This House believes that former colonial powers should pay reparations to former colonies

Under colonialism, developed and established countries exerted power over less-developed or newly discovered countries. It was ‘a practice of domination’, and ‘the subjugation of one people to another’[1], where a dependant territory was politically and economically controlled[2] by the colonial power. Many believe that such territories were unashamedly exploited by the colonial powers, both in terms of economic opportunity and the human rights of the native people. Colonial powers often attempted to disguise motives by labelling their control of colonies as a ‘civilising mission’[3], to reconcile the cultural and religious beliefs of the native people with Western cultural values of ‘civilisation, commerce, and Christianity’[4], in the words of explorer and missionary David Livingstone. However, colonial belief in their own ‘national, racial, and cultural superiority’[5] meant that the cultures and values of the colonies were often damaged and abused, and colonial powers had little hesitation in exploiting the economic opportunities of the colonies to their own advantage without giving thought to how the colonies themselves would be affected.

            Many groups advocate that developed countries should pay reparations to their former colonies, which tend to be less developed. These reparations fall into both an economic and a moral context. In terms of economy, some former colonies claim that colonisation, or even the sudden end of colonisation in the case of Japan and Korea[6] has damaged their ability to form a stable and flourishing economy disruption of trade[7], or by seriously damaging and abusing the natural resources available within the former colonies[8]. Kwame Nkrumah, the ‘first head of an independent Ghana’[9], labelled colonialism as  ‘the policy by which the . . . colonial power, binds her colonies to herself by political ties with the primary object of promoting her own economic advantages.’[10] In this way, it is perceived that the economic interest of the former colony had been ignored unless it also coincided with the interest of the colonial power.

            In a moral context, some groups argue that former colonial powers should pay reparations for wrongdoings during the time of colonisation. One crucial example of this is the demand that Western colonial powers should pay African former colonies up to $777,000billion in reparations for slavery[11]. This is more an argument to repair the historical moral wrongdoing of the colonial power. However in both economic and moral cases reparations present a potential to facilitate development in under-developed countries and the developing world more broadly. Particularly in countries such as African nations which suffer from high rates of poverty[12] and high international debt[13], financial reparations could pose a solution to serious domestic problems.

[1] Accessed from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/colonialism/ on 13/09/11

[9] BBC. ‘Kwame Nkrumah’s Vision of Africa’. Published 14/09/2000. Accessed from http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/people/highlights/000914_nkrumah.shtml on 11/09/11.

[11] BBC. ‘Trillions demanded in slavery reparations’. Published 20/08/1999. Accessed from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/424984.stm on 11/09/11.

[13] BBC. ‘Trillions demanded in slavery reparations’. Published 20/08/1999. Accessed from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/424984.stm on 11/09/11.

 

Title 
What happened during the colonial era was morally wrong.
Point 

The entire basis for colonisation was predicated on an innate ‘understanding’ and judgment of one superior culture and race[1]. This ethnocentric approach idolised western traditions while simultaneously undermining the traditions of the countries which were colonised. For example, during the colonisation of America, colonists imposed a Westernised school system on Native American children. This denied their right to wear traditional clothing[2] or to speak their native language[3], and the children were often subject to physical and sexual abuse and forced labour[4]. The cause of this was simply ignorance of culture differences on behalf of the colonists, which was idyllically labelled and disguised as ‘The White Man’s Burden’[5]. Colonial powers undermined the social and property rights[6] of the colonies, using military force to rule if civilians should rebel against colonisation in countries such as India[7]. After Indian fighters rebelled against British colonial force in the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58[8], the British struck back with terrible force, and forced the rebels to ‘lick up part of the blood’ from the floors of the houses[9]. The actions which occurred during colonisation are considered completely inappropriate and undesirable behaviour in a modern world, and in terms of indigenous rights to culture and to property, as well as human rights more generally. Reparations would be a meaningful act of apology for the wrongs which were committed during the past.

[1] Accessed from http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/5920/Africa-British-Colonies.html on 11/09/11

[2] Accessed from http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/erdrich/boarding/gallery.htm on 11/09/11

[3] Accessed from http://content.lib.washington.edu/aipnw/marr.html on 11/09/11

[4] Accessed from http://www.boardingschoolhealingproject.org/files/A_Critical_Appraisal_of_Reparations_final.pdf on 11/09/11

[5] Accessed from http://public.wsu.edu/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_2/kipling.html on 11/09/11

[6] Accessed from http://www.jstor.org/pss/3601876 on 11/09/11

[7] Accessed from http://library.thinkquest.org/17282/history.html on 11/09/11.

[8] Accessed from http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armycampaigns/indiancampaigns/mutiny/mutiny.htm on 11/09/11

[9] Accessed from http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armycampaigns/indiancampaigns/mutiny/mutiny.htm on 11/09/11

Counterpoint 

This is a very one-sided assertion of past events. It was not only the colonists who acted in an unacceptable manner; for example, during the Indian Mutiny, a party of sepoys ‘execute[d] the 210 women and children’ with guns and knives[1]. Some, though horribly wounded, remained alive until morning[2]. History is very complex; while there were certainly atrocious events, it is unfair and untrue to apportion blame to only one party – namely, the colonists. In any case, in the face of such atrocities, it is completely superficial to imagine that mere money could wipe the slate clean. Reparations are used to correct a past wrong[3]; it would be derogatory to assume that we can pay people off for acts such as these, and that they require no more hindsight or consideration.

[1] Accessed from http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armycampaigns/indiancampaigns/mutiny/mutiny.htm on 11/09/11

[2] Accessed from http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armycampaigns/indiancampaigns/mutiny/mutiny.htm on 11/09/11

[3] Accessed from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/reparation on 11/09/11

Title 
Reparations would be a step towards closing colonial scars.
Point 

It is difficult for former colonies to feel as if they can move on and develop a wholly independent identity when their ties to the past, and to their former colonisers, have not been definitively ended. For example, while it is important to remember those who suffered under slavery, the overwhelming memory of it[1] overpowers the history of those countries and innately links them back to former colonial powers. Furthermore, many of the problems now faced by former colonies can be traced back to the actions of colonial-era masters, for example the birth of ethnic tensions between minorities in Rwanda[2] and Burundi[3]. In order to move on from that damaging legacy, and to conclusively prove that such prejudices are always wrong, it is necessary for former colonial powers to show a tangible move towards closing that colonial chapter of their history. In this way they can begin to move towards a fresh, equal and co-operative relationship with the developing countries which were their former colonies, without the background of history which currently warps such relationships. Italy’s payment of reparations to Libya[4] allowed Libya to ‘mend fences with the West’[5] and to improve international relationships. This is a step to recognise developing countries as a nation, rather than an economic opportunity. In this way, reparations would be an effective way of demonstrating a global community and spirit.

[1] Accessed from http://www.cambriapress.com/cambriapress.cfm?template=4&bid=403 on 12/09/11

[2] Accessed from http://umuvugizi.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/how-colonialism-affected-the-rwandan-genocide/ on 12/09/11

[3] Accessed from http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v3/v3i3a5.htm on 12/09/11.

[4] Time. ‘Italy Pays Reparations to Libya’. Published 02/09/2008. Accessed from http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1838014,00.html on 12/09/11.

[5] Accessed from http://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/libya-italy-to-sign-compensation-deal-957/ on 12/09/11

Counterpoint 

This proposition line does not lead to a situation where developing countries forgive their colonisers and forget the suffering of the past; rather, it will lead to a situation where they identify those colonial forces as the source of their suffering, but also as the power which tried to undermine their human integrity by paying them off. Such developing countries will always view reparations as ‘insufficient compensation’[1], because there is no lump sum on money which can atone for the acts and atrocities committed against human life. This motion is not only ineffective but will exacerbate the current situation by portraying the West as a place where money has a higher value than the human lives of developing countries; as such, there is no reason for former colonies to believe that their have gained any status other then an ‘opportunity’ for the West.

[1] Accessed from http://romethesecondtime.blogspot.com/2011/03/libya-bitter-fruits-of-italian.html on 12/09/11

Title 
There is already a precedent for paying reparations to such states.
Point 

In the past, dominating global powers have paid reparations and compensation for historical wrongs. For example, Germany pays an annual amount of money to Israel to recognise wrongs committed against Jews during the Holocaust, and to recognise the theft of Jewish property at this time[1]. These reparations have helped Israeli infrastructure enormously, providing ‘railways and telephones, dock installations and irrigation plants, whole areas of industry and agriculture’[2] and contributing to Israeli economic security. Japan also paid reparations to Korea after World War II as the Koreans were ‘deprived of their nation and their identity’[4]. Britain has paid compensation to the New Zealand Maoris for the damage done during colonial times and the seizure of their land[5], and Iraq pays compensation to Kuwait for damage done during the invasion and occupation of 1990-91[6]. There is little reason why other nations should not be paid for the grievances caused to them by domination countries. There is support for the notion that colonial powers should pay for free universal education in Africa[7]; this would be an entirely appropriate and desirable measure.

[1] 'Holocaust Restitution: German Reparations', Jewish Virtual Library, accessed 16/1/2014, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/reparations.html

[2] 'Holocaust Restitution: German Reparations', Jewish Virtual Library, accessed 16/1/2014, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/reparations.html

[4] Accessed from http://www.japanprobe.com/2010/02/12/yet-another-japanese-apology-to-korea/ on 12/09/11

[5] Accessed from http://www.americanbar.org/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/irr_hr_spring00humanrights_gifford.html on 12/09/11

[6] Accessed from http://www.stimson.org/spotlight/the-iraq-kuwait-border-issue-a-step-in-the-right-direction-or-more-empty-rhetoric-/ on 12/09/11

[7] Accessed from http://students.cis.uab.edu/julielj/TheSlaveryIssue.html on 12/09/11

Counterpoint 

These reparations have done little to satisfy the recipient countries. For example, Israel asked Germany to improve the reparations agreement[1], which resulted in Germany withdrawing reparations entirely[2] and only served to increase tensions between the two nations. Furthermore, Israel has become reliant on German reparation money[3], suggesting that reparations do not in fact allow the recipient country to develop their whole national identity without ties to former dominating countries. Moreover, despite the payment of reparations from Italy to Libya, Libya still believes that it was ‘insufficient compensation for colonial damages’[4]. Just because reparations have been made in the past does not, by any means, show that they were successful or indeed that they are the best option available in the present day.

[1] Accessed from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312579,00.html on 12/09/11.

[2] Accessed from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312579,00.html on 12/09/11

[3] Accessed from http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,2968661,00.html on 12/09/11

[4] Accessed from http://romethesecondtime.blogspot.com/2011/03/libya-bitter-fruits-of-italian.html on 12/09/11

Title 
Reparations would effectively right the economic imbalance caused by colonialism.
Point 

Given that much of the motive for colonisation was economic, many former colonies have suffered damage to their natural resources[1] or human resources,[2] which has left them less able to sustain a healthy economy. Colonists targeted countries with rich natural resources and little ability to defend themselves from invasion and manipulation. By this method, they could supply their own markets with the natural resources which they had already exploited at home[3], and find cheap (or free) human labour for their markets[4]. Given that powerful countries such as Britain[5] and France[6] gained their own economic prosperity through the exploitation of the economic potential of the colonies, it is entirely appropriate and logical that they should pay reparations as compensation. In this way, the economic disparity between former colonies and colonists would be equalised.

[1] Accessed from http://www.michaelparenti.org/Imperialism101.html on12/09/11

[2] Accessed from http://innercity.org/holt/slavechron.html on 12/09/11

[3] Accessed from http://www.donaldstark.co.uk/essays/1815-1914/exploit.pdfon 12/09/11

[4] Accessed from http://www.afterslavery.com/ on 12/09/11

[5] Accessed from http://valkyrian.tripod.com/essays/gmt11e.html on 12/09/11

[6] ‘The Haitian Revolution and its Effects’. Patrick E. Bryan. Accessed from http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=q9owdkOc0wgC&pg=PA4&lpg=PA4&dq=France+prosperous+through+Caribbean&source=bl&ots=II4V1fhhpK&sig=q6EgtGJ4jY_jkBNR-HQ-aNhUgdE&hl=en on 12/09/11.

Counterpoint 

Most of the Western world is currently undergoing a financial crisis[1]. However prosperous these former colonies might have been, in the modern world they simply do not have the money to provide reparations to these countries on any scale which might come close to closing the economic gap between them. America’s enormous debt almost caused a complete economic collapse in August[2]; Britain was struggling under £2252.9 billion of debt as on July 2011[3]. The proposition’s naive balancing argument fails to take into account the realities of the economy and debt in raising this motion – it would be impossible to achieve.

[1] The Telegraph. ‘Double-dip fears across West as confidence crumbles’. Published on 30/09/2011. Accessed from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8731894/Double-dip-fears-across-the-West-as-confidence-crumbles.html on 12/09/11

[2] BBC. ‘IMF calls for US to raise debt ceiling and cut spending’. Published 25/07/2011. Accessed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14282351 on 12/09/11

[3] Accessed from http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/uk-economy/uk-national-debt/ on 12/09/11

Title 
Reparations demonstrate a true concern for the developing world.
Point 

Even alongside the colonial justifications for providing reparations, there are also many other strong reasons why former colonial powers should grant reparations. Former colonial powers tend to be economically developed, like America, Britain and France. The developed world should recognise the dire poverty and social challenges fed by the developing world today. Giving aid as an act of charity can sometimes be seen as derogatory[1], and is even rejected by the potential recipients[2][3][4]. However, reparations  allows a transfer of wealth between these countries in a way which is sensitive to the history between them, and which also demonstrates a desire to improve their relationship. It allows aid to be given to the developing world in a means which is dignified but not spurious.

[1] Accessed from http://www.casacollective.org/story/opinion/development-pushers-foreign-aid-and-microcredit-modernization-not-poverty-reduction on 12/09/11

[2] Accessed from http://en.rian.ru/world/20091108/156752104.html on 12/09/11

[3] Accessed from http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/22/somali-militants-maintain-aid-ban-and-reject-famine.html on 12/09/11

[4] Accessed from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1302053/Taliban-tells-Pakistan-reject-Western-flood-aid-number-victims-soars.html on 12/09/11

Counterpoint 

Disguising the purely economic balance illustrated here as a demonstration of heartfelt regret undermines the principles outlined by previous proposition arguments. This is, in fact, a hollow gesture – one that is disguised as a reparation to overcome a country’s right (though we may not agree with it) to reject the aid which is offered to them. The rejection of aid is a demonstrative action in itself; it sends a message that the recipient country does not wish to associate themselves with the donor country. By trying to use reparations as a loophole, this concept simultaneously criticised the recipient country’s right to choose whether they receive aid or not, and undermines the value of reparations elsewhere as a genuine gesture.

Title 
Time has removed the opportunity to truly make reparations to those who may have deserved it.
Point 

Reparations are used to make ‘amends for wrong or injury done’[1]; it is impossible to truly achieve this when the victims of wrongdoing are long since dead. Moreover, reparations which may have been made immediately after colonisation could have had a specific purpose – for example, to rebuild property which was destroyed, or to restore items which were wrongfully taken. However, the development of both countries has led to a very different state of affairs in both, and there may no longer be an obvious end for the money from reparations. There is also no precedent for giving reparations to countries after so long a period of time. For example, Germany began paying reparations to Israel in 1952[2], only 7 years after World War II ended in 1945.  Time also makes it very difficult to judge who the ‘victims’ are now. The descendants of original victims may well be independently wealthy now – would it be right to financially cripple of Western country and their people, already suffering from economic depression, to pay people who may not need it now? In any case, it would take a very long to even work out how we could pay reparations, let alone whether we should.

[1] Accessed from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/reparation on 12/09/11

[2] Accessed from http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,517538,00.html on 12/09/11

Counterpoint 

Given that many former colonies remain poor (even after so many years), it is very unlikely that these people would have no need for such money. The difference in timescale is irrelevant; what is relevant is that such former colonies have a demonstrated need for this money, and that atrocities occurred during the colonial era. If it became to hard to track down specific people, it would also be easily possible to give money to the government as Italy did to Libya[1], in which case the potential for improved infrastructure and basic living conditions could have a nation-wide benefit. Just because it may be difficult does not overrule the many powerful arguments that we should do this.

[1] Accessed from http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1838014,00.html on 12/09/11

Title 
Such reparations would do little to actually improve the developing countries.
Point 

Reparations are an incredibly short-term economic measure. To have any substantial impact, long-term systems would need to be put in place to truly benefit such countries, and it would be far better to encourage sustainable growth[1] than a one-off bumper payment. Developed countries should look towards improving their long-term relationship with former colonies and establishing measures such as fairer trade rules or debt relief as an efficient measure. This would allow the aid to be focused in the places where these countries need it most.

            The symbolism of reparations is also potentially dangerous. Firstly, paying reparations may bring the belief that former colonial powers have ‘paid their debt’ and no longer have to seek to improve their own conduct of foreign policy. Secondly, this measure would allow dictators such as Robert Mugabe to feel justified in their declarations that colonial powers are independently responsible for all the problems affecting their countries[2][3][4]. In this way, Mugabe tries to hide his own shortcomings and place blame entirely on the West, which has negative impacts on the potential for international relations. In the case of Italy’s reparations to Libya, this could be seen as strengthening the Gaddafi dictatorship at the expense of the Libyan people and the West, particularly as Gaddafi is prone to blaming the West[5] or indeed anybody else he can[6].

[1] Accessed from http://www.ausaid.gov.au/makediff/gec.cfm on 12/09/11

[2] Accessed from http://www.therightperspective.org/2008/12/13/mugabe-blames-racist-britain-for-cholera/ on 12/09/11

[3] Accessed from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24935379/ns/world_news-africa/t/mugabe-blames-west-zimbabwes-shortages/ on 12/09/11

[4] Accessed from http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08179/892972-153.stm on 12/09/11

[5] Accessed from http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/world/10079687/libyas-gaddafi-scorns-rebel-rats-blames-france/ on 12/09/11

[6] Accessed from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1360343/Libya-Gaddafi-blames-Osama-bin-Laden-hallucinogenic-pills-Nescafe-uprising.html on 12/09/11

Counterpoint 

It is entirely possible that reparations could be paid in smaller instalments over a much longer term as Germany has done[1], thereby providing a longer-term solution rather than one lump sum. Furthermore, it is likely that if former colonial powers offer reparations as a genuine attempt to accept and apologise for the wrongs previously committed, the longer-term relationship between the two countries would be eased. Finally, it is at least more likely that citizens in countries such as Zimbabwe and Libya might re-think their opinion of the West if reparations and help were offered, rather than blankly refused. While the dictators may continue to denounce the West, it will be harder for them to do so if former colonial powers show every attempt to help and communicate with the people they have wronged.

[1] Rising, David, 'Germany increases reparations for Holocaust survivors', Times of Israel, 16 November 2012, http://www.timesofisrael.com/germany-increases-reparations-for-holocaust-survivors/

Title 
Reparations unfairly target the taxpayers of former colonial powers who had nothing to do with the deeds committed under colonisation.
Point 

It is unclear who exactly is being punished under this mechanism. Ordering reparations rather than, for example, a public apology from a monarch or  government, only serves to harm tax-paying citizens whose money would be used to pay such reparations. There is a huge disconnection between the people who actually committed wrongs and the people who are now forced to literally pay for them. This is likely to lead to an increase in hostility from the taxpayers who do not understand why they are being punished, towards the people of former colonies. It is no longer a case where reparations could ever be paid from the direct profits of exploitation as any profit from that must have been spent long ago. It is wrong to impose undue guilt and obligation of payment on to people who are entirely disconnected from that history.

Counterpoint 

Taxpayers already fund the foreign aid which is distributed habitually[1][2]; they are not to blame for a famine in Somalia, for example, but they continue to pay for it[3]. There is frequently a disconnection between the people who pay for aid and the people who receive it. However, we recognise that the need is great enough in such countries to make it not only legitimate, but a moral duty. Most citizens of former colonial powers can recognise that some of the acts committed during colonial times was wrong and deserves repairing. Given that this is a productive means of doing so, and already has the precedent of foreign aid more generally, it is entirely appropriate.

[1] The Daily Mail. ‘Foreign aid budget to cost every family £500’. Published 22/10/2010. Accessed from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1322745/Foreign-aid-budget-cost-family-500-Fat-cats-earning-90k.html on 12/09/11

[2] Accessed from http://ifamericansknew.org/stats/cost_of_israel.html on 12/09/11

[3] BBC. ‘Somalia famine: UK insists aid is “getting through”’. Published 18/08/2011. Accessed from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14574053 on 12/09/11

Title 
The very payment of reparations exerts a neo-colonial power over former colonies.
Point 

The recognition that many former colonies are in desperate economic need only adds to the sense that former colonial powers desire to hold sway over them. Giving reparations induces dependency and can weaken the appearance of government in the former colonies, and may allow the donor government to exert influence over policy areas within the recipient country[1]. Far from giving the recipient country the means to develop itself as an independent nation, this motion simply recalls the old power structure which existed during colonisation.

[1] Accessed from http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5003_24_46.html on 12/09/11

Counterpoint 

There is a fundamental difference here between colonisation and the modern day; whereas colonial powers were formerly damaging infrastructure[1] and natural resources[2], in the modern day under reparations they would be helping to preserve such resources and finance the development of a sound infrastructure. Nor would the former colonial powers be exerting military strength[3][4][5]. There is an obvious difference between the relations of a colonial power and its colony, and a developed nation offering reparations to a less developed nation. One notable change is that the flow of money has changed direction – instead of exploiting the economic potential of the colony, the developed country is actually giving money to the former colony. This opposition point simply does not stand

[1] Accessed from http://www.gdrc.org/icm/poverty-causes.htm on 12/09/11

[2] Accessed from http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/essays/comp/cw25colonizationafrica.htm on 12/09/11

[3] Accessed from http://countrystudies.us/algeria/22.htm on 12/09/11

[4] Accessed from http://www.cfob.org/HistoryofBurma/historyOfBurma.shtml on 12/09/11

[5] Accessed from http://www.everyculture.com/Ma-Ni/Nigeria.html on 12/09/11

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