OPINION: Hot Issue - Will Clare Short be missed by international aid agencies?

The former international development secretary had a turbulent relationship with aid agencies, frequently criticising them for their stances on trade issues and clashing with them over the UK's military action abroad. Yet she also raised the profile of development and secured increased funding for her department

Barry Coates, director, the World Development Movement


Clare Short has been a forceful and forthright advocate of international development issues, but forthright is not the same as right.

On one hand she leaves a strong legacy: she has done a lot to clean up the British aid programme, helped to take initial steps towards debt cancellation, and to initiate conflict resolution. But on the other hand, she has been wrong on the most important issues of development: how poor countries can create jobs and economic benefits for their people.

Her reputation domestically was as a politician of the left, yet she has been even more enthusiastic than her Conservative predecessors in pushing the poorest countries to throw open their economies to foreign companies in the misguided belief that the unregulated market will deliver poverty reduction, safe water and good health.

Short will be missed for the commitment she has brought to poverty reduction and for her occasional outbursts over government policy. But not for the misguided policies that this government has forced on the people of the developing world.

Dr Daleep Mukarji, director, Christian Aid


It is to Clare Short's credit that the portfolio of international development secretary was elevated to a Cabinet post. With this enhanced status comes a higher public profile and Short was very effective in using this to bring great attention to the scandal of global poverty.

She was also influential in making government policy on development, taking a lead on Third World debt cancellation and bringing an end to the tying of overseas aid to British goods and services. But Christian Aid did find itself at odds with her on several issues.

In particular, since the launch of our trade justice campaign 18 months ago, we have fought a running battle with her over the Government's approach to opening up markets in poor countries as the panacea for alleviating poverty through trade. Christian Aid believes this is a flawed policy that is causing misery and suffering in poor communities across the developing world.

Fiona Weir, director of policy and communications, Save the Children


Clare Short built up her department and raised the profile of international development within the heart of the Government.

She was a forthright campaigner and a passionate advocate on many issues. She sought to widen the responsibility for development beyond a single government department, represented by her formidable partnership with the Chancellor on debt relief.

There were, of course, disagreements on issues such as the impact of government policy on vulnerable communities in countries with weak and hostile governments or on the role of NGOs.

Overall, though, Short's drive and commitment were appreciated and we hope that her successor, Baroness Amos, will continue to put poverty high on the Government's agenda.

Christie Peacock, director, FARM-Africa


Clare Short's greatest achievement was the acquisition of significant new resources for overseas aid from the Treasury which, along with her commitment to international debt relief, should be applauded.

However, she was not a friend of NGOs. Not only did she repeatedly criticise them in public - considerably undermining the NGO sector, not least in the eyes of the general public - but she failed to build upon the legacy of the positive NGO-Government relationship developed by her department's forerunner, the ODA.

Under Short, significant changes in funding criteria have considerably reduced the sources of funding available to NGOs, effectively 'ghettoising' them. This has resulted in support for a small number of select NGOs alone.

One of her greatest failures has been the downgrading of rural development.

The combination of the withdrawal of bilateral support to grass-roots work with the lack of funding has led to deep frustration among the NGO community.

Short's legacy is one of a rather depressed and increasingly cynical NGO sector that is eagerly looking forward to working in true partnership with the Department for International Development.

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