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Sachs on Darfur

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Sachs on Darfur

Posted by John Norris on February 15, 2009

Jeffrey Sachs, an adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has been making the speechmaking rounds, and talking about Darfur. He starts with an interesting premise: that the problems in Darfur are primarily development related, not military.

Sachs is correct that tensions over resources, particularly water, in Darfur are acute and longstanding. According to the article, Sachs asserted “cutting wasteful spending on military operations and what he described as excessive corporate bonuses would help the world mobilise enough funds to tackle poverty and ensure comprehensive access to primary healthcare and safe water.”

That all sounds rather nice, and not surprisingly it is rather too tidy a formulation. I fully support spending more money on effective development aid, but the key word is “effective.” Somebody like Sachs should know that development assistance only really works when it is given to a country that is actually committed to development and ensuring better education and health for its citizens. We could pour a billion dollars of development aid into Darfur right now, and it would not work for the simple reason that the government in Khartoum is not committed to the development of its own people. Khartoum has always resisted reasonable power sharing with the peripheral regions of Sudan, and thus the recurring conflicts in Darfur, in the south, and in the east over resources, power and basic rights.