Give more money to least-developed countries, say advocates

Credit: rogiro/flickr

More aid money needs to go to the 37 least-developed countries (LDCs) to achieve the goal of ending extreme poverty, according to the advocacy group the ONE Campaign. Half of the more than $130 billion in official development assistance provided each year should go to the countries, the group argues. Raising that from the current 30 percent would provide an additional $26.5 billion for the LDCs.

The call, part of ONE’s annual Data Report, comes ahead of this week’s meeting of the top seven global economies and the European Union (G7). International development is one of the key points of discussion because of the July financing for development conference in Ethiopia and the establishment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the September U.N. General Assembly.

“The past couple of years we have seen aid to LDCs has fallen,” said Sara Harcourt, policy eirector for ONE, in an interview with Humanosphere. “Over the next 15 years the LDCs are projected to account for 50 percent of the global poor. How can we make sure the LDCs are most supported and are not left behind?”

Credit: ONE Campaign

Credit: ONE Campaign

Some of the early discussions at the G7 meeting have hit on issues that impact people in developing countries, including climate change and food security. Two major commitments were made. One to end hunger and malnutrition for 500 million people in developing countries by 2030 and end fossil fuel use by 2100. Aid groups were quick to welcome the announcements, but point out the lack of commitment to fund the realization of the goals.

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“Global leaders must make meaningful financial commitments, if they are to avoid this ambitious target being cast aside like many others before it,” said Buba Khan, Africa advocacy coordinator at ActionAid International, in a statement yesterday.

The same sentiments were shared by Oxfam. Commitments matter say the groups, but so does the money.

“G7 leaders have copped out of delivering any real change for more than 1 billion people who live in poverty,” said Oxfam spokesperson Jorn Kalinski in a statement. “They are offering a smattering of largely unfunded initiatives to tackle the huge global challenges of hunger, inequality, and disease. This is a slap in the face for millions of people who don’t have enough to eat or who can’t afford to pay for vital healthcare.”

Some ideas on how to increase available money are presented in ONE’s report. In addition to more aid for LDCs, it urges countries to meet the 0.7 percent of gross national income spending on aid target, targeted investments that support inclusive growth, better data collection, better tax collection and policies, and spending on basic services like education and health. Done in concert, the recommendations can help to realize the goal of no person living on less than $1.25 a day by 2030.

Credit: ONE Campaign

Credit: ONE Campaign

At the core of the report and one of the drivers of the conversation about aid and development over the past few years is ending extreme poverty. Leaders from World Bank chief Jim Kim to President Barack Obama to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have discussed 2030 as the date when extreme poverty will end. Projections show that won’t happen if the status quo remains. It also won’t if the definition for extreme poverty is unchanged, said Charles Kenny in Bloomberg last week.

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It will undergo restructuring, but getting people out of extreme poverty is not the end.

“I think everyone agrees that just crossing the $1.25 threshold does not mean everyone is in the clear,” said Harcourt.

Roughly half of the world’s poor will live in LDCs by 2030. That will, in large part, be due to the gains made by Nigeria, China and India, home to roughly half of the world’s poor today. The fear is that countries will be left behind and the growing burden of poverty could make matters worse. Harcourt cited the 0.7 percent commitment as an area where donor countries can step up and do more.

The European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council on Development agreed for countries to uphold the the 0.7 percent spending target “within the timeframe of the post-2015 agenda.” That gives countries 15 years to meet their commitments. That is not fast enough, says Harcourt.

“If the point of official development assistance is to help countries develop and meet basic needs, increases in spending will be needed sooner than at the end of the SDGs,” she said. “The U.K. has shown with a conservative government that it is possible for countries that have the political commitment to make this reality. We need all the countries to make that a priority.”

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.