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Accountability in Development Aid

accountability in development aid
According to an article on the Guardian’s website by Thomas Pogge and Mitu Sengupta, two university professors and executives in Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP), in order to push forward and meet development goals, concrete tasks must be assigned to specific influential actors and agents in the development community.

In their contribution to the Guardian, the professors state, “To eradicate poverty, we must understand why it persists on such a huge scale in an affluent world.” They go on to assert that only the rich can influence the institutional arrangements which create the large income gap between the rich and poor in the globe.

The current network of supranational laws and obligations is influenced heavily by the wealthiest people and organizations of the world that have enormous “advantages in scale, expertise and political influence,” which enable them to do better than others in the current global state of affairs.

The article calls on the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in September to move beyond the general wishes and goals that the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) consist of by naming specific actors as responsible for specific tasks, and calling for systemic reforms of the global institutions which contribute to global poverty.

The “special responsibilities,” which the UN high-level panel on development attributed to developed countries, should be clearly and concretely defined and those not living up to them should be held accountable, according to the professors.

It is important to realize that when these two professors talk about the wealthiest people in the world having influence, they are including American citizens. Living in a democratic country that has a spending budget of $3.8 trillion for the 2013 fiscal year, citizens of the U.S. have significant influence in the fight against poverty, especially considering that official estimates put the cost of eradicating global poverty at only $30 billion.

The biggest obstacle to accountability in development aid and poverty eradication is leadership from Congress and White House. The best way to create that leadership in a democratic society is by designating responsibility, as the authors continually state. U.S. politicians should be accountable for their foreign aid decisions. This can be done through the voting process, of course, but also can be done by contacting legislators and informing them of how important poverty eradication is to their constituents and to U.S. strategic interests.

It is unlikely that the UNGA will assign specific tasks to specific players in the developed world, given the political nature of the organization. But, on a small scale level, the citizens of the wealthiest country on earth—and the agenda setter for the developed world—have the influence to fight global poverty effectively.

– Martin Drake

Sources: The Guardian, US Government Spending, The Borgen Project
Photo: UN