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To some this seems like an outdated and arbitrary figure, unsuitable for a time of austerity measures following the financial crisis.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

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

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