Feb 6, 2014

defining "political conditions" in the humanitarian aid resolution

An important way to divide up ground between the Affirmative and Negative in the humanitarian aid resolution...
Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.
... is to fairly define "political conditions."

"Conditions" seems easy enough--to get this consequence, do this--but "political" is another story.

Look at some dictionary definitions of the word:
1. of, pertaining to, or concerned with politics: political writers.
2. of, pertaining to, or connected with a political party: a political campaign.
3. exercising or seeking power in the governmental or public affairs of a state, municipality, etc.: a political machine; a political boss.
4. of, pertaining to, or involving the state or its government: a political offense.
5. having a definite policy or system of government: a political community.
The first definition links circularly to the noun "politics," so we'll ignore it. The second is slanted toward the Affirmative, as it would make political conditions into a partisan affair, which would be difficult to justify. The third and fourth are quite broad, and also arguably the most contextual. The fifth is the most specific, which will relate well to operational definitions described later.

Under the broadest definitions, what counts as a political condition--and what doesn't? Pace Atmar, should we distinguish security conditions (your government must ensure basic aid worker safety) and capacity-building / development conditions (your government must invest in critical infrastructure projects) from human / civil rights conditions (your government must enact feminist reforms)?

Perhaps a way out is to investigate the topic literature. Tamer Qarmout and Daniel Beland, in "The Politics of International Aid to the Gaza Strip," found in The Journal of Palestine Studies, Summer 2012, p. 34, have a fairly concise operational definition:
Political conditionality usually links donor aid to the recipient's implementing programs in such areas as democratization and good governance.
More specific, to be sure, but also slanted toward the Negative, as it presumes generally beneficial aims. Still, even as it stands, it provides a clearer value comparison than just "saving lives vs. indeterminate government action."

We can get even more specific, though. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation's definition of political conditions tied to development aid is extensive (and typical):
The main criteria which are applied in a specific situation and to the behavior of other countries are failure to make efforts to achieve good governance, e.g. the deliberate and consistent blocking of reform-oriented measures; serious violations of human rights, in particular grave discrimination of minorities; the interruption or revoking of democratization processes; serious infringements against peace and security (war, warmongering, state terror); reluctance to accept the right of return of nationals (refugees).
It's important to note, though, that in Swiss practice, humanitarian aid is entirely exempt from these conditions. (That doesn't change the definition of the conditions themselves, of course.) Whether that's warranted, of course, is the whole question of the debate.

I'll be on the lookout for other definitions, and if you've found something useful, share it in the comments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the Swiss may not have conditions on foreign humanitarian aid but you notice how it is always america giving the aid not the Swiss. If we don't have the conditions on this aid then in 10 years when the same country has the same problem and we will have to give more aid the reason being they did not fix the problem. if we put political conditions on the aid then the problem is more likely to be solved.