By Nilima Gulrajani, Senior Research Fellow, ODI
This blog* is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.
There is nothing new in accusing bilateral donors of repurposing foreign aid to serve their domestic national interests. Even before the current pandemic, donors had been slashing aid in exchange for middle-class tax breaks, twisting the definition of official development assistance (ODA) to allow for the inclusion of expenditures in wealthier countries, and tying aid to the uptake of domestic consultants. So, what happens now, as economic and social needs expand globally with every case of COVID-19 detected and every grave marked?
The initial vital signs of international collective action are not promising. Some politicians have come under flak for donating personal protective equipment to other countries just before domestic demand skyrocketed, even if this equipment was set to expire and the favour returned in kind. Others stand accused of using medical aid to further diplomatic ambitions. Yet others have gone even further, seemingly keen to upend global co-operation and dismantle the very institutional architecture able to marshal both the transnational networks and political leadership required to detect, monitor and eventually stop this unpredictable pathogen. In short, there are worrying signs about the possibility of upholding a functioning multilateral co-operation system, even among supposedly like-minded actors. Continue reading