The world's wealthiest nations are close to agreement on a new
strategy for helping the world's poorest.
Instead of focusing on the level of official development aid,
this new approach targets specific results and sets deadlines to
meet them. It also endorses anticorruption provisions in the
spending of aid dollars.
The goal is not just to redirect aid, but to convince voters in
the richest countries that their taxes are well spent. The message
is simple: Development matters. Aid works. If a contract is
crooked, we'll blow the whistle on it.
And voters need convincing that foreign aid matters. Donor
nations may seem rich in the eyes of the world's poor, but people
from laid-off AT&T employees to public-transport strikers in France
don't feel so wealthy. As Western governments trim their budgets,
voters are demanding that leaders account for tax dollars spent.
The strategy is to be endorsed next week by the 26-member
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), based
The plan aims to cut by one-half the proportion of people living
in extreme poverty by the year 2015. More than 1 billion people now
live on less than $1 a day.
"In the year 2000, four-fifths of the people in the world will
be living in developing countries, most with improving conditions.
But the number in absolute poverty and despair will still be
growing," according to a report by the OECD Development Assistance
Committee, which drafted the new aid proposal.
Other 20-year goals include: universal primary education in all
countries, reducing the infant mortality rate by two-thirds, and
reversing the loss of environment resources, such as forests and
stratospheric ozone. The report also calls for eliminating gender
disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005.
The OECD, a "club" for the world's most prosperous nations,
reaches decisions on the basis of consensus and monitors compliance
through published peer reviews. It has no power to enforce
recommendations on member states.
OECD members now give more than $50 billion annually in official
development assistance, more than 90 percent of the world's total.
But in recent years, many OECD states have cut or plan cuts in
their foreign aid budgets, including the United States (23
percent), Canada (30 percent), and Finland (40 percent).
Development officials meeting in Paris last week to prepare
these recommendations were clearly aware of a growing voter
backlash against foreign aid programs, and they did not hesitate to
use old standards of giving to defend their programs. …