Letter published in The Guardian on 27 January 2010
Madeleine Bunting (Comment, 25 January) makes some good points about the risk of our overseas development assistance effectively subsidising military spending. But even better and bigger points lie in the inability of traditional social projects to reduce inequality unless as much attention is given to assisting countries to build peace and develop stable and responsible governance.
All political parties are fundamentally revising the generally accepted approach to poverty alleviation. This is welcome. Bunting states that the resources that now get dedicated to tackling bad governance were "not quite what Make Poverty History campaigners in 2005 were trying to achieve". True. But what campaigners were trying to achieve was the ending of gross inequality. Where the campaigners went wrong was by not presenting the full picture of why that inequality persisted. They focused on trade and debt to the exclusion of peace and justice.
The debate now needed is how to deliver non-military assistance that reduces the threat of insecurity. The idea that the only way to respond to the threat of insecurity is by action within the security sphere is self-defeatingly narrow. But running away from the words "security", "conflict" and "politics", as some NGOs were trying to do, is even less productive.
Secretary General, International Alert