Last week there was a huge forest fire in Israel which prompted large foreign emergency assistance, including help from the United Kingdom, which dispatched helicopters from its RAF base in Cyprus. The point I wish to make is not about the general assistance rendered by countries but specifically on who the providing of emergency relief help should go to, especially coming from the UK.
One of my first posts examined the withdrawal or planned withdrawal of UK aid to China. The major reason given was that China is already a highly developed (based on income mainly) developing country and it will provide better “Value for Money” to spend UK aid elsewhere. Well, let’s look at Israel. The latest Human Development Report places Israel in terms of HDI at #15 while the UK is at #26. From this google data (please help me find Israel’s GDP from a better source), Israel’s GDP, while lower than the UK’s is not on decline. It also is a member of the OECD, the rich club of countries. Thus Israel, while statistically not near China, is considered a middle income country.
So why is the present UK government providing emergency assistance to such a country, given their rationale that they wish to achieve “Value for Money” in development? My friend pointed out that there is of course a difference between ODA/foreign aid and short term development assistance such as disaster relief aid. However, surely the “Value for Money” concept–which Andrew Mitchell & Co. having been touting can be used as a counter argument. Why not save this money say for more emergency aid to Haiti? or save it up for future disaster relief in a Least Developed Country? If Mitchell bothers to cancel development awareness projects such as the Developments Magazine (and thus wielding the “Value for Money” concept), why must the UK government spent efforts in providing disaster relief to a country who in at least HDI is far better than the UK?
One thing sort of related is that the UK’s assistance is not exactly coming from DFID but from the MOD. Thus brings up another point–how do we define foreign aid/ODA given that non development institutions/organisations like the military also provides assistance? So for example if and when the UK reaches the 0.7/GNI aid target (which was not ratified by UN countries) if may in fact be spending more than that in terms of aid.
It is as in the China case, political. As my present supervisor pointed out to me during my undergraduate dissertation, all aid is political. And having talked to my friend John Primrose last and this year, I’ve learnt much about the political humanitarian aid.