Rethinking development cooperation: why spend money to help emerging (or already emerged) powers?

Does Italy still need "development cooperation"? The answer to this question is not as simple as it might seem. From an official point of view, of course, given that our cooperation is part of that of the European Union and we should not be absent in the strategy of aid to developing countries.

Moreover, the aforementioned cooperation is highly encouraged by the Farnesina, which rightly considers it an essential instrument of our foreign policy like the various peacekeeping missions which sees contingents of Italian soldiers engaged in various parts of the world.

Some doubts arise, however, when consulting the list of countries eligible for aid on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. There are in fact some of the so-called BRICS: Brazil, India, China and South Africa (with the sole exclusion of Russia).

The question is: are they really developing countries? In a certain sense, yes, although all are characterized by strong GDP growth and an ever increasing share in world trade. And it should be remembered that Brazil and India certainly did not stand out for the cordiality of their relations with us. Think, to mention only the most well-known episodes, of the Battisti case as regards Brazil and the two San Marco marines held for a long period in India.

In other respects the nations mentioned above appear, rather than developing countries, emerging powers (or already abundantly emerged such as China and India) who dedicate enormous resources to strengthening their military apparatus. If, absurdly, it occurred to one of these nations to invade us, I doubt that our army could offer serious resistance.

Then another question spontaneously arises: if such is the situation, and given our permanent economic crisis, why should we spend money to help them? The answer is similar to that given at the beginning. We are weak, they are constantly on the rise. It is therefore convenient for Italy to keep them as friends even when they slap us in the face, as Brazil and India have done on certain occasions.

The picture changes little if we move on to the other countries included in the list of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We find, for example, Algeria, Morocco, Angola, Nigeria, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Indonesia and Vietnam. Although not part of the BRICS group, these are countries that have boasted constant GDP growth at least in the last decade (and, of course, before the coronavirus pandemic). The opposite of us, it is spontaneous to think, since our GDP gasps and it is currently difficult to foresee a timid recovery.

It should also be noted that even countries still in the development phase boast growing GDP. I happened to hear it from a professor at an African university who has ongoing cooperation projects with the university I belong to. In short, no discounts. Italians must help and at the same time understand that they are on the decline, while aid recipients are growing. At least depressing.

It must of course be recognized that the funds allocated for development cooperation by the state and the regions have undergone very heavy cuts in recent years (and how could it be otherwise?). And this in turn caused the crisis of many non-profit organizations that derive their source of sustenance from cooperation, with the inevitable repercussions on employment in the sector.

I conclude by noting that, perhaps, it would be appropriate to think less about cooperation and more about Italian cultural institutes abroad, often connected to Dante Alighieri. Located in embassies and consulates, the IICs spread the Italian language and culture around the world. When they can, of course, since they have undergone cuts so heavy that in many cases their existence has been compromised. A bad signal for a nation like ours, which has always made one of its strengths of culture understood in a broad sense, humanistic and scientific.

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This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Mon, 29 Jun 2020 04:04:00 +0000.