Monthly Archives: December 2013

As indicated by recent Eurobarometer data (see previous post), most of the Europeans are ready to provide help for the developing world, even if they do not know precisely the scope or magnitude of the problem (poverty). But do people in the West know how people living in the ‘developing world’, the Middle East included, think about themselves and the world around them? Or how poverty, development and democracy is related? Lipset (1959, 1960), Rostow (1960), Przeworski and his co-authors, to mention only the most influential ones were pretty much successful in exploring and analyzing the relations between development and democracy. As observed by Lipset ‘the more well-to-do a nation, the greater the chances that it will sustain democracy’ (1959: 75). To capture the essence of ‘well-to-do’, Lipset listed a list of conditions related to (correlated with) democracy, such as, industrialization, urbanization, wealth, and education and other ‘conditions’. The survival or sustainability of a democracy depends on its legitimacy which is ensured by its effectiveness, understood as stable economic development (Lipset 1960: 41). Being interested in the interactions between democracy and development, Przeworksi and his peers asked whether development brings about democracy, or it is development which helps sustain an already established democracy (2000). Their conclusion is the following in a nutshell: a certain level of development is needed for a democracy to endure, but development does not make democracy more likely to emerge. Taking a closer look at the results, further research was done and publications written related the debate (Wucherpfennig and Deutsch 2009).

Regardless to the academic debate surrounding data collection, methodology or the validity of findings one cannot get rid of the conviction that democracy and development is somehow related and (in)equality plays a great role in people’s capacity to democracy. If inequality matters, its definition definitely does. It is widely accepted to measure it by income and its distribution, Gini coefficient, other indexes and ratios. However, it is not that common to measure inequality by ‘public opinion surveys’, by asking people about their views and behaviour on equality in general.

Taking a closer look at the Arab Opinion Index conducted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACPRS, Doha) the 2012 survey shows great theoretical support for democracy and democratic changes in all the 12 Arab countries, the population of which was sampled representatively (more about the sampling: ACPRS 2012). At the same time, answers to an open-ended question on the definition of democracy revealed some sort of disagreement (variation) over the most important element(s) of democracy. While, 86% of the respondents (ca. 13000 people) was able to give a meaningful definition, the answers were very different in terms of the essence of democracy. 35% of the responses named ‘freedom, civil and political rights’ as the core element of democracy definition, only 21% defined ‘justice and equality’ as needed for defining democracy, whereas few others emphasized the ‘democratic system of government (8%), ‘improvement of citizens’ economic situation’ (6%) and ‘ensuring security and stability’ (6%). Acknowledging that even the academic sources can offer more hundred definitions to democracy, it cannot be doubted that modern democracy can neither exist, nor prosper without equality between its members. Gender equality, at least equal opportunities in daily life and human decision-making are minimum conditions for democracy. To measure it is more difficult than to measure income inequalities or to count voting rights.

Recalling Reinhold Niebuhr, the American political thinker’s famous thought – man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary – one may say that the ‘Arab Spring’ – the revolution(s) or intifada(t) – has been very promising and unpromising at the very same time. It has proved masses’ inclination to justice, but failed to produce the needed capacity for (creating) democracy. And even it is not necessarily the ‘revolution(s)’ which is (are) liable for creating the needed capacity, capacity (for justice, for democracy), a strong commitment for equality included, has not been strong and visible enough.


ACPRS (2012): Arab Opinion Index 2012,

ACPRS (2013): Arab Opinion Index 2013,

Lipset, Seymour (1959): Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy. American Political Science Review. 53 (March): 69-105,.

Lipset, Seymour (1960): Political Man. The Social Bases of Politics. New York: Doubleday

Niebuhr, Reinhold (1944): The Children of Night and the Children of Darkness. p. xxxii. University of Chicago Press

Przeworski, Adam, et al (2000) Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Material Well-being in the World, 1950-1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rostow, Walter (1960) The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Wucherpfennig, Julian –Deutsch, Franziska (2009): Modernization and Democracy: Theories and Evidence Revisited. Living Reviews in Democracy, Vol 1


To measure the attitudes of the European public towards development aid, EuropeAid commissions Eurobarometer public opinion surveys from time to time. The latest report, published in November 2013, covers 28 EU member states (the ‘old-new’ member states and Croatia) and focuses on four main areas: general awareness of extreme poverty; the perceived importance of development aid and of EU aid in the context of the economic crisis; the commitment of EU citizens to tackling poverty; their awareness of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, and their views on future priorities.

Results show that there are meaningful differences between the Western (Northern) and Eastern (Southern) parts of the EU in terms of evaluating the role EU citizens and EU aid can play in terms of poverty reduction.

While, in general, 83% of respondents think that it is (very) important to help people in developing countries, county-specific data show that eastern EU-countries are less convinced about the necessity of help (Hungary: 66%, Estonia: 68%, Slovenia: 71%) than people living in Western states (Sweden: 95%, Germany: 89%, Luxemburg 87%).

Beside the abstract question formulated on the necessity help, practical capacities were evaluated in a similar way. While 90% of Swedish respondents think they can play an active role in tackling poverty (Ireland: 65%, Luxembourg: 65%, Spain: 65%), people in the Eastern part of the EU have much less (self-)confidence. In Bulgaria only 10% of people think they can play a role in tackling poverty in developing countries (Estonia: 17%, Hungary: 28%).

With reference to the interaction between the donor and the donated, 87% of respondents in Sweden think that tackling poverty in developing countries has a positive influence on EU citizens (Finland: 83%, Denmark: 82%); the ‘causality’ is much less visible for those living in Central and Eastern Europe (26%: Bulgaria, Czech Republic: 39%, Slovakia: 39%).

The most telling data is related to knowledge. Almost 90 percent of the respondents estimated wrongly the magnitude of the problem (to be tackled by development and/or humanitarian aid), ie. the number of people living in extreme poverty.  Two-thirds, ie.  66% of Europeans believe that more than 1 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty (the statistically correct number is between 500 million – 1 billion) and 18% admitted ‘do not know’. The magnitude of poverty was overestimated regardless to the respondents’ nationality, age, profession or educational background (p. 8-9).

COM (2013): EU Development Aid and the Millennium Developing Goals. Special Eurobarometer 405. Publication date: November 2013 

The project focuses on foreign aid (and its role in the MENA region) and has not been so much interested in other forms of ‘international communication’ such as, for example, sanctions or boycotts, even if they could be understood as ‘negative aid’. Watching Ari Lesser’s Boycott Israel, but if you do, boycott all those other evil countries too, one can count almost 40 countries blamed for committing human rights violations (to mention a few: North Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Congo DRC and some other countries from SSA, numerous Latin-American countries, former CCCP (post-soviet) countries and Middle Eastern states). Three of the listed countries belong to the ‘West’ (Germany, US, Japan), two of them are mentioned due to their crimes committed in the first part of the 20th century (Germany and Turkey) and Japan is being held responsible for ‘slaughtering innocent’ whales. The Palestinian Authority (PNA) is not mentioned, probably for some sort of political correctness, even if it has also been liable for human rights abuses regardless to the question ‘who’ represents the PNA. Bypassing the obvious question (on the rationality of boycotts being a sort of ‘excommunication’ to use a Christian, religious term), it is worthwhile to compare this arbitrary list of countries with another one prepared by the World Bank.

If counties are ranked on the basis of net ODA received between 2009-2013, (1) Afghanistan (6,7 billion USD/year, average), (2) Congo DRC (5,5 billion USD/year), (3) Vietnam (3,5 billion USD) can be found on the top of the list. It continues with (5) Pakistan (3,5 billion USD), (6) India (3,22 billion USD) and (7) Turkey (3,19 billion USD). Ten of the top 25 ODA recipients (measured by net ODA and receiving at least 1 billion USD annually) are ‘qualified’ participants of the Lesser-video. There are quite many countries violating democratic and human rights (for example, Nigeria and Bangladesh) that are not mentioned by Lesser but being among the top 25. It must also be acknowledged that there are ‘differences’ in terms of the parameters of violence. Certain states, to be more precise, certain governments do not protect women and their rights, others tolerate executions for blasphemy or widely arresting or detaining persons (in most cases their own citizens) arbitrary. Lesser and those liking his performance blames the international community for applying double standards vis-à-vis Israel. He is concerned with the unproportional international attention devoted to the Palestinian rights. Or he may worry for those not getting enough international attention. 

In more general terms one might also ask about the ‘collective blindness’ of the international community which (countries, governments and public alike) not only ignores state sovereignty, responsibility and ‘national’ self-determination by providing institutionalized (mainly humanitarian, but also development) aid for those that should be cared by their own leadership, but also plays into the hands of the very same leaders committing various crimes against their own people (at least according to Western and/or universal standards). If the Western argument evolves about the ‘responsibility to protect’ principle related to humanitarian intervention, one may think about further ‘rights’ and ‘duties’ related to the abstract ‘social contracts’ existing (at least hypothetically) between a foreign (developed) country and a citizen of another (developing) one. It is much easier to ‘protect’ by providing aid than to provide conditions for a meaningful life for the rest of the world (too). And it is more likely that societies are divided due to their members’ uneven access to aid than kept together – provided that ‘community’ among the people ever existed within the (nation)state boundaries.

Ari  Lesser (2013): Boycott Israel. (accessed: 9-12-2013)

SPME (2013): Boycott Israel: Interview With Ari Lesser. (accessed: 9-12-2013)

World Bank (2013): Net Official Development Assistance Received. Online database

All knows that there is ‘good aid’ and ‘bad aid’, but it is very difficult to separate them, since aid is not purely a technical term. Humanitarian aid is said to be apolitical serving only principles (humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence to mention only the most relevant ones), development aid is about belief (in economic growth and/or poverty reduction), and military aid is explicitly about common interests (making allies). Regardless to its objectives or the motives behind foreign aid, even humanitarian aid, is deeply embedded in politics. Humanitarian aid can be offered purely on ‘humanitarian’ grounds. Resource scarcity – money being at the disposal of the donors – leads to certain selectivity even in terms of the disasters and catastrophes let them be natural or man-made. The scope and magnitude of the humanitarian activities surrounding, for example, the Syrian civil war (compared, for example to similar cases in Africa) says at least as much about donor preferences in terms of being good, as about the negligence of the Syrian government or about the preparedness of the neighboring countries to manage such crises. Foreign (mainly, but not exclusively Western) commitment, competencies and professionalism is needed in order to prevent larger catastrophes (measured by higher rate of mortality, lower rate of school enrollment ratio or that of vaccination, etc).

As the Syrian case will probably show in the future, ‘conflict resolution and post-war reconstruction concerns (…) could be seen as ‘the riot control’ end of a spectrum encompassing a broad range of ‘global poor relief’ (Duffield 2001: 9). The reasons – let them be economic or political, strategic or moral, developmental or humanitarian – for participation in form of foreign aid are secondary to the fact, that foreign assistance brings the ‘establishment’ of global governance closer to the recipient societies. This ‘closeness’ leads to further tensions among local stakeholders – as well as to further opportunities to intervene – by delegitimizing indigenous leadership and by alienating leaders from their own people, even in Syria. This argument, applied in the Palestinian case too (Paragi 2012b), can be formulated this way too: ‘the [donor] policy is most effective when objectives are more or less similar on both sides – (…) – where foreign aid support reforms which the [recipient] government itself wants to carry out’ (Stokke 1995: 79). If the recipient government does not really care about its own people (regardless to the question of democratic representation) further tensions will emerge in terms of implementing donor policies. Mark Duffield formulated it in the following way: ‘the condemnation of all violent conflict by liberal peace means that the leaders of violent conflicts are automatically problematized’ regardless to their motives and acts (Duffield 2001: 128–129). It is strange enough, but people usually tend to favour their own problematic (or problematized) leaders over foreign helpers. It is the ‘foreign’ adjective which would deserve more attention – not the effects, effectiveness or efficiency of any foreign help.

Gifts, in ancient and modern societies alike, serve the purpose of establishing relationships and maintaining hierarchies (Mauss 2002, Kolm 2006a). Equally, foreign aid, loans and grants alike, preserves hierarchical relations between the developed and developing world (Hattori 2001; Rist 2003; Karagiannis 2004; Paragi 2012b). Aid is an instrument to control peaceful and less peaceful developments in developing states the extent to which it helps control, among others, conflicts by means of prevention or resolution. It is a means to control (in)security and to manage risks; it is not merely ‘a technical system of support and assistance, but part of an emerging system of global governance’ (Duffield 2001: 2).

This control-function is usually exercised by setting conditions; some of them are explicitly stated, others are less visible (on peace conditionally see: Boyce 2002). Conditions are usually applied in order to maximize utility, to ensure that foreign aid is used in an efficient way, in line with the overall objectives of a given contract, for example, an aid agreement (on conditions, conditionality and pressure see: Sørensen 1993; Sørensen 1995; Stokke 1995; Killick 1998). Conditions entail at least two consequences. First, costs can be minimized by giving only to recipients that deserve generosity and trust (cf. the EU’s ‘more for more’ formulation vis-à-vis the Middle Eastern countries). Second, the donor can focus on the return of investment in order to see certain significant political, economic or social changes in the recipient country, such as, for example, stability and/or democracy in recipient countries.

To take the example of aid relations, donor ‘participation’ in the political and institutional structures of the recipient countries ‘required a conceptual framework which would allow for wide-ranging donor interventions in the political and economic affairs of the recipient economies. (…) Since the mid1990s, aid [its effects and effectiveness] is no longer considered an isolated economic variable but, instead, a function of the recipient country’s economic (and political) policies’ (Taghdisi-Rad 2011: 22). Setting and accepting conditions attached to the contract and the subsequent money transfer implies the giver’s involvement in the recipient’s life, let the recipient be a state, nation, people, authority, institution or any individual beneficiary.

Boyce, J. K. (2002) Investing in peace: aid and conditionality after civil wars. London: Institute for Strategic Studies

Duffield, M. (2001). New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security. London: Zed Books

Killick, T. (1998) Aid and the Political Economy of Policy Change. London: Routledge

Kolm, S-C. (2006a): ‘Introduction to the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity’ in Serge-Christophe Kolm – Jean Mercier Ythier (eds): Handbook of Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity. Vol1., Elsevier B. V. pp. 4-114