Friday, October 22, 2010

British Overseas Aid: A Deeply Regrettable Turn of Events

A midwife in Ethiopia who received additional training in an effort to reduce the number of women who die giving birth

Many foreign investors have bought land to cultivate flowers, cereal for export and crops for the production of biofuels.

In 2009, President Robaer Mugabe of Zimbabwe threw a lavish celebration for himself on the occasion of his 85th birthday. Some 8,000 lobster were eaten and 2,000 bottles of champagne drunk -- despite the country being home to 7 million undernourished people.

Photographs and captions from Photo Gallery: Who Does African Aid Really Help? (Der Spiegel International)

The Catholic Herald has reported on the reaction of the Bishops of England and Wales to new Government proposals on overseas development aid

The Government has proposed that in future it will "“hard-wire” abortion and contraceptive services into overseas development programmes

The Government has said that the key focus of its new policy:

"will be to combat unsafe abortion. It claimed that there were 70,000 deaths a year from an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions, with about eight million women also needing medical treatment for complications arising from them.

“Ensuring abortion services are safe, and that post-abortion care is provided, saves lives,” the statement said. “And increasing access to family planning will avert many thousands of unintended pregnancies and abortions every year.” "

In other words it wants to export abortion services to underdeveloped countries as part of its "Foreign Aid Programme"

Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development, told a conference in London that the Government was preparing to push family planning services in the poorest countries of the world.

Reproductive and maternal health was “the most off-track” of all the MDGs, he said. He continued:

“The international community has failed to assist millions of women by ignoring the complexities of why at least a third of a million women in the world’s poorest countries die during pregnancy and childbirth each year. For too long we’ve been trying to tackle the issue with one hand tied behind our backs.

“The Department for International Development will now have an unprecedented focus on family planning, which will be hard-wired into all our country programmes.”

The Catholic Herald reports that the Bishops of England and Wales have expressed their "deep regret"

The Herald reports a spokesman for the Bishops saying:

"“It is deeply regrettable, however, that the [Government] has tied this urgent issue to the quite different goal of ‘wanted pregnancies’ that is, to the reduction of pregnancy rates in the developing world through provision of contraception and, explicitly, of abortion. The Church urges the DFID to distinguish between these two very different agendas of ‘wanted pregnancies’ and ‘safe births’. If DFID develops programmes that are transparent in being dedicated to making pregnancy safer then these could attract wider support from the churches, from governments and from non-governmental organisations.”

The Catholic Church is the world’s second-largest international development body after the United Nations.

A large percentage of hospitals in Africa are operated by faith-based organisations, with the Catholic Church responsible for one quarter of all healthcare provision. Globally, it runs 5,246 hospitals, 17,530 dispensaries, 577 leprosy clinics, 15,208 houses for the elderly and chronically ill and people with physical and learning difficulties worldwide and Catholic agencies provide a quarter of all HIV care in Africa.

The Pope has expressed his willingness for the Holy See to work more closely with the Britain in the provision of aid"

If the proposed Government policy of exporting "abortion aid" as part of its international development programme goes through, Catholic aid agencies and hospitals in Africa will be faced with the problem of not accepting aid from the British Government

It is not going to be "aid". It is a form of cultural and (im)moral Imperialism.

The Government should think again. No doubt the Bishops will remind the Government of the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his Encyclical Caritas in Veritate published scarecely little more than a year ago on 29 June 2009 (paragraphs 28 and 44):

"28. One of the most striking aspects of development in the present day is the important question of respect for life, which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples. It is an aspect which has acquired increasing prominence in recent times, obliging us to broaden our concept of poverty and underdevelopment to include questions connected with the acceptance of life, especially in cases where it is impeded in a variety of ways.

Not only does the situation of poverty still provoke high rates of infant mortality in many regions, but some parts of the world still experience practices of demographic control, on the part of governments that often promote contraception and even go so far as to impose abortion. In economically developed countries, legislation contrary to life is very widespread, and it has already shaped moral attitudes and praxis, contributing to the spread of an anti-birth mentality; frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other States as if it were a form of cultural progress.

Some non-governmental Organizations work actively to spread abortion, at times promoting the practice of sterilization in poor countries, in some cases not even informing the women concerned. Moreover, there is reason to suspect that development aid is sometimes linked to specific health-care policies which de facto involve the imposition of strong birth control measures. Further grounds for concern are laws permitting euthanasia as well as pressure from lobby groups, nationally and internationally, in favour of its juridical recognition.

Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help.

By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples can better understand the needs of poor ones, they can avoid employing huge economic and intellectual resources to satisfy the selfish desires of their own citizens, and instead, they can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual"

"44. The notion of rights and duties in development must also take account of the problems associated with population growth. This is a very important aspect of authentic development, since it concerns the inalienable values of life and the family.

To consider population increase as the primary cause of underdevelopment is mistaken, even from an economic point of view.

Suffice it to consider, on the one hand, the significant reduction in infant mortality and the rise in average life expectancy found in economically developed countries, and on the other hand, the signs of crisis observable in societies that are registering an alarming decline in their birth rate.

Due attention must obviously be given to responsible procreation, which among other things has a positive contribution to make to integral human development. The Church, in her concern for man's authentic development, urges him to have full respect for human values in the exercise of his sexuality. It cannot be reduced merely to pleasure or entertainment, nor can sex education be reduced to technical instruction aimed solely at protecting the interested parties from possible disease or the “risk” of procreation.

This would be to impoverish and disregard the deeper meaning of sexuality, a meaning which needs to be acknowledged and responsibly appropriated not only by individuals but also by the community. It is irresponsible to view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure, and likewise to regulate it through strategies of mandatory birth control.

In either case materialistic ideas and policies are at work, and individuals are ultimately subjected to various forms of violence. Against such policies, there is a need to defend the primary competence of the family in the area of sexuality, as opposed to the State and its restrictive policies, and to ensure that parents are suitably prepared to undertake their responsibilities.

Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource. Populous nations have been able to emerge from poverty thanks not least to the size of their population and the talents of their people.

On the other hand, formerly prosperous nations are presently passing through a phase of uncertainty and in some cases decline, precisely because of their falling birth rates; this has become a crucial problem for highly affluent societies.

The decline in births, falling at times beneath the so-called “replacement level”, also puts a strain on social welfare systems, increases their cost, eats into savings and hence the financial resources needed for investment, reduces the availability of qualified labourers, and narrows the “brain pool” upon which nations can draw for their needs.

Furthermore, smaller and at times miniscule families run the risk of impoverishing social relations, and failing to ensure effective forms of solidarity. These situations are symptomatic of scant confidence in the future and moral weariness. It is thus becoming a social and even economic necessity once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person.

In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society, and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character."

In other words such "hotwiring" of abortion services into foreign aid is not aid at all. It neither benefits the donor nor the recipient. It is merely a selfish form of "demographic control" by rich countries over poorer countries.

What the Government proposes to do is simply Malthusian Economics. It was not true when Malthus wrote and it is not true now. When Malthus wrote, he was concerned about the growth of the population of the "underclass" in Britain. The Establishment felt that its wealth, status and position were sthreatened. The elite wished to pull up the drawbridge. It did not wish to share its wealth and power

Poverty was a akin to a disease, a form of malaise. The Poor Law was enforced in draconian ways. The Poor were a burden on the rich through the levy of the "Poor Law rate" levied on the rich to finance relief for the poor.

The Spirit of Malthus stalks the corridors of the British Department for International Development

To condemn less developed countries to a policy of population decline as has happened in Western Europe is to condemn less developed countries to a policy of decline and economic crisis as is now afflicting the West.

Behind the Pope`s words is a recognition of the social and political realities in places like Africa and others where development aid is required. In many places (not all) where aid is required, the countries are governed by corrupt governments.

Foreign aid goes from government to government. Foreign aid allows corrupt regimes to buy military equipment, pay off cronies and continue to oppress their people. These regimes do not respect the human rights of their people and have no conception of "good government" or power being a form of trust for the benefit of the people being governed. The rule of law does not exist.

Such "hard wiring" of aid policies will merely increase the burden of despotic rule.

Foreign aid benefits are measured in the West by quantitive measures of material wealth. Measures of materialism do not show qualitative benefits and more importantly disadvantages.

Unlike many foreign aid agencies who only stay a few years in a posting, the Catholic Church is there on the ground for generations and beyond. It lives with the people who need aid. In fact it is the people who need aid. One wonders why its message does not get through to foreign governments who are the donors of foreign aid.

Pope Benedict XVI spent a number of years composing his Encyclical. It would be unfortunate if his advice is now to be ignored by a Secretary of State who has only been in office since May of this year.

Especially as it is only about a month since the Pope visited Britain and was feted by the Government as a great spiritual leader and the Prime Minister vigorously asserted that Britain was still a Christian nation.

Or was it all just spin, a show ?