceived debt relief reforms, the Irish government is now committed to contributing fully to IMF and WB SAP programmes.
Second Generation – Political Conditionality Second generation or political conditionality refers to a newer phenomenon in aid programmes. While the Third World economic crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s triggered first generation conditionality, the collapse of the second world in the late 1980s triggered significant donor activity on political conditionality. With Cold War rivalry removed from the equation, western governments felt freer to pursue basic political concerns vis a vis governments of the south. The establishment and strengthening of western norms and interests – in particular relating to human rights (especially civil and political rights) and governmental systems (democracy, rule of law) assumed greater prominence in the foreign policies of western governments towards the south. This was reinforced by the failure of first generation conditionality to result in significant economic progress in many third world states. Increasingly, a link was made between a liberalised trade regime, respect for human rights and democratic governance. This was exacerbated by growing discontent in many developing nations with their own authoritarian governments. Finally, some donor governments may have felt pressured to adopt democracy and human rights as their new rationales for assistance in the absence of a cold war threat in order to justify continued large scale assistance to developing countries (Stokke, 1995, 9).
In the establishment of such linkages lies a potentially dramatic change in the basic operating principles, particularly in the foreign policy of small states such as Ireland. While first generation conditionality represents a restriction of sovereignty by effectively defining economic policy in the affected state, second generation conditionality goes a step further. The emphasis by donor states on the duties of recipient states towards their own citizens, by virtue of their status as internationally
recognised governments that have signed international human rights conventions, clearly represents a more interventionist approach. While adherence to fiscal and economic guidelines is essentially a technical exercise, the evaluation and action on a governments human rights record is considerably more judgemental and potentially susceptible to political considerations.
It is in this context that Irish policy towards Sudan (to the extent that a coherent policy existed) 9 must be considered as it represents a solitary example of the application of overt political conditionality in Irish development assistance.
The Irish Aid Programme in Sudan Irish bilateral assistance to Sudan commenced in the late 1970s and for the first 10 years was focussed on the application of perceived Irish technical expertise in the agricultural field to Sudan. The programme was implemented predominantly in Gezeira state in central Sudan. Ultimately, attempts at modernisation of the agricultural sector and the establishment of a diary co-operative were unsuccessful (El Tom, 1991). However, from 1985 onwards, the emphasis of Irish programming began to change towards a basic needs approach focussed predominately around rural villages in Gezeira, Sennar, White Nile and Blue Nile states. Ultimately the programme developed a number of different components – village water supply, community forestry, fuel efficient stoves, village infrastructure (including the construction and outfitting of classrooms and health clinics) and some preventative health initiatives (including support for Expanded Programmes of Immunisation and training in Primary Health Care). In addition, a local co-financing scheme became available which supported local NGOs and community groups. All activities were centred around community based groups, rather than central government. The Irish Aid programme did not even maintain an office in the capital, Khartoum, as all activities were carried out regionally and at a local level. 10
Application of Political Conditionality to Sudan Irish aid to Sudan has been influenced by the actions of other donors, in particular it's EU partners. However, while other western donors began applying political conditionality to development assistance from 1988/89 onwards, Ireland‟s reductions in bilateral assistance to Sudan in this period (from Ir£925k in 1988 to Ir£345k in 1989) were more closely tied to domestic budgetary constraints than to such
conditionality issues. Indeed in 1990, bilateral assistance to Sudan actually increased in absolute and relative terms to Ir£0.443m, despite an overall reduction in the total aggregated bilateral assistance disbursed to all countries that year.
The period 1990 to 1992 saw Irish bilateral assistance to Sudan hover around the Ir£0.5m mark annually, but remain a relatively constant percentage of overall bilateral assistance. This would appear to indicate a static approach involving no change in Irish programme activities in Sudan during this period. 1993 however, shows a significant decline in relative terms, with Sudan accounting for only 4.7% of bilateral aid in the context of a greatly expanded budget in that year. This pattern of decline continued through to 1997, with Sudan receiving a successively smaller relative share of bilateral assistance granted, while approximately retaining its absolute amount of assistance received (Kevlihan, 1999, Appendix 1.4).
This trend in expenditure from 1990 is represented in subsequent policy statements as deliberate policy in relation to Sudan. This assertion must, in the opinion of this author, be taken with a grain of salt: It would appear to be an ex-post rationalisation of a static policy from 1990 to 1992 (which followed the enforced cutbacks due to budgetary constraints) combined with a deliberate policy from 1993 onwards. No overt mention is made of restricting aid to Sudan as a deliberate policy (even in annual reports) until 1993. In that year, the „Irish Aid: Consolidation and Growth‟ strategy document was published, the first strategy statement of its kind in the history of Irish development co-operation. Sudan is referred to as a „special category‟ priority country, which Ireland „in common with our EC partners, has limited our development assistance in recent years‟ (DFA, 1993, 21). This is repeated verbatim in the 1994 Irish Aid annual report (DFA, 1994, 13).
However, the Irish government had not ceased funding development activities nor shut down its operations as other bilateral and multilateral donors had done. The 1994 Irish Aid annual report emphasises that project assistance continued at a reduced level, focussed on the poorest in society. While no notable change occurred in the nature of Irish Aid activities in Sudan over this period, the emphasis on the poorest reflects the basic needs orientation of the programme from the mid 1980s onwards.
Additionally, separate from direct bilateral assistance, funding under the locally managed NGO cofinancing scheme became available in 1993, reflecting sharp increases in funding available for cofinancing generally. This is significant because two of the four projects funded in 1993 were managed through the local Irish Aid Project Office. The remaining two projects in that year were directly cofinanced from DFA Dublin and involved Irish based INGOs, Oxfam (UK & Ireland) and Concern who were also operational on the ground at that time. Such INGO projects managed by the co-financing scheme based in Dublin continued in parallel with the locally managed scheme in subsequent years. Post 1993, the locally managed co-financing scheme grew and served to supplement direct bilateral development assistance to Sudan.
One can therefore pinpoint 1993 as the year in which political conditionality associated with bilateral aid to Sudan became an overt part of Irish foreign policy.
The policy of political conditionality applied to bilateral assistance to Sudan was re-iterated in the 1995 DFA annual report (DFA, 1995, 22), and the Irish position was finally stated with some clarity in the White Paper on Foreign Policy in 1996.
„Another source of contention with developing countries is the question of conditionality where aid or other forms of co-operation are linked to human rights observance. Within the EU and in other fora, discussion continues on the balance to be sought in such linkages. Ireland will continue to resist automatic mechanisms of conditionality which can in some circumstances harm the very poor in the developing world, rather than those wealthier governments which fail to observe universal human rights standards. At the same time, the Government acknowledges that this is a difficult and complex issue and that sometimes firm action in defence of those standards will be required‟ (DFA, 1996a, 222-223).
This policy of political conditionality was explicitly applied to Sudan in the same document:
„Central to the Irish bilateral programme is respect by partner governments for human rights. In that context, aid to Sudan will remain focused on community level programmes pending a significant improvement in the human rights situation in that country.‟ (DFA, 1996a, 30).
Clearly a cap was placed on the Sudan programme – in real terms, it was unofficially „de-prioritised‟. This is reflected by the fact that it was classified as an „Other Projects‟ country rather than a „Priority country‟ for the first time in the 1995 annual report (DFA, 1995, 22). In actuality in Sudan, however, the bilateral aid programme continued at its existing level, with little change in core operations and a small increase in effective funding at its discretion through local in-country management of the cofinancing scheme. While this may appear contradictory, it seems to imply an ability on the part of Sudan field operations to take advantage of a new alternative tranche of funding opening up through the implementation of the locally managed co-financing scheme to circumvent the restriction imposed on direct bilateral assistance. This may have been facilitated by the division of labour within the DFA itself, where the co-financing scheme is managed separately from direct bilateral assistance country programmes. This shift towards limiting official development assistance while channelling increased funds through NGOs and local organisations, while not necessarily deliberate, nonetheless represents an innovative approach by the Irish government in Sudan when compared to other bilateral donors. It stands in contrast to the strictly limited humanitarian approach of both the British and the US governments, in particular, who simply placed a moratorium on development assistance, regardless of the channel of funding – governmental or non-governmental, to be used (Harvey and Campbell, 1998, 19 & 43, USAID, 1997, 14-15). This represents what could be characterised as a pragmatic response to a „difficult and complex issue‟ in accordance with policy as set out in the White Paper.
The 1996 annual report echoes the sentiments of the White paper and previous reports in relation to Sudan (DFA, 1996b, 25), while the 1997 annual report goes a step further in mentioning concerns in common with EU partners in relation to the „political and human rights situation‟ (DFA, 1997, 33). Conditioning bilateral assistance to additional political concerns on top of human rights violations represents a further significant development in Irish policy. It indicates a further shift towards interventionism rather than strict adherence to the principle of state sovereignty. Though the nature of Irish concerns regarding the political situation in Sudan were not clearly enumerated by the Irish
Government, EU statements from that period emphasise the need for a political settlement to the ongoing conflict (EU: 1997, 1998).
The Irish governments position hardened further in the following year. The 1997 DFA report states that as the projects being implemented in Sudan were approaching the end of their planned duration, the bilateral aid programme was to be phased out in 1998 (DFA, 1997, 33). The programme subsequently closed down at the end of 1998, with the one remaining Irish Aid consultant pulling out. 11 It is noteworthy in this respect, that the Human Rights unit within the department had no role in the shut down decision, despite the fact that Irish government actions since 1993 were ostensibly based on human rights concerns.12 Informally, in addition to human rights concerns, another rationale presented for the decision to shut down was the perception that in an environment such as Sudan (with its 16 year old civil war), sustainable development could not be successful.13 This did not seem to prevent effective programming throughout the 1980s and 1990s, however. If it is to be assumed that successful
development cannot occur in a country at war, future Irish development assistance to other African countries who have recently been at war (including Ethiopia and Uganda) must be re-evaluated.
Consequences of Shut Down Decision The ultimate decision on the part of the Irish government to cease bilateral development activity in Sudan would appear to represent a pulling back from what up to then had been a pragmatic approach to the conditionality issue.
While NGO co-financing continues to be available for projects of a developmental nature in Sudan, the co-financing scheme will now be managed from Dublin.14 NGO co-financing from Dublin is available only to Irish based NGOs and mission groups, and not as a general rule to other NGOs. The result is that it will be available only to Irish NGOs operational in Sudan (GOAL, Oxfam, Concern, Trocaire, World Vision, and other Church groups and missionaries) and not to locally based organisations as heretofore, except to the extent that an Irish based external agency is operating in co-operation with a local group in applying for the assistance.
As a result, development assistance under NGO co-financing for Sudan will vary according to the total amount available for co-financing overall in the central fund and the quality of proposals from Irish NGOs operational in Sudan versus proposals from other countries. The pattern of development assistance channelled through NGOs in Sudan will therefore be similar in variability to the period prior to 1992 - some years financing will be significant, other years it will be non-existent. This is exacerbated by the fact that only two eligible INGOs – GOAL and Oxfam, together with a small number of Irish clergy, are operational on the ground in Government held areas of Sudan, the part of the country previously broadly served by the bilateral assistance programme. 15 Development assistance will therefore cease to be a meaningful component of Irish assistance to Sudan due both to the absence of a country specific allocation for Sudan and the small number of Irish NGOs and mission groups in (particularly the north of) the country. Instead, assistance will be largely restricted to emergency humanitarian relief only.
Critique of Irish Policy Irish state policy in relation to political conditionality has developed from a tentative beginning in 1993 to a strict application of political conditionality in 1998. Conditionality, as initially applied by the Irish government to Sudan in the period from 1993 onwards, was imposed in a pragmatic fashion that appeared to balance governmental concerns regarding human rights with the desire to continue implementing programmes on a low key basis at a local community based level. In particular, the development of the local co-financing scheme was significant in the scope it allowed for community and local NGO based interactions. The ultimate shut down of the Irish Aid programme is in my view a poor decision driven by the desire of Irish policy makers to conform to international norms, rather than a rational examination of the effectiveness of the existing programme and the impact of the decision to close.
In early 1998 17 INGOs operating in government controlled Northern Sudan presented a policy nonpaper16 for discussion to donors, including the British, Dutch, US and EU. 17 This non-paper represented the consensus views of most of the major INGOs operational in Northern Sudan at that time and expressed their desire to see a change in what was considered to be excessively rigid donor policy.
The major recommendations were as follows: Funding of projects should benefit all vulnerable individuals, even those whose vulnerability results from endemic poverty caused by the Government of Sudan‟s political and economic mismanagement. Donors should fund programmes that aim at securing livelihoods, preventing future displacement and mitigating the effects of past displacement. Projects recommended included household security, capacity building, education, agricultural recovery and environmental protection. Finally, it was recommended that donors endorse multi-year planning with single year funding cycles, to allow INGOs to plan for phase out and sustainability while maintaining donors‟ desire to commit funds on a yearly basis.
The programme as implemented by the Irish government in the 1990s in many ways corresponded to these recommendations, though it was being implemented directly by Irish Aid, rather than by an INGO. The Irish Aid programme did not discriminate with reference to ethnicity or reason for displacement. In reality the programme concentrated on a particular geographic area – mainly in the Central Zone, encompassing Gezeira, Sennar, Blue Nile and White Nile States (DFA, 1997). While the area of operations has been criticised due to its relative prosperity compared to many other parts of the country (Bourke, 1988,4) nonetheless, it did represent a zone of comparative stability in a country embroiled in a civil war. In addition, the projects being funded – village water supply, village infrastructure, community forestry and fuel efficient stoves, clearly fit into the types of activities which the INGOs sought to encourage donors to fund. Finally, a major weakness of Irish Aid programming – single year planning cycles (tied to institutional uncertainties regarding annual funding levels), could have been solved by the recent guarantee of multi-year funding for Irish bilateral aid (O‟Donnell, 1998).
The Irish Aid programme in Sudan was therefore operating in accordance with the perceived priorities of an extremely knowledgeable group of personnel with direct experience of the situation on the ground, and positioned to further improve its capacity to plan and implement programmes through multi-annual funding. It should, in this authors opinion, have been continued.
Criticising the Irish decision in relation to Sudan does not constitute a blanket criticism of the application of conditionality in all situations and circumstances by the author. There are few who object
to the principal of governments seeking to improve the human rights situation in countries through the use of such levers. Rather, criticism is based on the undifferentiated way in which conditionality has been applied in this instance. Direct bilateral assistance to governments, in the form of concessional loans or direct grants, are areas where a donor would appear to have direct leverage with the recipient government. In this respect, the Irish government could have conditioned debt relief for Sudan on an improvement in the human rights situation. Programmes of the type implemented by Irish Aid in Sudan, by their own personnel, interacting at a lower community-based level and in many respects outside the ambit of central government, are surely less effective levers with respect to recalcitrant governments. Not funding local NGOs in developmental activities through the application of political conditionality towards a recipient government will clearly be of limited impact as far as the recipient government is concerned. In these circumstances, the donor is in effect assisting in the double punishment of potential beneficiaries – firstly for having to live in a society that is governed by a government that does not respect human rights, and secondly by denying them access to programmes that might potentially improve their position in life. Continuing to fund programmes that support community-based structures and are outside of the ambit of central government, cannot be considered to strengthen the hand of the government, nor can they assist in continued violations by that government of human rights. Indeed, it is possible that well designed programmes, focussed on capacitation and empowerment, could actually assist in the development of civil society within states - a potentially positive development on the road to an improved human rights situation. It is this author‟s contention that the Irish government should have continued to implement its programmes and introduced more capacity building and empowerment (including peace building) components to complement the „hardware‟ (i.e. classrooms, school equipment, trees and stoves) it was already providing to vulnerable communities, while conditioning debt relief on improved human rights in Sudan.
Synthesising Irish government policy on conditionality Considering Irish government policy towards first and second generation conditionality together, one can perceive a drift towards international norms, or perhaps more specifically, the agenda of the most developed states. It would appear that conformance with this agenda without any apparent independent policy is what is meant by becoming a 'player'. In both cases, Irish policy has moved from a position of pragmatism to one of conformity. It is unfortunate that this appears to be the case at precisely the time
when Ireland‟s own economy is growing exponentially and total Irish bilateral aid has been expanding considerably in absolute terms.
Conclusions and Recommendations While most forms of foreign aid impact the internal affairs of recipient states in one form or another, the new conditionality that is being applied, and in particular the scale and cohesion in which it is being applied, represents a new level of intervention into the affairs of sovereign states. It dictates economic policy, including by default, levels of social expenditure, and seeks to influence government behaviour towards its own citizens. For small „middle power‟ donors, such as Ireland, such intervention represents a shift of policy involving basic principles. For a major power's foreign policy, driven as it has been by strategic interest, the application of this form of intervention does not represent a leap of anywhere near the same magnitude.
Ireland should seek to realign its application of conditionality to allow it to focus on what should be the centre of any aid programme – the well-being of beneficiaries, while also sending clear signals to recalcitrant governments. With regard to Sudan, Ireland should announce their intention to cancel debt due pending the return of democracy and an improved human rights situation there. It could also indicate that further debt relief could be made available to Sudan in a manner similar to that provided to Mozambique, should conditions be appropriate. It should also reconsider its decision to end development assistance to Sudan. While the Irish government may be unwilling to re-establish an Irish Aid operational presence there because of the political signal this might send, it could set aside funds specifically for developmental activities in Sudan, to be implemented by NGOs or community based groups, similar to it's previously implemented local NGO co-financing scheme, but on a larger scale. Managing such a scheme would necessitate the maintenance of a diplomatic presence permanently in Sudan. Such a position could oversee both developmental and humanitarian aid programmes, ensuring that funding granted was directed outside the remit of central government. It would also allow for continued monitoring of the political and human rights situation there.
Small states such as Ireland now face a choice - becoming a constructively critical player or merely joining the club of prosperous donor nations. Criticism must be based on three levels - firstly on the
validity of the norms being imposed on developing states, in particular in the economic sphere where insufficient account is being taken of the need to maintain essential social expenditure in order to maintain past gains and reinvest in the next generation. Secondly, on the effectiveness of mechanisms currently in place to implement them, in particular aid conditionality. The impossibility of full debt repayment and indeed its fundamental inequity given the circumstances in which much of the money was lent and the uses to which much of this money was put to by dictatorial governments is increasingly being recognised. The debate is now over how much to be forgiven. Smaller states, with perhaps fewer vested interests in maximising repayment, can successfully argue for increased debt relief in international fora, including the IMF and World Bank. As regards political conditionality, the more focussed application of conditionality on levers that impact on recalcitrant governments directly and the inappropriateness of double punishment of vulnerable populations as occurred in the application of political conditionality to Irish bilateral assistance to Sudan is something that urgently needs to be reviewed. Finding the appropriate balance between pressure for reform and the needs of vulnerable populations needs to be uppermost in the considerations of donors. Smaller states such as Ireland, with similar historical experiences and perhaps more opportunities for direct personal experience of the developing world (in particular by its diplomatic personnel through their involvement on the bilateral aid programme), would do well not to forget this point. For without a sympathetic voice which speaks without strategic interest such as can be provided by states such as Ireland, the current donor aid regime will continue to be one driven by the concerns of the great powers.
References Bourke, Ann, 1988: „Irish Aid to the Sudan‟ in Third World Now, Winter 1988, No. 34, pp 3-5, Dublin: Comhlamh. Concern, 1999, Bilateral Creditors available at http://www.concern.ie/devel_issues/schools_deb_inter_debt/bilateral_creditors.html [30 Jan 1999]. Creaton, Siobhan, 1996, „Government protest over IMF programme‟, Irish Times – Developing World Report, 13th Nov. 1996, p.9. Cullen, P. 1998: „Zero tolerance for Rights Abuse‟, Irish Times – Developing World Report, 4th November 1998, p.9. Department of Foreign Affiars, 1993. Irish Aid: Consolidation and Growth, A Strategy Plan, Dublin:DFA. Department of Foreign Affairs, 1994: „Irish Aid: Ireland’s Official Development Assistance, 1994’, Dublin: Department of Foreign Affairs. Department of Foreign Affairs, 1995: „Irish Aid: Ireland’s Official Development Assistance, 1995’, Dublin: Department of Foreign Affairs. Department of Foreign Affairs, 1996a: „Challenges and Opportunities Abroad: White Paper on Foreign Policy’, Dublin: Department of Foreign Affairs. Department of Foreign Affairs, 1996b: „Irish Aid: Ireland’s Official Development Assistance, 1996b’, Dublin: Department of Foreign Affairs. Department of Foreign Affairs, 1997: „Irish Aid: Ireland’s Official Development Assistance, 1997’, Dublin: Department of Foreign Affairs. El Tom, Abdullahi Osman, 1991: „Giving is not enough‟, in Third World Now, Issue 43, Winter 91/92, pp6.8, Dublin: Comhlamh. EU, 1997. „Soudan: Declaration de la Presidence au nom de L’Union Europeenne, 30 Oct. 1997‟, available at http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/cgi/nph-bwcgis/BASIS/epic/www/doc/DDW?M…/Descen [6 February 1999]. EU, 1998. „Soudan: Declaration de la Presidence au nom de L’Union Europeenne, 30 Apr. 1998‟, available at http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/cgi/nph-bwcgis/BASIS/epic/www/doc/DDW?M…/Descen [6 February 1999]. Gibbon, Peter,1993: „The World Bank and the New Politics of Aid‟, in Georg Sorenson (ed.), Political Conditionality, The European Journal of Development Research, Vol. 5, No. 1, June 1993, pp35-62. London: Frank Cass.
Harvey P. and Campbell W., (1998): The Potential for Rehabilitation Assistance in Southern Sudan: Options for DfiD Assistance, London: ODI. Kevlihan, R., 1999: „Enlightened Self Interest? Aspects of Ireland‟s Aid and Foreign Policy with reference to Sudan 1974 to 1998‟, dissertation submitted to Dublin City University in partial fulfilment of the degree of Master of Arts in International Relations, Unpublished. Appendix 1.4, entitled „Summary of Irish Bilateral Aid to Priority and other Project Countries‟, analyses Irish bilateral aid to all countries based on the financial data available in the annexes to each Irish Aid Annual report, for 1978 and the years 1980 to 1998. Kirby P., 1997: Poverty Amid Plenty: World and Irish Development Reconsidered, Dublin: Trocaire/Gill and Macmillan. Moore, Mick, 1993. ‘Introduction’, Good Government? IDS Bulletin vol. 24, no.1, January 1993 pp 15. O‟Fainin, Mairtin, 1988. „The Irish Bilateral Aid Programme – A Government Perspective‟, Third World Now, Winter 1988, No.34, p6-14. Dublin: Comhlamh. O‟Donnell, Liz, 1998. „Budget upholds record of aiding world poor‟ in The Irish Times, available at http://www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/1205/ [5 December 1998]. O‟Neill, Helen, 1996. „Making the case for a “second voice”‟, Irish Times – Developing World Report, 13th Nov. 1996, p7. Smyth, Patrick, 1996. „Trying to keep the playing field level‟, Irish Times – Developing World Report, 13th Nov. 1996, p.4. Stokke, Olav, 1995. „Aid and Political Conditionality: Core Issues and State of the Art‟ in Olav Stokke (ed), Aid and Political Conditionality. London: Frank Cass. Sutton, Mary, 1977: Irish Government Aid to the Third World - Review and Assessment. Dublin: Irish Commission for Justice and Peace. USAID (various offices) & Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (1997): USD Integrated Strategic Plan for Sudan 1997-1999, Washington:USAID.
Based on sources within the Department of Trade and Enterprise consulted as part of the research for this article. The Department of Trade and Enterprise is responsible for the promotion of Irish trade interests overseas and similar to all Irish Government Departments, is headed by a Government Minister.
As a benchmark, Ir£1 equals ECU 1.27. Based on sources within the Department of Trade and Enterprise consulted as part of the research for this article.
Per interview with Joan Burton, former Minister of State for Overseas Development. Irish Ministers of State are equivalent to deputy ministers in other countries and typically are responsible for a particular portfolio under the overall supervision of a full government Minister.
Per Speech by Gallagher (Chairman of the Sub-committee on Development Co-operation at the time of the policy reversal) in Seanad Eireann, Seanad debates official report, 26 Nov. 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/debates/s26nov98/sect4.htm [6 Feb 1999], p9-10, & interview, Joan Burton, June 1999.
Source: Bretton Woods Agreements http://www.irlgov.ie/finance/mcc339.htm [March 1999].
Per Speech by O Donnell, Minister for State for Overseas Development and Human Rights in Seanad Eireann, Seanad debates official report, 26 Nov. 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/debates/s26nov98/sect4.htm [6 Feb 1999].
Per reply given by Mc Creevy, Minister for Finance, Dail debates official reports, 9 Dec 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/debates-98/sect14.htm, [6 Feb 1999], page 1.
Until very recently, Irish foreign policy has suffered from a dearth of explicit policy papers and by extension, explicit policy. In 1993 a policy document was released on Irelands Aid programme, the first comprehensive document in over 20 years of development assistance (DFA, 1993), while overall Irish Foreign Policy was finally set out in a White Paper in 1996 (DFA, 1996).
Based on field visits by the author to Irish Aid projects and former projects in October 1997 and March 2000 in White Nile and Gezeira States, interviews with DFA officials and Irish Aid consultants conducted in late 1999 and early 2000 and a review of all Irish Aid annual reports published from 1978 to 1998.
Based on sources within the DFA consulted in December 1998). Idem on 12 February 1999.
Per conversation with Minister of State for Human Rights and Overseas Development, Liz O Donnell, December 1998.
Based on sources consulted within the DFA on 5 February 1999. Based on the authors knowledge of NGO operations in northern Sudan 1997 –2000.
The term 'non-paper' was adopted as some INGOs required head office vetting and approval of 'papers' representing the views of their organisations. Describing the document as a 'non-paper', in other words an informal discussion document, allowed the document to be agreed more quickly. As it was, it took approximately four months to agree a draft acceptable to all 17 INGO country directors.
The document finally signed on to represented the agreed views of the country directors of the following INGOs: ACORD, Fellowship for African Relief, MSF/France, MSF/Holland, Save the Children/UK, Save the Children/US, Action Contre la Faim, Global 2000, Adventist Development Relief Association, GOAL, Norwegian Church Aid, Oxfam, Christian Outreach, International Rescue Committee and Ockenden Ventures. Discussion based on a copy of the document in the author‟s possession, titled „Improving Donor Funded INGO Activities in Sudan‟.
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