In the Name of Progress: The Underside of Foreign Aid


229 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-919849-04-0




Reviewed by Alexander Craig

Alexander Craig is a freelance journalist in Lennoxville, Quebec.


In her foreword to this book, Lois Wilson, President of the World Council of Churches, concludes, “It is not reassuring reading, calculated to make us feel more at ease with ourselves or with our assumptions and practices.”

There is indeed a lot to criticize about foreign aid in general, and CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) in particular. It’s like government in general in that respect, and a great deal of continual, useful, constructive criticism does go on, some of it even from within. Does this book stand out in any particular way? It’s relatively short for such a large undertaking — about 166 pages of text, and 50 pages or so of useful notes. It’s angry in a useful way, setting out and then tearing down myths about foreign aid, population, resources, and what the Third World needs.

As one might expect from an Energy Probe Project such as this book is, there’s a lot about energy. The authors are very critical of the long-term sense of huge hydro-electric projects, and the severe cultural and demographic dislocation involved. The study has a bit too much on energy and related sectors; it’s an important part of development, of course, but it’s only part.

The authors acknowledge this implicitly by ending with a series of tough recommendations, calling, for instance, for a “National Inquiry... to determine whether foreign aid, in any of its manifestations, has been beneficial to its recipients, what the reasons have been for the successes or failures of foreign aid, and what the prospects are for foreign aid in the future.”

The authors also give in an appendix lists of citizens’ groups and other sources. Their aim — to get people questioning basic assumptions about aid — can be achieved only if they succeed in creating awareness about how our definitions of aid and development can be changed and made more useful for all the world’s inhabitants. They’ve taken on a very large project, but this book is a very promising start.


Adams, Patricia, and Lawrence Solomon, “In the Name of Progress: The Underside of Foreign Aid,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,