An Empty Poor Box at the United Nations

Article excerpt

Byline: Joshua Kurlantzick

There's one ray of light for the world's poor: last week's announcement by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates that they had lined up roughly 40 billionaires and wealthy families who are promising to give at least half their fortunes--an estimated $600 billion--to charity. Other than that, however, the outlook for the hungry and homeless is gloomier than it's been in a long time. Foreign aid has all but vanished thanks to hard times in the traditional donor countries.

Just a few years ago, miracles seemed possible. World leaders signed on to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a program to eradicate extreme poverty, stem global hunger, and provide universal primary education. Politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton campaigned for foreign aid arm in arm with celebrities like Bono. In the Bush White House, the idea that poverty breeds terrorism gave rise to the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government agency designed to boost aid and reward well-governed recipient nations. And the effort paid off; between 2001 and 2005, governments more than doubled their allocations, culminating with new pledges of $50 billion by the G8 nations (minus Russia) at a 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, dedicated to reaching the millennium goals by 2015. …