Symposium Concluding Comments- ‘Development Aid: Charity, or An Oppressive Tool of Inequality?’

Author: Dr. Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan | Contributing Editor to ‘asia blogs’

(This post is part of the ‘Symposium on Development Aid: Charity, or An Oppressive Tool of Inequality?’ by asiablogs.)

The goal of this Symposium on Development Aid grew out of a desire to create a platform for the Global South, for scholars and students from the Global South, to share their ideas on a very pertinent topic for the Global South. It is about owning our scholarship and the platforms that can be used to share it. The forms of colonialism have greatly evolved over the past hundred years. The subjugation and exploitation of countries, not through violence, but rather through law and economy, is a very subtle process. Nevertheless, its results are the same as violent colonization: a siphoning of natural resources and wealth from nations of the periphery to the central metropolis, at grave cost to the peripheral nations. Unfortunately, international law has become the tool of choice for this project of neo-colonialism. Both the law and the institutions are creations of the Global North and are designed to make the increasing exploitation less visible. Therefore, as scholars and international lawyers from the Global South, we must make an effort to look beyond the surface, and work for the exposure and reform of these exploitative structures.

The submissions we received are all valuable contributions to the literature on this important topic. We have received contributions from all over the world, and it was our pleasure to present the outcome of this Symposium to the wider public.

Olubanke Awosope’s contribution serves to introduce and highlight the various issues. She examines the development of aid as a tool of imperialism through the lens of history, and shows the role that international law plays in furthering neocolonial agendas. She concludes by advocating for a reform of international law, dismantling neo-colonial policies and working to secure the rights of every individual.

Mohammed Imran’s unique piece discusses a neglected aspect of access to the international law profession, and its link to oppression. He argues that by making internship opportunities at the international adjudicatory bodies difficult to access, there is a widening of the existing gap between the Global North and the Global South. The existing system of unpaid internships serves to allow the Global North to control the pool of students who can access these internships, in order to prevent challenges to the Global North’s hegemony from within the institutions.

Anh Nguyen examines the impact of aid conditionalities on the economic sovereignty and self determination of the recipient States. She notes that concepts like the World Bank’s promotion of “good governance” and the shielding of relevant international agreements from the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations serve to take conditionalities out of the realm of international legality. Rather, this allows them to encroach massively into the recipient state’s domestic jurisdiction, to the state’s detriment. She concludes that participation mechanisms for stakeholders within the recipient state would ensure to place a check on the violation of economic sovereignty and self-determination.

Last but not least, Lorenzo Fiorito’s piece leaves us with a ray of hope. He shows us that even in the world as it is, the colonised can exercise their own agency for their benefit. His analysis of Vietnam’s development shows that, through clever diplomatic maneuvering, Vietnam gained bilateral relations with the USA and access to the world market through development aid. This led to an increase of Vietnam’s volume of international trade, ultimately in a manner conducive to its own development goals.

In sum, all of the articles are valuable contributions to existing scholarship, and the cause of TWAIL. Through our sustained efforts and scholarship, I believe that it is possible to change the world into a more equitable one, where the Global South can finally achieve equality, and the people therein receive the rights and resources due to them.

I would like to thank the contributors and ‘asia blogs’ for hosting the symposium. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to my research assistants, Jeevan Justin and Kanak Mishra, for their outstanding effort and intellectual input.

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