Kony 2012

I’m currently using my Senior Synthesis blog as a medium to post this essay for a few days. I support the message of Kony 2012, HOWEVER, I do also have differing views about aid in Africa. You’re welcome to read and contact me via twitter at @DomLeplat with questions.

Also, read this for reference. http://justiceinconflict.org/2012/03/07/taking-kony-2012-down-a-notch/

 

TheCotonouAgreement & its Restraints on PostcolonialAfrica: Questioning the Effectiveness of Developmental Aid Programs

Introduction

            Current situations in many postcolonial African countries are alike.  Even after more than fifty years of political independence, many underdeveloped countries on the continent continue to suffer from economic, political, social and ecological tribulations which they cannot seem to climb out of.  Many of these countries have become politically independent during large increases of globalization, both economically and culturally and are fellow participants in global trading systems.  Upon entrance into this system, these countries had been given little knowledge, tools or aid to form their own successful liberalized system.  Colonizing countries did allow these new nation states political freedom but left them without the means to enter this new liberalized trading system successfully.  Shortly after independences, political disarray ensued including many human rights violations, political corruption and violence among these underdeveloped postcolonial nation states.

 Many institutions have set up numerous developmental aid programs to assist these countries in becoming self-sustaining, only to see violence, poverty and a lack of development continue.  Governmental organizations, the European Union in particular, have attempted to tackle these issues through developmental aid programs that highlight these specific issues that must be confronted.  By joining together with leaders in a number of underdeveloped nations (most from the African continent), the European Union and other governmental organizations created the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) and Least Developed Country (LDC) lists to note countries worldwide that need the largest amounts of aid.  This paper will specifically focus on the work that the EU has done with ACP countries in terms of the Cotonou Agreement; a document based off of the previous Lomé Agreement which covers multiple aspects to assist in development including a great deal of economic, political and social issues.

However, the Cotonou Agreement’s lack of effectiveness raises the question if aid programs are actually restraining ACP countries from becoming self-sustaining.  Though these countries are receiving a large amount of economic aid and development assistance, is the real problem that the ACP nations are becoming so involved in the pressures to adopt Western political ideals and be involved in the globalized trading system that they haven’t attempted to solve problems in a more local perspective?  By reviewing Postcolonial Theory in terms of globalization, this paper will examine why the Cotonou Agreement’s pressuring guidelines for aid to adopt democratization and global homogenization in the terms of Western views has prevented ACP countries’ development into self-sustaining nations.  The agreement’s objectives are successful in addressing human rights and social issues that ACP countries need to resolve, but its effects have proved to be detrimental as the specific guidelines the countries must follow to receive aid deters from the main focus for change.  Globalization has the opportunity to be a great help to underdeveloped African nations, but only after they establish their own firm political base constructed without Western guidelines and influence.

Aspects of the Cotonou Agreement

            After its implementation in place of the Lomé Agreement in 2000, participating EU countries in the Cotonou Agreement agreed to “promote and expedite the economic, cultural, and social development of ACP states, with a view contributing to peace and security and to promoting a stable and democratic political environment” (qtd. in Udombana 71).  The main difference of the Lomé was that of the “peace and security” which specifically concerned human rights and poverty reduction.  As the agreement states “…without development and poverty reduction there will be no sustainable peace and security, and that without peace and security there can be no sustainable development” (EC 6).  The key point of this objective is the “democratic aspect” as this is the type of political system that participating EU members have hoped to effectively set into practice in these ACP countries.  However, much of their efforts have been prevented by consistent political unrest and poverty among the nation state’s citizens.  Subcommittees of the Cotonou Agreement such as the Joint Parliamentary Assembly which is “composed of equal numbers of EU and ACP representatives” are also key parts of the decision making process (qtd. in Udombana 86).  The agreement states that this committee “promote(s) democratic processes through dialogue and consultation…(and)…facilitate(s) greater understanding between the peoples of the European Union and those of the ACP states…” with a main focus of issues concerning development (EC 9).  This highlights the guideline for ACP countries to adopt democratic political systems as the EU participants believe this will be the most successful type of structure.

            The most important aspect of the Cotonou Agreement is the financial aid given to ACP countries to achieve these goals.  Funds are given to the countries based on the categories of its objectives listed above, as well as for economic development through the liberalized international trading system.   These countries also receive breaks in the international trading systems and are allowed low-tariff trading with EU participating countries; most LCD countries receive free-tariff trading.  The amount of aid given to each country varies, as stated by the Agreement: “Appropriate weight…shall be given to the corresponding measures in the ACP states’ and regions’ development strategies” depending on both their economic need and their political stability (EC 19).  Generally, countries that are in more need of economic aid are also those that generally are dealing with issues of violence, political uprising and human rights violations.  The European Union will continue to give aid to ACP countries who are governmentally attempting to combat these issues but the unfortunate truth is that there is little progress within these problem countries.  The issue now is to examine why this aid and pressures to be highly involved in globalization have continued to be ineffective ways to give many ACP and LDC countries the opportunity to be self-sustaining.

Initial Issues Concerning the Cotonou Agreement

            Criticisms of international aid to developing postcolonial countries reflect Gikandi’s comments on globalization that “citizens of the postcolony are more likely to seek their global identity by invoking the very logic of Enlightenment that postcolonial theory was supposed to deconstruct” (Gikandi 475).  These ACP countries accept the democratic political guidelines of the Cotonou Agreement not only based on the fact that they will receive aid for it but also because it means they have a position among the liberal international community.  However, this liberal political and economic system may not be the most effective option for developing countries.  William Brown comments “The process of decolonisation was paradoxical insofar as it represented an extension of a liberal international order and created obstacles and challenges to such an order” where democratic practices proved to be ineffective as “these superficially liberal systems did not last long” and corrupt dictatorships took over political rule (Brown 2000).  As Nsongurua Udombana quotes one of his additional works:

”The West must recognize that underdeveloped societies are not likely to become democratic. Democracy will not thrive in instability.  The West cannot simultaneously demand democracy and deny development.  It cannot expect people to cherish the ballots when their stomachs are hungry” (qtd. Udombana 90).

 

This leads to the largest problem that lies ahead for European Union members of the Cotonou Agreement: poverty and social instability must be significantly decreased before any kind of successful democratic system can exist.

            While continuous attempts to solidify democratic elections in ACP countries are being made, local people continue to starve, contract deadly diseases in large numbers such as HIV/AIDS and are victims of human rights violations and sexual abuse.  It is quite easy to falsely assume that if there is some sort of political instability, these problems will begin to decrease.  However, after more than forty years of work between the Lomé and Cotonou Agreements, it is quite apparent that the order in which these problems are examined needs to be re-appropriated.  Udombana comments on these issues, stating that “Spending on public health, housing and education      and other social services has been severely curtailed, resulting in a sharp decline in the quality of life in Africa” (Udombana 99).  Even within these social problems, the manner in which they are attacked must be reviewed, says Udombana. “Resources dedicated to fighting war or resolving civil and interstate conflicts could be freed to fight a different battle-poverty and underdevelopment” (Udombana 108).  In addition to the re-appropriation of these issues, Western influence and conditions that come along with aid from the Cotonou Agreement must be reviewed.

Political Formulations: More Local, Less Global

            It would be extreme to say that all aid to African countries should be stopped; many of these countries have thousands of people who are in need.  However, none of these ACP and LDC countries will be able to provide for their citizens or be a significant part in the liberal international order without a solid political foundation.  The problem here is that this political foundation is not going to come from the democratic ideals of their Western help.  The government leaders of ACP and LDC countries must continue to receive aid for social programs but must take their political systems into their own hands.  The EU must intervene when there is political corruption that cannot be controlled internally but African leaders must create their own governments.  It may be attractive for these leaders to accept the globalized ideal of Western democracy, but this only continues the “…homogenizing notions such as modernization, the authority of the nation-state as the central institution in the management of social relationships, and the idea of culture as the embodiment of symbolic hierarchies…” that continue to oppress these underdeveloped nations even after decolonization (Gikandi 476).

            The effects of pressure to democratize have continued to leave ACP and LDC countries in political disarray.  “Africa must get out of the mentality of dependence on foreign resource transfers and commit themselves toward new and radical ideas” say Udombana, nothing that aid is still completely necessary at this point but the political pressures of the EU must be dissolved in the Cotonou Agreement.  Aid should be for the people, not for the deployment of certain political views says Brown: “economic support…should be granted to the South with as few conditions as possible set over its use…or political situation inside the recipient state” (Brown 2000).  This gives developing countries a chance to develop on their own without certain political recommendations and pressures.  These restraints keep ACP and LDC countries within the grasp of their colonizers and without them, they have more of a chance to prosper.  The political processes are therefore localized and globalization of politics will not be possible until there is a solid foundation.

Modern Imperialism’s Hold on Africa

            After reviewing what the European Union can do to lessen their political grip over the future of ACP countries through the Cotonou Agreement, the issue of African natural resources must be raised.  One of the main reasons for the European colonization ofAfricawas to tap into the rich natural resources that the continent holds; precious materials including oil, copper, diamonds and other minerals are consistently in high demand.  The issue with decolonization for colonizing countries is that with the independence of colonies came a loss of cheap and easily accessible natural resources.  Now with the implementation of documents such as the Cotonou Agreement, participating EU countries essentially have complete control of ACP countries’ economies including their resources.  These continuing controls have been often criticized as Imperialistic and allowing these Western nations complete access to natural resources that they feared losing during decolonization.

            Western colonizing countries took advantage of their colonies as another source capitalistic growth, especially in the international trading systems.  Author Ania Loomba states “Modern colonialism did more than extract tribute, goods and wealth from the countries that it conquered-it restructured the economies of the latter, drawing them into a complex relationship with their own” but the unfortunate fact is that “whichever direction human beings and materials travelled, the profits always flowed back into the so-called ‘mother country’” (Loomba 9).  The paradox that exists within this closely interlaced economic system between colony and colonizer is that though Western colonizers were feeding the economies of disadvantaged countries and helping them grow, the colonies were never receiving the money necessary to for them to become self-sufficient when the time for independence came.  Though they had created a complex and developed trading system, it was a system consistently controlled by the colonizer and was bound to fall apart once the responsibilities shifted to the newly independent African nation.  It is now imperative that the issues at the forefront of the quest for ACP nations’ self-sufficiency lie within the political and economic holds that Western countries continue to have from aid programs such as the Cotonou Agreement and that these European nations must reevaluate the intensity of their guidelines for receiving aid.

Conclusion

            Though postcolonial African countries have received political independence, their dependence on foreign aid by governmental programs such as the Cotonou Agreement has hardly allowed them to be fully independent, self-sustaining countries.  With so many political pressures to implement Western-based democratic systems in terms of guidelines for aid, the more important issues of social stability and the well being of these countries citizens has been ignored.  Aid cannot completely stop as it would keep these countries in a stage of disarray and political corruption and uprisings would continue. The European Union and African nation state participants of the Cotonou Agreement must re-evaluate the conditions in which ACP countries are receiving this aid and full governmental control must be given to the leaders of the ACP countries upon the grounds that they do not have serious political unrest that should require military assistance.  This way, the African government officials can work on “strengthening [their] capacit[ies] to govern and develop long-term policies” while continuing to receive aid from the European Union to help with social issues such as hunger and poverty (Udombana 90).  In addition to this governmental freedom, participating EU countries in the Cotonou Agreement must reassess their agenda for ACP countries in a more ethical manner.  Though these countries are no longer imperialistic colonizers, they have evolved into an “empire” that continues to control as they please.  Loomba notes postcolonial authors Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, stating that “whereas the old imperial world was marked by competition between different European powers, the new order is characterized by a ‘single power that overdetermines them all, structures them in a unitary way, and treats them under one common notion of right that is decidedly postcolonialist and postimperialist’” (qtd. in Loomba 214).  There must be an even balance of economic aid and political freedom in ACP countries or they will never receive the opportunity to prosper.

 

Works Cited

Brown, William. “Restructuring North-South Relations: ACP-EU Development Co-Operation in a Liberal International Order.” Review of African Political Economy 27.85 (2000): 367-83.

European Union. Second Revision of the Cotonou Agreement-Agreed Consolidated Text.Brussels, 2010. <http://ec.europa.eu/development/icenter/repository/second_revision_cotonou_agreement_20100311.pdf&gt;

Gikandi, Simon. “Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality.” The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. 2nd ed.London: Routledge, 2008. 473-76.

Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. 2nd ed.London: Routledge, 2005.

Udombana, Nsongurua. “Back to Basics: The ACP-EU CotonouTrade Agreement and Challenges for the African Union.”Texas International Law Journal 40.1 (2004): 59-111.

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