“Western countries may use their aid to compromise or undermine recipient countries’ sovereignty”, scholar
Ethiopian Herald BY Girmachew Gashaw
Aid has become the best tradable commodity for powerful nations. And, a cutting donation has already become a means to impose the will of the strongest nations. Aid in fact appears to be a bargaining chip in the relation between the strong and the weak. In fact, Aid policy, is almost as an extension of colonial-era these days, for aid recipient countries particularly African countries, which got independence in the mid-1960s.
For the above reasons, the issue of trade and aid has for long been contentious one igniting fierce debate among international relation experts. While some consider aid as a continuation of the babysitting role by the colonial powers, some others argue that aid is an approach meant to foster economic development in developing countries. The issue at stake is sovereignty.
Powerful countries could meddle in the internal affairs of their aid recipient countries. But there are those who think that aid could serve to fill development gaps and its effectiveness hangs on the recipient countries in striking a balance between the attached preconditions of aid and their sovereignty. Above all, nowadays the rhetoric has shifted to expanding trade than aid. As a developing country, Ethiopia is no different. The country receives a huge chunk of money in terms of aid annually. However, things are different when it comes to Ethiopia. Being the only uncolonized nation, in Africa, Ethiopia on the contrary is known for its scarification and commitment to defend its interests and sovereignty. At this time, the country even if among the top recipient of aid is determined to maintain that status quo.
When Ethiopia first entered into relations with donors in the 1950s, it did so as a sovereign state—one that had been established, in varying forms, for several hundred years—with its own domestic governance structures, as various documents stated. And, the country has still retained a degree of control and ownership over its policy agenda that is greater than elsewhere, and has a relatively strong track record of implementation once policies are agreed upon.
Speaking to MPs recently on the law enforcement operation in Tigray state, Prime Minister amplified this fact as he said Ethiopia can never compromise in its sovereignty for the sake of aid.
“While we appreciate and understand the interests of the international community to assist in the ongoing law enforcement operations, we would like to underscore that this must be done in accordance with international law. This, first and foremost, means the international community should stand by until the government of Ethiopia submits its request for assistance to the community of nations.”
Ethiopia is a country with a long and proud history of statehood. It is one of the early members of the League of Nations and a founding member of the United Nations. It is also one of the architects of the Organization of African Unity, said the Premier adding that a fundamental element of the international legal order is the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states, which is enshrined in Article2(7) of the Charter of the United Nations.
“The International Court of Justice has also repeatedly affirmed those principle asserting that the principle of non-intervention involves the right of every sovereign state to conduct its affairs without outside interference … international law requires political integrity.. to be respected”.
This principle is also embedded in the legal and normative order of the African Union. All countries are sovereign ones and there is no international law or convention that allows one country to interfere in the affairs of another. No nation be it stronger or weak has the right to interfere in the internal matters of others other than expressing their own concern on specific areas of concern, said lecturer of Political Philosopher at Jimma University, who spoke with The Ethiopian Herald under a condition of anonymity.
Resisting the influence of powerful countries is largely depending on the capacity of aid receiving countries. Some countries like Ethiopia do not attach more care towards aid than protecting their sovereignty even if the donor countries have a veto-power to influence the recipients in many ways. All in all, aid will never and should never compromise Ethiopia’s sovereignty, he added.
While it is certainly not unusual for recipient governments to take key policy decisions in for a where donors are absent, in Ethiopia the relatively tight control over the national policy agenda maintained by a small sub-set of key actors within a ruling party makes it an intriguing case to those trying to understand how aid dependency is managed.
Endale Nigussie, lecture at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations of Civil Service University said that some western countries may use their aid to compromise or undermine recipient countries’ sovereignty. But, Ethiopia has never been colonized and doesn’t give up its sovereignty for the sake of aid compromising its sovereignty, he added “ So many African countries or developing countries may compromise their sovereignty formulating their foreign policy in a way that is suitable for donors. That is the reason many countries engaged in long civil wars.”
Ethiopia has friends but the relation between them is technical aid or humanitarian aid vis-à-vis. This has been a long-favored tradition of diplomacy. But the country promotes mutual interest without any political interference respecting the sovereignty of other countries and it never tolerates any infringements of its internal affairs by other countries as well.
Ethiopia should not be an aid-addicted country and must never give away its sovereignty for the sake of aid. Basically, sovereignty is expressed by the implementation of diplomacy. Ethiopia has not been compromising its sovereignty for over 3,000 and above years, Endale said.
“Of course we are developing states and we have to receive development aid so as to fight poverty and bring much-needed development. But always we should not compromise our sovereignty be its interest in bilateral and multilateral undertakings for the sake of aid.”
According to him, Ethiopia does not have a tradition to engage in the formulation of diplomacy which compromises its sovereignty so as to gain foreign aid. The best example in this regard is, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Studies suggest that the Government limits donor influence over the policy agenda (intentionally as well as unintentionally) by simultaneously pursuing a program of decentralized implementation while centralizing discussions with donors largely at the Federal level. The Government also balances a mix of traditional and nontraditional sources of financing in order to maximize aid inflows while retaining control of the policy agenda