Saturday, July 04, 2009

Neverending Civilising Mission

"Wars, Guns and Votes is, in some ways, a darker argument," he says. "The guts of it is that the international community has been naive by denying reality and imagining that security and accountability among the countries in the bottom billion can be readily achieved by just introducing elections." Democracy is about much more than that, he says. "It's very easy to steal an election if there are no checks and balances." Like a free press? "Absolutely; that makes a big difference. But we also need some sort of international standard about what constitutes a decent election."

The EU already offers a monitoring service, but, he says: "The problem is that it's not linked to any consequences." Collier's suggestion that the developed world should be prepared to intervene more often militarily could lead to charges of neo-colonialism, I point out. There's a long pause before he responds: "The citizens of the bottom billion share the planet with us and have needs, some of which have to be met by the international community. Those who want to put up a sign saying 'Keep Out' are not generally the ordinary citizens. They are the entrenched elites who have been exploiting them. In all of these societies there are internal struggles between brave people trying to effect change and powerful vested interests opposing them. We should be supporting the strugglers for change.


"The likes of [President Robert] Mugabe will call us neo-colonialists, but I have no aspirations to govern Africa. What the international community does have is legitimacy for military intervention, where necessary, through institutions like the UN. America has legitimacy, too, since the election of President Obama." Because of his African heritage? "Very much so. Africans are proud of him and see him as one of them.

"What we have seen are wild policy lurches on anything to do with security," Collier goes on. "We left Somalia without government for 15 years because 18 American soldiers were killed there. The lesson was seen to be: 'after Somalia, never intervene'. So we allowed 800,000 people to be butchered in Rwanda. Then we over-reacted the other way in Iraq. Getting it right doesn't mean going to either extreme. British troops, for instance, have done a hugely beneficial job in Sierra Leone. And I've just come back from Haiti, where 7,000 Brazilian troops are keeping the peace."

Paul Collier interviewed by an admiring Chris Arnot in The Guardian

The Peace empire keeps -

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