October 22, 2019

The End of British Soft Power

“EDINBURGH – Since the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID) was created 22 years ago, it has lifted millions out of poverty, sent millions of children to school, and saved millions of lives through vaccination programs and other innovative initiatives. Most recently, it has been a world leader in delivering development aid to poor countries facing the ravages of climate change.

Yet under a proposal now being explored by the transition team of the UK’ s likely next prime minister, Boris Johnson, DFID would be absorbed into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The new PM would be solving one problem – the unacceptable neglect of the British diplomatic service – by creating an even bigger one: the loss of perhaps Britain’s greatest global asset today: the soft power it exercises on every continent because of its pathbreaking commitment to ending world poverty.

As other countries have discovered, incorporating their international aid efforts into their external affairs offices harms both diplomatic and development efforts. No one gains when development, which thrives on transparency and external scrutiny, is subsumed by diplomacy, which requires confidentiality and is often marked by poor audit trails.

Of course, the Johnson team thinks it is appealing to a public that, for reasons for which I and others must take at least some responsibility, is not fully acquainted with the facts about what UK development aid can achieve. When asked, British voters seem to think that around 20% of the national budget is spent on overseas aid, when the true figure is closer to 1%. British parents are usually shocked to learn that their government’s total annual aid budget comes to around 50 pence ($0.63) per African schoolchild, which is not even enough for a pen, let alone a teacher or classroom.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"During the debate on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal in the United Kingdom’s Parliament on Saturday—which ended, as these things often have, with a vote calling for another delay—Johnson exposed the most basic blindness of Brexit..."

"Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, wants to change his story about Ukraine. On Thursday, at a press briefing, Mulvaney confirmed that when President Donald Trump suspended military aid to Ukraine in July, one reason was that..."

"I travelled with Bedouin in the Western Desert of Egypt. When we got a puncture, they used tape and an old inner tube to suck air from three tyres to inflate a fourth. It was the cook who suggested the idea; maybe he was used to making food..."

"The ultrasound technician places the wand on my daughter’s lower abdomen and moves it slowly across taut skin glistening with gel. I’ve been holding my breath since being ushered into the dimly lit cubicle to witness a sonogram that will..."

"Even many Democrats are criticizing Senator Elizabeth Warren for refusing to admit, in plain words, that her Medicare for All plan will require taxes to increase. They’re right to complain. The point could hardly be simpler: All presidential..."

"How do you update Watchmen for 2019? That might sound like a question with an obvious answer: You just do Watchmen. After all, the graphic novel, which has been consistently in print since its 12-volume run ended in 1987, is pretty terrific..."

"The climactic face-off of the 2019 Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg took place on a wide, sunny plaza, between a statue dedicated to the millions of anonymous miners who had toiled under inhuman..."

"Mark Zuckerberg has rarely been so compelling. Facing increased scrutiny — especially after leaked audio of an internal meeting in which Zuckerberg called Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) an existential threat — the Facebook CEO outlined his..."