Monday, March 05, 2007

Does international aid make a difference?

There is an entrenched view in some quarters that all the millions of dollars given to poor countries in the past 50 years have made no difference to poverty because the money is wasted, misused or syphoned off by corrupt officials. Those who hold this view have good reason to give nothing and so the continuing cycle of poverty persists.

Students from poor families at St Judes donate to those in greater need

In contrast with this helpless worldview, others have been active in finding ways to ensure that international aid is directed towards reducing poverty. As a result, we see campaigns like the Millennium Development Goals, the End of Poverty, Red, and so forth.

The big shift that has come about from this 'what can we do about it' approach, is that Official Development Aid (ODA) is increasingly tied to performance on poverty reduction.

I have blogged here and here about some specific consequences for Tanzania. Today I read that Bangladesh is being held to account by a group of donor countries on its tardiness in implementing its Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The Local Consultative Group, a platform of the country's bilateral and multilateral donors, has made it clear that unless the government moves forward on implementating the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the donor community will not commit to assisting future programs and projects.

The donor groups have advised the government to hold the Poverty Reduction Strategy Implementation Forum without delay in order to ensure the flow of aid.

This new approach to official aid by the world community should give hope to private donors who support projects like the School of St Judes. Offical aid is important in improving good governance and infrastructure on a country-wide basis. This means that the kids who are getting a great education at the School of St Jude will grow up in a community with better economic prospects and better services.

So, if you get a chance, you can encourage your government to direct its official aid towards the alleviation of extreme poverty in the world's poorest countries. Recently, I wrote to all 150 MPs in the Australian House of Representatives. My own representative, Brendan Nelson, sent a poorly-researched reply that avoided the key points and presented a mix of lies and misrepresentation. I think I will have to reply. No wonder we are constantly disappointed and cynical about our politicians – most of them play the game of defending fixed positions instead of facing issues and presenting useful strategies for moving forward.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Click here to subscribe to this blog.

No comments: