Tag Archives europe

Addressing the deadly impacts of heatwaves in Europe – The European Union Must Do More

Addressing the deadly impacts of heatwaves in Europe – The European Union Must Do More

This year in June and July (and into this month of August), a global heatwave led to an increase in deaths and disasters. Several European countries were largely impacted, including ...

COVID-19: Should Europe embrace frugality?

COVID-19: Should Europe embrace frugality?

The Covid-19 pandemic, emerging in the aftermath of the recent global financial crisis, could potentially further shake the confidence that Europeans have in their institutions. Rigid and slow decision-making processes ...

EADI/ISS Series | Re-Politizing the European Aid Debate by Iliana Olivié and Aitor Pérez

Aid or, at least, its narrative, is increasingly politicised. This is happening in a period of emerging populist and/or nationalist movements in Europe. Maybe counter-intuitively, nationalism or populism does not necessarily lead to decreasing aid budgets or a lower profile for international assistance. The explanation lies in the fact that aid, when used politically, can be a useful tool for fulfilling donors’ interests.


The economic, social and political crises that have erupted in Europe in the last decade might be shifting the academic debate on the drivers of aid from the more traditional selfish vs. solidary divide to a―somehow related―new divide on Nationalism vs. Liberalism-Cosmopolitanism. Recent examples are the Brexit process, or the rise of populist movements in Europe.

Most analyses of the drivers of Northern donors published in the last two decades have pointedly explored the extent to which countries contribute aid according to ‘good’ or altruistic motives (based on recipient needs and/or merits and driven by solidarity), or ‘bad’ or selfish reasons (essentially the donors’ national interests). A great deal of these studies concludes that, indeed, Northern countries give aid out of selfish motives, often related to security or wealth, which is seen as something morally reprehensible. According to this literature, donors should shift to a more altruistic view of aid, that should be grounded in the principle of solidarity.

Currently, a new divide between Nationalism and Liberalism-Cosmopolitanism is emerging in the academic debate on aid. To counter the ‘cultural backlash’ of either lobbying against aid, or for using aid to shut ‘the other’ out in many European countries and sectors, some academics and activists point out the need for aid as a tool for the promotion of democracy, civil and human rights and a liberal ideal of world society. In this sense, aid can be used selfishly, but for the promotion of one’s values, not interests.

Aid to support political priorities

This new divide is one of the factors behind the current trend towards a ‘re-politization’ of aid, and signs of such trend manifest in the European aid narrative. For instance, the European Commission’s President-elect Ursula Von der Leyen’s mission letter to the new EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, states that it is necessary to ensure that “the European model of development evolves in line with new global realities […] and should contribute to our wider political priorities”. This is followed by more specific objectives, such as a comprehensive strategy for Africa, a post-Cotonou agreement, working towards the achievement of the SDGs, the promotion of gender equality and the support of civil society.

The ‘re-politization’ of aid, ‘politization’ or merely ‘politics’ is one of the driving ideas of our book “Aid power and politics”, recently published by Routledge. For instance, a sense of Liberalism and/or Cosmopolitanism lay behind the British former role as an aid super-power. In the late 90s and the beginning of this century, the UK played a strong leadership role in aid and development, building a strong capacity to influence the international aid community and, particularly, EU development cooperation policy. In a similar vein, the Scandinavian approach to aid―depicted as humane―responds to cosmopolitan and moral considerations. These values may be found among the policy drivers in this policy area, along with enlightened self-interest related to international common goods.

This perspective also applies in the case of Brazil. This country has been one of the most active countries in South-South cooperation over the past two decades. A significant feature of Brazilian cooperation policy has been its wide coverage, in geographical, sectorial as well as instrumental terms. Moreover, Brazil has channelled a large part of its cooperation policy through multilateral organisations and has established relevant alliances with other emerging countries. In this context, the purpose of reforming the major multilateral organisations and the search for greater international projection have led Brazil to establish South-South coalitions, in its search of regional and global leadership.

Aid as a tool for shaping global governance

In other cases, it would be difficult to argue that Liberalism and/or Cosmopolitanism is the vision behind the donor’s aid program. For instance, under the constitution adopted after the Second World War, Japan was prevented from sending its Defence Forces abroad, or from solving international conflicts by military means. This is what has made development assistance an important tool in its international relations. Economic diplomacy is a key concept for Japan when dealing with developing countries. At the domestic level, development assistance is also a tool to stimulate the Japanese economy, assisting small- and medium-sized companies, in particular to establish themselves in less developed parts of the world. Also, in Hungary, the aid system was reformed in the mid 2010s, when the government took stronger political ownership of the policy area with a view of using foreign aid to support Hungarian business interests.

From this perspective, it could be argued that, when used politically, aid can be a tool for donors’ aiming at shaping global governance. This explains the evolving nature of ‘donorship’ as a result of the increasing weight of non-Western donors. It is also the reason why health objectives have shifted due to the appearance of private stakeholders in the global health system.

….Or the other way round?

However, this could also go the other way around: specific agendas, set in the aid universe, can shape the behaviour of countries or other agents.

These mechanics can be better understood with the study of specific agendas such as gender equality or democracy and good governance. In this latter case, this agenda, which became central in the aid regime in the late 1980s and 1990s, also faced difficulties in its implementation due to the confrontation of the international liberal consensus with domestic politics in recipient countries. As for gender equality, donor organisations cannot avoid addressing it in their development cooperation, but they can do so in substantially different ways. In the end, organisational origins, priorities and pressures, as well as normative environments, tend to bias and dilute global norms on gender equality.

Aid or, at least, its narrative, is increasingly politicised. In addition, this is happening in a period of emerging populist and/or nationalist movements or political parties in Europe. Maybe counter-intuitively, nationalism or populism does not necessarily lead to decreasing aid budgets or a lower profile for international assistance. The explanation lies in the fact that aid – eventually, re-shaped – can be a useful tool for fulfilling donors’ interests.


This article is part of a series launched by the EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes) and the ISS in preparation for the 2020 EADI/ISS General Conference “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. It was also published on the EADI blog.

About the authors:

0 Iliana OliviéIliana Olivié is senior analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute and associate professor at the Complutense University of Madrid. At the upcoming EADI ISS Conference “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”, Iliana Olivié will be hosting the roundtable session “What values and goals drive international assistance? Solidarity, self-interest, democracy and security in European aid”.

foto-perfilAitor Pérez is senior research fellow at the Elcano Royal Institute.

 


Image Credit: Defence Images, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0. The image was cropped.

EADI/ISS Series | Bridging EU- & Postdevelopment Studies: Four Avenues by Sarah Delputte and Jan Orbie

EADI/ISS Series | Bridging EU- & Postdevelopment Studies: Four Avenues by Sarah Delputte and Jan Orbie

Postdevelopment debates are relatively new to scholars studying the EU's Development Policy. However, bridging EU development and post-development can help us to think about (normative) alternatives to EU development, both ...

Right-Wing Populism and Counter-Movements in Rural Europe by Natalia Mamonova

Right-Wing Populism and Counter-Movements in Rural Europe by Natalia Mamonova

Right-wing populism has gained high levels of support among rural population in Europe. How could this happen and what are the solutions? Natalia Mamonova, of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative, ...

Human security and migration in Europe: a realistic approach by Ali Bilgiç

Human security is not a moralistic utopia but a realistic approach to migration, which takes European citizens’ insecurities seriously by focusing on human security of migrants. It is now time to bravely and innovatively rethink Europe and migration, and by extension, what kind of European political community can be imagined.


 

Today, many individuals, whether European citizens or migrants in(to) Europe, live under fear and anxiety. These two types of insecurity are different, but inherently connected. Both are lives under fear, because Europe’s migration (mis)management dichotomise these two lives—these two insecurities. However, European migration (mis)management policies dichotomise the security of European citizens and migrants from the global South. This dichotomy leads to the three dialectics of European migration (mis)management:

  1. Limited Legal Migration Channels and ‘Criminalisation’ of Mobility: The reduction of legal migration routes, combined with continuing high demand for many types of labour from abroad, has led to higher irregular migration and to the flourishing of the smuggling business.
  2. Mutual Distrust: The European border management system operates based on distrust towards migrants. Such distrust by Europe towards migrants feeds into distrust from migrants to Europe.
  3. Mutual human insecurity: The condition of ‘illegality’ is a source of human insecurity for both migrants and European citizens. Each group’s attempts to secure itself cause insecurity for the other.

Human Securitising Migration in Europe

There have been several renditions and implications of human security. In my understanding, which matches that adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2012, human security broadly refers to each individual’s freedom from fear (threats such as physical and direct violence), from want (meaning unemployment, poverty, sickness), and from indignity (exclusion, exploitation, and discrimination). It imagines communities in which political, economic and social systems do not inflict physical and structural violence on individuals.

Human security is explicitly about problematising power relations that inflict violence on individuals and communities. Being conscious of power relations, human security reveals that the security of those who are disadvantaged and marginalised and the security of those who are more privileged in different power relations are, in fact, inherently connected. A human security perspective asks the following questions:

How does the interaction between economic and political structures in Europe produce violence, fear and anxiety for individuals?

The three dialectics of migration mismanagement result from Europe’s political and economic choices in the last five decades. A human security researcher begins her analysis by questioning political, economic, legal, and sociological consequences of these choices which constructed migration from the global South as a security problem in the first place. A migration management policy starts with turning the mirror to Europe and asks how European policies contribute to the criminalisation of migration.

How do European external relations produce or obscure human security?

Europe’s external relations regarding migration have fundamentally two dimensions. The first one targets the countries of origin to tackle ‘the root causes’ of migration. In theory, addressing root causes of migration can be praised from a human security perspective because they are supposed to address structural problems that inflict violence on individuals. However, first, ‘the root causes’ do not affect all individuals in the same way so addressing ‘the root causes’ does not provide us with a quick solution that is applicable to all. Second, the root causes approach must be a long term policy, which should be accompanied by opening legal and circular migration channels to Europe. A smart root causes approach aims to manage migration, not stop it. Otherwise, it is self-defeating.

Another area that human security researchers can question is EU relations with its North African and Middle Eastern neighbours in particular, the field I have been studying in the last ten years. In the last 30 years, Europe has developed the policy of containing migrants in the EU’s neighbourhood by transforming the neighbouring states into ‘Europe’s border guards’. We call this process ‘externalisation’ of migration management. Highly problematic deals with the neighbouring countries to keep migrants on their territories do not consider rising ethnic and racial tensions and exploitation of migrants’ cheap labour, which encourage migrants to continue their migration.

How can the human security of migrants, EU citizens and citizens of neighbouring regions be addressed together, and not opposed to each other?

Human security of one social group cannot—sustainably and successfully—be pursued at the expense of another group. This idea is known as the principle of common human security. It can be traced back at least to the foundation of the United Nations. The current migration management regime of Europe divides groups. This is not to argue that European authorities are not responsible for the security of EU citizens. On the contrary, it encourages and calls European sovereign authorities to take the human insecurities of EU citizens seriously by acknowledging that their security depends on the human security of non-EU citizens.

Against the backdrop of these three questions, several policy research areas regarding migration to Europe from a human security perspective can be thought. For example, one research area concerns developing a new language that surpasses the dichotomies of ‘good migrant’ and ‘bad migrant’, ‘refugee’ and ‘economic migrant’. Reflecting the common human security perspective and deriving from the EU Commission’s calls for developing ‘a migrant-centred approach’ in migration management, human security research explores a new language that reflects realities of contemporary human mobility.

Another research area can be how European political community can regain the trust of migrants so they do not feel the need to be ‘invisible’. A question can be asked what institutional mechanisms can be designed at the EU level, and possibly beyond European borders, to re-establish a relationship based on trust, not fear, between migrant and Europe. In my book Rethinking Security in the Age of Migration, I developed the concept of ‘protection-seeker’ and proposed an EU-level regularisation mechanism, examples of which we can observe in several South American states including Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil.

Human security is not a moralistic utopia but a realistic approach to migration, which takes European citizens’ insecurities seriously by focusing on human security of migrants. It is now time to bravely and innovatively rethink Europe and migration, and by extension, what kind of European political community can be imagined.


This article is based on the lecture of Dr. Ali Bilgiç, presented on 12 April 2018 for his inauguration as holder of the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity 2017-19 in the area of ‘Migration and Human Security’ at the ISS. An interview with him (in Dutch) can be found here.


Picture credit: European Union Naval Force Somalia Operation Atalanta


ali_bilgic_op_prins_claus_leerstoel_migratie_en_menselijkeAli Bilgiç is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Loughborough University. He has a Ph.D. from Aberystwyth University and a MA in European Politics from Lund University. He is the author of Rethinking Security in the Age of Migration: Trust and Emancipation in Europe (Routledge, 2013) and Turkey, Power and the West: Gendered International Relations and Foreign Policy (I.B. Tauris, 2016).