February 20, 2018        Reading Time: 2 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary:

Reading Time: 2 min read

Sarah Bermeo argues that developed states provide aid to countries based on self-interest. Image credit – YuliyaKirayonakBO / depositphotos



The Limits of Minilateralism in ASEAN The Straits Times, by Prashanth Parameswaran, Senior Editor, The Diplomat

“[I]t is also important to keep in mind that the pursuit of … minilateral projects has its limits.”

  • Prashanth Parameswaran cautions against the trend of ASEAN countries pursuing more minilateral agreements (agreements between a small number of states), noting that states should be aware of the limits of minilateralism.
    • Minilateralism is gaining traction in ASEAN countries because multilateral institutions are viewed as slow to address rapidly evolving international challenges.
    • While minilateralism has the advantage of nimbleness, minilateral agreements usually relate to very specific issues that may not require cooperation over time – rather than to broad issues that require cooperation over long periods of time.
    • ASEAN countries should not view minilateralism as a substitute for multilateralism, but rather as a different type of international cooperation in a wider network of relationships in the Asia-Pacific.



Development, Self-Interest, and the Countries Left Behind Brookings, by Sarah Bermeo, Assistant Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University

“[D]evelopment became a matter of self-interest for wealthy states.”

  • Sarah Bermeo argues that developed countries provide foreign aid based on self-interest, a practice that can leave some lower-income countries marginalised and ‘trapped.’ She observes that:
    • Developed countries are more likely to give aid to a country from which they receive a high number of imports and migrants.
    • Developed states are more likely to sign trade agreements with a country that already receives a high percentage of their foreign aid budget.
    • A country with few economic and other links to developed countries is less likely to receive aid, and thereby less likely to reap other advantages like trade agreements. This could lead to a new trap — of being marginalised by the aid and development policies of rich countries.

Written by Malinda Meegoda and edited by Anishka De Zylva.

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