By Madhumitha Srinivasamoorthy
The roadblock in innovation and implementation of inclusive policies in most developing economies is often attributed to lack of resources. One could infer that increased availability of resources could lead to higher representation among the policy makers, thus weaning out the ‘excuses’ of developing economies.
This highlights an important question: ‘Does access to higher resources guarantee policy innovation?’ One area where policy innovation can manifest as a result of access to higher resources is foreign aid – the biggest contributor of foreign exchange. Aid influences the stability concerns of both the donor and recipient nations. It can also play the role of a powerful catalyst in steering the direction of policy formulation.
Foreign aid is often a controversial topic when it comes to developing economies. The controversy stems from the evaluation of aid’s efficacy by different schools of thought. Three distinct camps may be recognised. The first camp argues for increased aid to promote development (Sachs 2009 and Stiglitz 2002), however, advocating restructure of the way in which aid is provided. The second says, aid leads to more harm than good by exacerbating political vendetta and corruption (Easterly 2004 and Moyo 2010). This camp strongly suggests that aids prevent economies from taking advantage of the global opportunities that arise. The third camp proposes a mixed model, and includes authors such as Collier (2007), who has emphasised the role of a number of ‘traps’ in perpetuating destitution. Researchers Abdur Chaudhury and Paolo Garonna echo this view in their 2007 discussion paper to the UN – proposing an alternative approach to development assistance policies through economic integration and subsidiarity. They base their case on Europe’s successful sustainable development paradigm.
As a new world order is likely to be established in the post pandemic world, industries, governments and individuals will have to re-adapt. The developed economies and the UN are working together with developing economies to pull them onto the other side. This is a time when aid flows across borders, in all forms – medical, intellectual and financial- to achieve combined success over a major challenge to humanity. The convergent action plans and goals offer a dearth of organisational space for revisionist foreign policy, that can be utilised for significant policy restructure. This article calls for flow of aid with an objective of feminist foreign policy at its core, to enable wider changes .
The past, present and the future: Feminist Foreign Policy
Feminist foreign policy (FFP) has been gaining increased traction within national and international discourse and policy-making. It focuses on the marginalized and invokes introspection on the current global policy system- to scrutinize and identify destructive blocks of patriarchy, colonisation, casteism, capitalism, racism, imperialism, and militarism.
A revolution sparked by Sweden in 2014 with the launch of its FFP, the wave has travelled across Europe and parts of the USA. FFP, in its current form, is not a rigid policy mechanism but instead acts as a lens to view policy formulation and implementation. Most recently, Mexico’s FFP adaptation is broadly based on five principles, that hold gender parity, visible equality and empowerment in its core(REC 2020).This has been nothing less than a call of attention in the Global south, emanating hopes of policy emulation in similar income countries.
As common to most crises, the brunt of livelihood destruction due to the pandemic has been passed on to the women and girls. Hillary Clinton’s words “Women’s equality is not a moral issue or a humanitarian issue, but a security issue” are extremely relevant in the current scenario where the convenient way out would be to ignore the vulnerable and keep the wheels of capitalism running. In fact, the timing of the impending policy revolution is such that it can be perfectly exploited by the developing countries, by absorbing into their respective 5 year/10 year post-COVID-19 recovery developmental plans. For FFP to become a norm in the coming years, it is imperative to be reflective in the actions of growing economies as much or more than in the giant ones.
Of course, such a drastic change in the perspective of policy formulation cannot be expected with ease, in a developing country. The stage is pre-occupied by more pressing issues of employment, education and food for all. The countries will, understandably, not be willing to expend the required time and energy into policy innovation, unless, there is a significant external pressure of ‘Adapt or die’ situation.
Foreign Aid in FFP
The big push required for actionable policy change in developing economies is more likely to be external than internal, as discussed above. It could be a direct influence of the policy trend set by the donor countries, within and around them. In this context, the following questions arise. Given that there is already an influx of foreign aid, how can such aid steer policy innovation by the recipient towards a Feminist foreign policy? What would such an aid policy typically look like?
The repertoire of ideas to answer the above questions of foreign aid in FFP would include ‘Project aids’ for specific employment facilities/ skill training/ personal financial planning facilities for migrant women as part of economic recovery plan; ‘Educational aids’ focussing on driving post pandemic girl child education continuity and scholarships for college education; ‘Multilateral aids’ focussed on policy changes to enable strong insurance structures for the vulnerable; and Voluntary aidsthrough services of organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières for health camps – immunity enhancement, and adolescent, pregnancy and contraception health and to identify and offer assistance to cases of sexual/ domestic abuse
The bilateral and multilateral aids, being the predominant forms of aid, can flow in the nature of ‘project aids’ with an identified specific purpose that can be accounted for. Sweden, for example, in its foreign aid model, supports survivors of sexual violence in conflict zones through its National Action Plans under Resolution 1325. And Canada, through its International Assistance Policy , holds gender equality and empowerment in its core. Such focussed aid is most likely to revolutionise developmental outlook.
Although this piece has only managed to draw a broad visualisation of foreign aid in the context of FFP, it is crucial for the governments to accept and embrace the efficacy of FFP in aligning their policy measures to achieve its vision.