Broken Promises?

As Obama waves farewell to the UK after his fleeting visit and heads to the Normandy coast for the G8 world leader’s summit, many are speculating what promises will be made at this meeting of the top world powers.

The agenda is jam-packed with issues, notably the financial crisis and the response to the Arab spring, but also with reference to emerging technologies and the effects of climate change.

Yet at this meeting of world leaders they appear reluctant to comment on the aid effectiveness agenda, not least because many of them have failed to deliver on the pledges made back in 2005, and have even been accused of ‘cooking the books’ in a recent report.

It appears that the conflict in Libya will dominate the agenda, and a summit once famed for focusing on global poverty and the plight of millions in the developing world is unsurprisingly concentrated on US and EU political interests.

Many are looking to the G20 now as a summit of truly influential world powers, and the hope is that the aid agenda there will be given adequate attention. For despite recent scepticism over aid, the recent financial crisis and recurring disasters causing damage in the developing world require urgent action and a committed response from the international community.

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Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why 0.7%?

Following the leaked letter from Liam Fox to David Cameron today outlining his concerns over enshrining the government’s commitment to overseas development aid (ODA) of 0.7% of GNI (Gross National Income) into law, questions have once again been raised over the necessity of aid.

The calls to ‘Keep the Promise’ from the opposition have determined to keep the issue of international aid on the agenda, but this has not served to quell the scepticism over international aid contributions.

The commitment to 0.7% is over 40 years old, with rich developed nations promising to spend 0.7% of GNP (Gross National Product) on ODA at the UN General Assembly in 1970.

To some this seems like an outdated and arbitrary figure, unsuitable for a time of austerity measures following the financial crisis. 

However, the government remains convinced that it is necessary. Arguments that ‘charity begins at home’ have been quashed by the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell: This is a time to reaffirm our promises to the world’s poor, not abandon them. We should never balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest people. It is true that charity begins at home, but it doesn’t end there.’ 

This is not to deny that there are problems with aid effectiveness and delivery, and with a history of conditionalities and tied aid, critics such as William Easterly say that it does more harm than good.

However the new government is committed to transparency and greater accountability over aid, and the recent bilateral and multilateral aid reviews have demonstrated progress towards these objectives. The comments from Liam Fox don’t appear to be representative of the government’s stated commitment to development.

Harriet Harman, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development outlined the importance of government development assistance: ‘By sending aid from our government we can, and do make a difference in reducing this toll of suffering.  When we know that people are dying unnecessarily and know that we can do something to prevent it – then surely that is what we should do.

Today’s story highlights the need for encourage continued commitment to overseas aid, for, despite its challenges, government aid provides life-saving support to the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world.

Published in: Uncategorized on May 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

It looks like it’s going to rain…

Having enjoyed the beautiful sunshine that has blessedBritainover the past few weeks, it has been a welcome respite from the heat to see dark clouds hovering overhead, and hear the rain pattering against the windowpane as I drift off to sleep. Yet whilst it is celebrated by agriculturalists and gardeners, for others, the arrival of rain is not so well received.

I am not talking about spoilt picnics in the park, or getting caught in an April shower. For another community across the world, the arrival of rain spells disaster.

 The internally displaced people inSomalia have been forced from their homes following decades of violent conflict find themselves surviving in makeshift displacement camps. Crowded and isolated from humanitarian assistance, these camps are under the control of armed rebel groups.

 According to UN estimates, at least 2.4 million Somalis need help across the country 

The onset of the rainy season will bring further problems to this vulnerable community. Tents and tarpaulins that have been in place for several years are now leaking, offering little shelter and support to families that huddle beneath them. Living in cramped and close conditions, the rains are likely to fuel the spread of water-borne diseases in the already unsanitary conditions. Even the markets are bare, traders scared off by the insurgents, leaving no options for finding food supplies or better shelter.

So perhaps the next time you find yourself caught in a downpour, cursing the fact that you forgot your umbrella, spare a thought for the Somalis for whom rain carries more risks than respite.

Published in: Uncategorized on May 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Good News Stories

The Royal Wedding brought a flurry of flags and excitement last Friday, as the nation joined together to celebrate the love and joy of a young couple. Even the normally brusque and abrupt Londoners were jovial and friendly, starting up conversations with total strangers. The atmosphere in the capital city was infectious and arriving  in Hyde Park, thousands of revellers adorned in Union Jack colours crowded in front of giant screens to catch a glimpse of the new royals. Whether a royalist or not, the day brought sunshine, a day off work, and a smile to people’s faces, boosting the morale of the nation during difficult times.

As street parties were in full swing, communities were drawn together, and neighbours welcomed one another into the celebrations. The day’s events took over the news channels, almost obscuring ongoing situations across the rest of the world, but at least it provided some good news stories for once.

I felt over the weekend that my spirits were lifted. Maybe it was the sunshine, or the lie-ins, but the sense of goodwill that emanated from the Royal Wedding celebrations was contagious.

As I reflected on this, my thoughts turned to the thousands of good news stories that are taking place around the world. Often obscured by disasters or political battles, these are the stories that should be heard, and should encourage us. Around the world communities are coming together (not just for royal weddings) to support and help each other, using their resources and capacity to build schools, dig wells and invest in each other and their collective future. They are proactively doing development without requiring the aid of external actors, and empowering themselves to find new ways to tackle poverty.

Tis the season for good news….

Published in: Uncategorized on May 4, 2011 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment