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Matthew Dear

I work for a development INGO, and increasingly our supporters - (particularly town councils, schools, churches etc.) are calling for the sort of arrangement and the sector is (typically slowly!) beginning to shake itself up to facilitate such requests. We can't yet be sure of their success on any significant scale, though they're certainly not a panacea.

The great "added value" of organisations like mine is that they enable aid to bypass corrupt government and be channelled entirely safely and securely to local offices or partner organisations, who are supported, monitored and audited rigourously. So the corruption issue rears its head again under this sort of arrangement, when we believe we have more or less solved it.

We must welcome anything which lowers trade barriers, but the lowering proposed here is limited in scope - but it's a start. Complete removal of all tariffs and subsidies would be preferable, though harder to acheive (I would add that I'm in a minority in my sector in calling for this - though I'm also in a minority being a Conservative!)

So from me - an unequivocal maybe!

Phil Taylor

Isn't Ken Livingstone doing this already with Venezuela?

Seriously though, I have always thought that countries, especially in Europe and Africa, should buddy up in pairs so that aid could get more personal and hopefully more effective. I do like this idea in principle but I think it should be allowed to just happen. I would not like to see anyone try to administer a scheme. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

In particular I think we would get a much earlier warnings of problems in the world and we would be much more capable of handling them (cost-) effectively if we were much more engaged, community by community.

Oliver Henry Cooper

This is an excellent idea, although one that has been mooted a few times before. Any plan that funnels money directly to local communities in developing countries, thereby bypassing corrupt and militaristic governments, is a good idea.


This is another idea that sounds nice but is unfortunately not at all practical. Matthew Dear's statement that "we must welcome anthing which lowers trade barriers" is not really true. We can't suspend international trade agreements (let alone UK immigration law!) for an Ipswich-Timbuktu town twinning progam.

Also, Phil Taylor is right to point out, by reference to Ken Livingstone and Venezuela, that such programmes will almost inevitably be hijacked by the left. Oxford twinned itself with Leon, Nicaragua in 1986 out of solidarity with the Sandanistas and we could expect plenty more of the same.

Mark Wadsworth

A qualified YES.

What we need, and what the Third World needs, is trade not aid.

Sam Tarran

Jeremy Clarkson proposes such a thing in his book, "And Another Thing". Very good idea indeed.

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