Monday, 3 February 2014
CONTRIBUTOR: JOE CERRELL
Two weeks ago, Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter for 2014. I was excited to see it focus ondebunking persistent myths in development aid, and it got me thinking about the myths I’ve encountered working in advocacy, government relations and communications at the Gates Foundation for the past decade.
One constant refrain about aid that I’ve heard — particularly in more recent years living in Europe — is this: “We have to choose between helping the poor here at home and helping the poor abroad.”
The truth is that framing the discussion in these terms poses a false choice, that if we only cut off resources for overseas aid programs, we could fix our domestic financial challenges at home. The truth is that the amount of assistance provided to poor countries is a tiny fraction of national budgets, contrary to prevailing public opinion. We all share a common interest in ensuring continued support for both programs at home and internationally.
Huge return on small investment
Let’s be clear — funding support for domestic issues comes first, and it always has. Take the United Kingdom for example, one of the largest aid donors in the world. In 2012, the combined expenditure for many of the biggest domestic social programs (pensions, welfare and health care) accounted for more than 50 percent of the U.K. annual budget, while the amount spent on overseas aid by contrast is less than 1 percent. This general proportion of spending is the same for all major aid donors, including the United States.
When you then see what relatively small investments can lead to — including expanded immunization coverage, declines in chronic hunger amongst children and big gains in agriculture productivity — the case for foreign aid is undeniable.
Why then does this myth persist? The biggest reason is that so few people are aware of how little is spent on overseas aid and the great impact it is having. A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that most Americans believe that 28 percent of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid. The same survey also showed that when people understood that aid was only about 1 percent of the budget, they were much more supportive of maintaining and even increasing the amount.
Click on the image to view larger version.
The bottom line
Quite simply, if 1 percent of the budget was redirected back to domestic issues in a donor country, it would only be a drop in the bucket — but invested in the developing world, it is helping to spur historic progress and prosperity.
As Bill and Melinda Gates pointed out, by many measures the world is better today than it has ever been. Upwards of a billion people have lifted themselves out of poverty; many countries that used to be recipients of aid are now self-sufficient, and some have become emerging donors.
What this says to me is that if more people knew what is undeniably true — that aid is a small piece of the budget and that it works — they would support it. We need to do a better job sharing the success stories and each of us has a shared responsibility to help #stopthemyth.
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NEWS ANALYSIS: US AID
SOTU 2014: Share your vision for US foreign aid
By Michael Igoe on 28 January 2014
The U.S. president’s annual State of the Union address tends to shun international development issues and instead focus on domestic priorities and national security.
And yet, the speech can set the political agenda and galvanize support for ambitious reform projects like President Barack Obama’s pledge last year to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 — a cause that has since been taken up by the World Bank and others around the globe.
On Tuesday, the eve of this year’s SOTU, Devex asked several Washington insiders to imagine what they’d want the president to say if his speech contained a detailed section on development cooperation.
We’ll be updating this post throughout the day as your submissions continue to roll in. Let us know what you would like to see in the president’s speech — and your reactions after it happens — by email@example.com or tweeting @devex.
Here are a few thoughts from your development experts in and around Washington:
Jim Kolbe, former congressman from Arizona and senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said that he hoped Obama would offer, “a call to inspire the American people to return to a role of leadership in world affairs and not turn their back on the world we live in and see around us.”
“Americans have grown weary of carrying this burden, but there is no other country capable of performing that role,” Kolbe wrote. “The world we live in today is more dangerous and unstable that at any time since the end of the Cold War, and requires our leadership.”
Dan Runde, William A. Schreyer chair and director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Project on Prosperity and Development, offered this vision for the future of U.S. pro-democracy efforts: “We will be uncompromising in expanding freedom in the world.”
He added: “Political dissidents in Ukraine, Belarus, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba and elsewhere will have no better friend than the United States of America. The work of creating democracy is slow and often hard. Many governments seek to thwart us and have become more sophisticated in holding back the tide of history. At the same time, religious minorities need to be protected. Ethnic cleansing of Christians in the Middle East is morally wrong and we will work to stop it.”
Greg Adams, Oxfam America’s director of aid effectiveness, offered his take on Obama’s development leadership — and what it has been missing so far.
“Tonight, I am not looking for new development ideas from the president; we want to know his political strategy for making his existing ideas happen,” Adams wrote to Devex.
“The Obama administration has done much to strengthen American efforts to end poverty. President Obama is one of the most articulate advocates for global development that has ever served in the U.S. government. And his administration has put in place real policy reforms that have strengthened American development leadership on the ground. But for tonight’s State of the Union, I am hoping that the president focuses on shoring up the politics behind U.S. leadership in the fight to end poverty,” Adams added. “Ironically, effective development policy has been a rare area of bipartisan agreement for almost a decade. The president should use the State of Union to capitalize on this bipartisanship and ensure the success of his reform agenda.”
Randal Mason, director of strategic partnerships at IREX, submitted on behalf of his organization: “The U.S. recognizes that the long-term success of poverty reduction, economic development, and improved public health, depends on countries having strong, effective, and participatory governance. We will prioritize and increase support for the elements of a well-governed society — a robust civil society sector, a strong and independent media, free and fair elections, and protection of fundamental rights.”
The Center for Global Development, a Washington D.C.-based think-tank, issued its own internal wish-list for Obama’s address, breaking down foreign aid priorities sector-by-sector.
CGDev President Nancy Birdsall suggested the president say the following: “Last year I called for an end to extreme poverty in the world by 2030. That end is in our sights. But inequality is rising not only here in the United States, but in China and India, in Europe and in Africa. To achieve real progress in tackling this pernicious challenge, we need to put the fight against inequality on our global agenda, as well as our domestic one.”
Birdsall was not alone in shining a light on rising inequality as an international development issue.
Sam Worthington, CEO and president of InterAction, suggested the president address global inequality in his speech: “We need to advance a more equitable world, both at home and abroad.”
Liz Schrayer, executive director at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, an industry association lobbying for a robust foreign affairs budget, suggested Obama use the speech to “define” his presidential “legacy” on development issues. Schrayer cited former President George W. Bush’s launching of the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief, which has helped funnel more than $52 billion to HIV/AIDS programs around the world.
“Tonight, President Obama has the opportunity to define his legacy of changing the course of millions of lives around the world. That’s a speech everyone will remember and all parties can agree on.”
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WHERE DOES RESEARCH FIT INTO JIM KIM'S 'SOLUTIONS BANK'?
Posted by Paul Stephens on 03 February 2014 04:08:26 AM
An important part of World Bank President Jim Kim’s plan to remake the Washington, D.C.-based institution is to change how the the institution uses, manages, and disseminates knowledge.
This so-called “global practices” model is intended to help bank staff apply their technical knowledge more fluidly across countries and regions.
But how will the changes affect research teams, as the shift toward more evidence-based policy and analysis could entail a bigger operational role for research? Andrew Burns, senior economist at the World Bank and lead author of the World Economic Prospects Report, gave us some interesting insights.
“It … means a sort of obligation on the part of research to be more operationally relevant.” he explained. “And you know, those are tricky things to actually make happen because often times, what’s operationally relevant is difficult to get an economically robust result for and that of course is a source of frustration for people working on the ground and equally a source of frustration for the researchers who are actually trying to expand the walls of knowledge.”
Burns said he was “relatively optimistic” that the global practices would concentrate the bank’s practical knowledge and provide an opportunity to improve communication between the operational and research sides of the bank, although he thinks some natural tension will likely remain.
“Policy makers do have to act, and they do have to implement policies in the areas where the knowledge is imperfect, and what researchers are concerned about is being asked to draw stronger conclusions than their research will support.” he said. “I think that’s a healthy tension.”
The World Bank’s operating budget for the next fiscal year will reveal how much bigger a role the research teams will play in the bank’s redesigned business model. It will also show if the global practices themselves will receive allocations for knowledge synthesis and creation independent from the multi-donor trust funds that often drive such initiatives.
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