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Robin Cook gyrates in his grave

July 22, 2010

David Cameron has promised to transform British foreign policy so that it is focused primarily on promoting UK businesses abroad.

Robin Cook would be thrilled. Out of the window goes Britain’s supposedly ‘ethical’ foreign policy. When delivering aid, how is the Department for International Development supposed to pretend that it only bears the interests of the recipient country at heart?

Many developing country governments do not distinguish between British Foreign Office and the DfID. In many countries DfID is the larger presence. Imagine an African government receiving British funds aimed at helping to integrate regional markets. Is the aid directed into areas where it will help British companies, or is it to help the poor?

It is already difficult enough to convince sceptical governments that Britain isn’t still pursuing a colonial agenda. After years of good work by DfID, the open admission that foreign policy is purely commercial will make developing country governments hesitant to accept Britain as a neutral donor. Aid won’t go into the right areas, and the poor will suffer.

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