Short on words, but long on things to say

Anyone get the reference?

I’ve been a little quiet recently as I’m on holiday at the moment, flitting around East and South-East Asia visiting relatives and friends, while trying to keep in touch with the office. I’m still doing a bit of work, and so to make room for my mission to eat all of Asia and see as many friends as possible, blogging has fallen on the wayside and my link to the news has been tenuous at best (as best as I can work out, someone got married and someone else got killed in the last couple of days and I hope I have them the right way round).

That said, a lot of the people I’ve been meeting with are development friends, so I’ve had a few vigorous arguments that I’m going to blog about on my return. Prior to setting out my thoughts in detail, there are two questions in particular that I am really interested to get some initial views on before I return to set out my own thoughts in detail. They are:

  1. With Uganda seemingly in incipient rising (this follows widespread riots less than 2 years ago), would a series of revolutions or popular risings be a good thing in Africa? Do readers think that a widely-backed movement to remove leaders in the southern portion of the continent would be met with the same scarcely contained glee from the West, and would it offer any more hope for the future than what we have now?
  2. And secondly, a question about the structure of development work: should we have different criteria on which we assess multilateral and bilateral agencies? What is the right mix of the two approaches to development intervention and support? Do we need both? Are their incentives sufficiently different, and their efficiency sufficiently similar to justify both kinds of development support?

The latter question arises after a long and thoughtful argument with some friends just a few nights ago. My own position (on a different phrasing of these questions) was very much in the minority, so I’m keen to open it up a bit and listen more before I go off on one of my epic rants. Thoughts welcome.

5 thoughts on “Short on words, but long on things to say

  1. ZakT

    May 3, 2011 at 4:28pm

    Surely it can only be good things provided these are movements that seek to further democratise their respective countries. Without the Musevenis, Compares, Biyas and Mugabes of this world democracy can be given a real chance in countries, which, regrettably, have not really had the chance in their short life-spans. What has been telling throughout the Arab Spring is the rulers who have tried to play up the differences between their country and north. Those are the autocrats who feel truly insecure. Wade, Mugabe and Museveni are prime examples. If revolutions in spread south, then I think the West will have two things in mind. First, avoiding a repeat of Iraq and second if they do spur these revolutions by providing assistance they must do so with a UN resolution in hand. That is if they wish to maintain any semblance of public support.

  2. Stanley

    May 4, 2011 at 9:32am

    About Uganda.

    You are fooled by the theatre that is being played right now.

    There is no opposition in Uganda. The bogus opposition are all former best Banyankole friends of M7, their actions well coordinated with him.

    The so-called protest revolves around high commodity prices.

    In a country of 90% peasants & farmers, net exporters of food & commodities – effectively feeding S.Sudan and other neighbours- Ugandans are making a killing out of high those prices and excellent trade opportunities.

    Instead of ridiculing the oppositions’ foolish allegations, they staged a shooting – thereby allowng the oppostion a much bigger platform to voice “dissent”.

    After all, the bogus opposition needed a boost after the devastating blow received at the (remarkably free) election, lest a real opposition emerges.

    A real oppostion might rather complain about the central bank reserves being raided to purchase new MiG jet fighters.

  3. Ian

    May 4, 2011 at 3:16pm

    On the second question – yes there are important differences between multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, what roles they play and what they are good for and what they are not. It therefore makes sense to assess them differently. I don’t think it is an issue of efficiency so much as having different roles and being useful in different contexts (and responding to different geopolitical motivations). Looking forward to reading your posts on this.

  4. MJ

    May 12, 2011 at 7:59am

    On (1) I suppose there are two kinds of outcomes. There are the outcomes in the countries that might actually experience some kind of revolution themselves, then there are the (secondary) effects outside those countries.

    As with previous changes in regime in sub-Saharan Africa the critical question to ask is whether the new guys are just the old guys with new names, or a real fresh broom. Kenya, Zambia and Malawi have all had changes in regime in recent decades without exhibiting big changes in governance. The Who had something to sing about that …

    The secondary effects might be more positive – dictatorish leaders/parties might be inclined to listen a little more to the concerns of their citizens – or negative – greater repression so other dictators don’t suffer the same fate (the Gaddafi/Mugabe approach).

    @Stanley: I would suggest that many historical revolutions have essentially been urban in character. (I think I am right in suggesting that the French revolution, at least initially, was mainly just a Parisian affair.) I’ve read that early African governments were obsessed with keeping the urban constituents happy, rather than the rural masses. So even if only 10% of Ugandans are in a revolutionary mood, the strong symbolism of protests in the capital (nod to Egypt) cannot be ruled out.

  5. Jiesheng Li

    May 24, 2011 at 9:15am

    Yes it is hard to lump all multilateral organisations togethr inthe same standard–the UNDP has different modus operandi from the IDA or even other UN agencies.

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