While watching the Channel 4 news on Tuesday night I happened to see a special report on development and aid. The segment was aired in light of the most recent DATA report by the ONE campaign, which looks at how well the G8 countries have done in terms of keeping their promises made at the G8 summit in Gleneagles.
The 2010 DATA Report comes as the final report in a five year series of reports which functioned primarily to hold countries accountable for their previously made commitments, and to communicate their progress in meeting their targets.
The news segment identified the key findings of the report – that the G8 will deliver 61% of their promised increases in development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa. When looked at closely, the report identifies that Britain is the only country on track to meet its target of spending 0.7% of its gross national income on foreign aid, which is an admirable achievement.
Other countries such as the US, Canada and Japan are also on track to surpass their modest targets, while France and Germany are on course to deliver at least a quarter of their ambitious targets by 2010. But, while these countries’ contribution to aid has increased, Italy has actually regressed, decreasing its spending on foreign aid. ONE have taken aim at this, launching an online game, ‘Hurl Burl’ – in which they ask you to help them get Italian PM kicked out of the G8.
But, the Channel 4 report also asked two more critical questions – whether Britain still has a moral obligation to give aid when we are facing our own economic problems, and whether aid always benefits the recipient.
These are valid and relevant questions – and certainly ones that I’ve grappled with.
The DATA Report gets it right on the moral question – great nations should keep their promises, and in the long term, it is in the interest of everyone that we keep these promises to enable the world’s poorest people to lift themselves out of poverty.
But, on the question of aid, it’s a little more complex. As part of their discussion, Channel 4 aired part of a recent Oxfam animation (which we blogged about here) that addresses the benefits of aid to people living in the global south and why we should continue to give it. As I said at the time, this is great in principle, but we do have to work harder to make sure that more aid makes a real difference.
Still the problem remains that regardless of how much aid is given, there is no credible monitoring system or data to measure the effectiveness of aid, nor is there enough political accountability in recipient countries. These things prevent us from fully understanding the effectiveness of aid given, and highlight how necessary it is to hold governments accountable in both recipient and donor countries. There has been a lot of attention on our blog about this it’s something that was brought into light by Esther Duflo’s TED talk which I blogged about here.
The findings of the ONE Report demonstrate the sheer force of collective accountability and so called peer pressure associated with making collective commitments such as those made at the previous G8 summit. ONE’s report may be the final one in the series but it does not signify the end, but rather signifies a new chapter in the story of development aid. The report draws on the lessons learnt over the past five years to outline what future commitments made by rich nations should look like in light of the progress that has already been made. With the up and coming G8 and G20 meetings, as well as the Millennium Development Goals summit in New York in September, the ONE campaign brings to our attention the great opportunity we have to frame a better, more cohesive response to aid and engagement through our future commitments.
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