The discourse on foreign aid is still haunted by issues of guilt, greed, and good intentions. Little wonder that the topic has been steeped in controversy and misunderstanding, which often overshadows the importance that aid can play in improving the lives of many poor people around the world.
In our post-post colonial era in the Pacific, what is the role of aid in redressing the great imbalance in trade and power that exists between neighbours? A recent review of the Australian aid program in Papua New Guinea1 has thrown open a raft of new questions. In the search for answers, it may be time to rethink some of the language and underlying assumptions of the aid-centric approach to development in the Pacific islands.
Main discussion points in PiPP’s latest discussion paper include:
- In our post-post colonial era in the Pacific, what is the role of aid in redressing the great imbalance in trade and power that exists between neighbours?
- Fundamentally, what is aid for?
- Since aid has become an industry, spanning so many disciplines, can we really expect to be able to determine its effectiveness by measuring its aggregate success or failure?
- Has the foreign affairs agenda meant that the aid agenda has been unable to deliver on the social benefits it is supposed to target? Or has it been the opposite where the aid folk simply don’t understand the political reality in which they work?
- Why is it that the Australian aid programme in the Pacific comes under so much scrutiny and tends to generate more bad press than good?
- The world has changed dramatically since many Pacific island countries first gained independence 30 to 40 years ago. Has the aid relationship adapted to the new realities?
- Is it time to become less risk averse and more creative in
the search for development programmes that transform lives?
- How do we bring about a meeting of minds, based on
the resolution of long‐standing disagreements, the recognition of shared interests across a wide range of issues, and the forging of common expectations for development?