Tuesday, March 01, 2005

International aid: "Millstone or Milestone"

Oxfam International and Action Aid International have a new brief out just in time for a March 2nd OECD High Level Forum in Paris, where the world's richest countries will meet to discuss how aid might help one billion people living in party.

I suppose I should have something more acutely analytical to say about this, but I'm just going to agree with most of what they have to say:

Two years ago in Rome, these same countries made a series of commitments to reform the aid system, and transform it into an effective instrument of change. But instead of celebrating progress, they will be confronted by the results of two years of inaction. This is a sorry tale of muddle and hypocrisy, dithering and stalling, with the world’s poor cast unwittingly in the role of fall guy. For example:

• Less than half of aid gets spent in the poorest countries, and only 10% gets spent on basic services that are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals
• 40% of aid continues to be tied to overpriced goods and services from the donors’ own countries
• 80 official agencies are responsible for 35,000 aid transactions a year that are imposing a massive administrative burden on some of the poorest countries.
• Aid conditions continue to impose donor blueprints, such as trade liberalisation and privatisation of essential services, with often devastating results for poor people

The lack of progress since Rome raises fundamental questions about the commitment of rich countries to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. Without aid reform, these goals will not be met, and the ambitions of major donor countries to use 2005 as a turning point in international development will be jeopardised. Yet the script can read differently. In Paris, the donor agencies have the opportunity to make the OECD-DAC High Level Forum a milestone in international efforts to eradicate poverty, rather than a millstone for the world’s poor. To make aid an instrument of deep and lasting change, donors must agree to do some simple things to improve its efficiency and accountability.

If this is of interest, be sure to click here to read the full executive summary for a glimpse at their recommedations, or here for the full report.

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