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Symposium on Development Aid: Charity, or An Oppressive Tool of Inequality?

March 10, 2021 @ 8:00 am - April 5, 2021 @ 5:00 pm

“He who feeds you, controls you,” said Thomas Sankara, once the leader of Burkina Faso. Development aid is not aid, but a tool of hegemony, and serves only to allow the Global North unhindered access to the resources of the South, to the detriment of billions of people. It is defined as the flow of official financing given with the objective of promoting economic development and welfare in “developing” countries. There were promises of better living conditions, healthcare and maybe even Utopia. However, conditionalities imposed by development institutions force recipient States to fit into the mould of Western neo-liberal democracy. Recipient States are given no choice of means and there is little heed paid to the question of whether such a development path is actually beneficial to the recipient State. 

Whatever purpose this development aid bears -be it altruistic or an instrument to strengthen political-economic dominance- one cannot overlook the colonial legacy in international aid. The Global North has conveniently framed the linear narrative of history to its advantage by promoting colonialism in the garb of progress. They have also envisaged an ‘objective theory of interpretation’ that runs in tandem with Western thought.

The modern human rights discourse, instead of holding the solution to this imbalance, seems to lend it legitimacy. The recipients of development aid, who, logically, are best situated to understand their own needs, are given no voice. Development plans are based on Western neoliberal models, all seeking to restructure the Global South. Aiming to establish and maintain a “free” market, these models have persistently failed to produce any improvement in living conditions or reduction in poverty. Despite this, similar models are given a new coat of paint and imposed again, touted as the only alternatives. The Bretton Woods institutions are also monopolized in their decision making by the economically dominant states, while the policies and heritage of the Bretton Woods Institutions are penetrating the international decision making processes and socio-legal infrastructure  When analyzed in this way, the entire discourse surrounding development aid falls apart, and is discerned as charity, oppression and inequality in the garb of progressive international engagement. All that the Global South is left with, therefore, is a new, more insidious form of colonialism, increased poverty, and international law and structures designed to exploit it. This role of international law in historically producing inequalities and legitimizing imperialism and colonialism warrants critical engagement. 

This Symposium invites papers from scholars from the Global South and elsewhere who are interested in critical international law scholarship on development aid, with the ultimate goal of finding reformative solutions that will ensure self-reliance of the Global South.  The Symposium invites contributions on the following themes and discussions points: 

Research Questions:

  1. Why does mainstream scholarship eschew interdisciplinary issues of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and Critical Race Theory (CRT)? How can TWAIL and CRT scholarship remedy this educational gap?
  2. Can a system of global administrative law hold solutions for power imbalances in decision making present in international organizations and development policies?
  3. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, what are the international legal implications of possible reduction in foreign aid spending?   
  4. Can development aid work in the international architecture of cooperation without repeating and perpetuating post-colonial and racist hegemony? To this end, what will be the role of international law? 

Submission Deadline: 5th April 2021 to asiablogs@asia-blogs.org 

Formatting Guidelines:

  1. Title: no more than 15 words.
  2. Tags: 4-5 relevant keywords at the end of your contribution.
  3. Discipline: Specify the discipline that informs your contribution.
  4. Region: Specify the region your contribution is relevant to.
  5. Word Limit: maximum 1500-1800 words.
  6. Footnotes: Please do not use footnotes.
  7. Hyperlinks: Insert embedded hyperlinks to relevant supporting materials. Hyperlinks can be embedded by selecting the text, right-clicking and choosing the link/hyperlink option. It can also be embedded by going to the ‘Insert’ menu and choosing the link option. 
  8. References: Add a reference list at the end of your document. These references must be embedded in the text.
  9. Photo: Include a license-free photo relevant to the context of your submission.
  10. Originality: Please indicate if your submission has been published or submitted for consideration earlier and if you have permission to republish.
  11. For the submission prepared specifically for this blog, once it has been published, you are welcome to submit it elsewhere, providing a reference to its publication in ‘asia blogs’.
  12. Name and affiliation: Send in your name, a photo and a short bio along with your submission with no more than 50 words.
  13. Document Format: Send in your documents in Word file document format.
  14. Disclaimer: The blog will include the following disclaimer: Responsibility for opinions expressed in blog posts on this website rests solely with the author(s). We accept co-authored submissions with no more than three authors.  

For further details or clarifications, please contact:

  • Pranjali Kanel, Student, Kathmandu School of Law

Managing Editor, Asia Blogs | pranjalikanel98@gmail.com 

  • Jeevan Justin, Student, National Law University Odisha                                                                                     

Research Assistant to Dr Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan | jeevanjustin.law@gmail.com

  • Kanak Mishra, Student, O.P. Jindal Global University                                                 

Research Assistant to Dr Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan | muskan1403@gmail.com

Basic Readings:

  1. http://www.ejil.org/pdfs/15/1/334.pdf
  2. https://www.iilj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Anghie-International-Institutions-and-the-Conolial-Origins-of-Law-and-Development-2005.pdf
  3. https://www.cadtm.org/The-World-Bank-the-IMF-and-the-respect-of-human-rights
  4. Becker B. (2020) Colonial Legacies in International Aid: Policy Priorities and Actor Constellations. In: Schmitt C. (eds) From Colonialism to International Aid. Global Dynamics of Social Policy. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-38200-1_7
  5. Cecil Sagoe, ‘The Neo-Colonialism of Development Progress’ E-International Relations at  https://www.e-ir.info/2012/08/12/the-neo-colonialism-of-development-programs/ 

Additional References:



March 10, 2021 @ 8:00 am
April 5, 2021 @ 5:00 pm
Event Category: