Friday, February 4, 2011

Development as Distraction: Paying for the Pope

On the 3rd of June last year, the British Development Secretary said in his first speech that a fundamental change of direction was needed in Britain's approach to development aid, and that results and outcomes were the new focus, not merely inputs. Nothing overly controversial there really, nor with the commitment to create the first ever independent aid watchdog, which would create:
"people around the world who can see where aid money is supposed to be going – and shout if it doesn’t get there.” 
So lets all shout.

It was revealed yesterday that the Department for International Development (DfID) spent £1.85m ($3m) on the Pope's September 2010 state visit to the UK. Very quickly DfID has justified the spending as having come out of its admin budget, and therefore not having affected the money it spends overseas, but then put its foot in its mouth by further justifying:
"Our contribution recognised the Catholic Church's role as a major provider of health and education services in developing countries."
Lets shout some more.

The Catholic Church's Sexual Reproductive Health approach in 2005 stated a great concern "that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability... is threatened by a contraception mentality." In 2009 his Holiness added to this by saying that using condoms may actually lead to an increase in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS:
"a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem."
In 2010 following his trip to the UK, the Pope then added that condoms are:
"not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection." The "sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalisation of sexuality" where sexuality is no longer an expression of love, "but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves".
Seriously? So following the trip to the UK the Pope decided to associate condom use with drug addiction.

So let me shout myself: this is an awful outcome of DfIDs $3m spent on his trip.

The Catholic church's approach only serves to undermine the achievement of MDG 6 by 2015 (to which DfID is committed), and place more people at risk throughout the world (not only in developing countries). It's simply embarrassing that the International Development Department of my own country even tried to justify itself in carrying out this funding, and revealing of the politicisation of the aid budget (now both admin and overseas) which is taking place under the coalition government. 

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