Information and stories about aid effectiveness and reform

New Report Reveals Dramatic Growth in Impact Investments
Socially Responsible Investments (SRI), those that pay attention to the environmental and social impacts of what they fund while still turning a profit, have ballooned. The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, an association for professionals and organizations engaged in sustainable, responsible, and impact investing, recently released a report detailing the growth of SRI in the United States, showing huge increases in funding.

Coming in at over $6.5 trillion in 2014, the Socially Responsible Investments market in the United States has shown a 76 percent increase since 2012 and has grown nearly tenfold from 1995. “These assets account for more than one out of every six dollars under professional management in the United States,” the report states. The dollar amount is over 200 times larger than the annual flow of Official Development Assistance from the United States.

The growth in SRI is not limited to the United States. The Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, a worldwide collaboration of sustainable investment organizations takes a broader view, looking at the amount of money invested in SRI around the world by region.

In 2014, $21.4 trillion was tied up in SRI around the globe, an increase of $8.1 trillion from two years previously. Europe leads the pack, with 63.7 percent of the total, more than doubling the amount held by the United States. Canada contributes 4.4 of the share, an impressive number considering its relatively small population. In fact, per capita SRI in Canada is higher than the United States. These three regions contribute 99 percent of the total, with Asia and Australia/New Zealand taking .2 and .8 percent respectively.

Europe also has the highest proportion of SRI to total managed assets, with 58.8 percent of all investments channeled towards socially beneficial growth. The global average is just over 30 percent and has grown nearly 50 percent in the last two years.

To be sure, foreign investment by governments to aid developing nations must also be strong. “The global challenges are so complex and the size of the funding that’s needed is so large, traditional funding sources like philanthropy are probably not going to be sufficient to meet it,” said Anna Kearney, associate director for corporate social responsibility at the Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon), in July.

In addition, the issue of how much of SRI ends up aiding environmental and social development in the developing world is unclear.

However, the Global Impact Investing Network — a nonprofit working to scale up impact investing — sheds some light on the answer. The group surveyed 146 SRI firms around the globe and found that 48 percent of the $60 billion under management by these firms was invested in emerging markets. That may be a proxy for the ratio of the $21.4 trillion in SRI that is invested in developing economies.

The trajectory for SRI remains promising. As more consumers look to put their money toward helping the planet and the poor while earning a profit, a growth in investment options that offer this will follow.

John Wachter

Sources: Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment 1, Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment 2, Global Impact Investing Network, Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, The Guardian, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Photo: Flickr

St. George’s Crypt Makes Progress to Help those in Need
Founded in the 1930s, St. George’s Crypt became a charitable group that has helped local people for generations. In its beginnings, the small church began charitable functions and fundraising from local people, run by Reverend Percy Donald, known as the Don.

Throughout its existence the function of the organization has shifted to satisfy the needs of the people and the events occurring around the neighborhood, such as assistance for those affected by war, illness, and the impact of a devastating economic downturn.

As the group’s website states, one of the objectives of the organization is to assist in “the relief of poverty, hardship, sickness and distress among needy and destitute persons,” and recently St. George’s Crypt has taken their efforts to help people even further.

In 2011, The Crypt set up purchase shops that would benefit more people in the area. More recently, the organization has done even more as it has invested more money into building homes for struggling families in the area.

A development project recently gave the group £1.5 million to spend on infrastructure, and the building of 20 new homes for those in need. These properties will act as “halfway houses” to help individuals as well as families get back on their feet, and create more sustainable lifestyles, and smarter economic practices.

The outreach of support for those in need knows no limits, helping those that are homeless, ill, suffering the vulnerabilities of recent catastrophes, and even those suffering from addiction. One of these housing developments will include a hostel in Hyde Park, which will house a larger number of people at a time for a shorter period of time.

When small organizations such as these expand over the years, even over 85 years such as the St. George’s Crypt, it gives hope that there is potential for anyone to make a difference in their communities. To learn more about St. George’s Crypt and the work they continue to do for those in need in their community, go to their website.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: St. George’s Crypt, BBC
Photo: Flickr

The humanitarian system is facing increasing demand to reform its approach to crisis response. The demands are for the system to become more flexible and transparent in order to better meet needs, utilize resources more efficiently as well as improve local capacity. But, why now?

Our world is changing rapidly and there is an increasing demand to solve new problems in an ever-changing world of ongoing conflict. As a result, UN’s Secretary-General has initiated the World Humanitarian Summit to be held in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016, where he seeks to challenge the ways humanitarian organizations work together to deliver aid and save lives.

In 2014, $23 billion was spent on crisis response. Yet, the international emergency aid system is still failing vulnerable regions such as Syria and Ukraine.

IRIN, an independent, nonprofit news organization, suggested various ways UN humanitarianism could change to Ertharin Cousin, head of the World Food Programme (WFP), and Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN’s humanitarian coordination body, OCHA.

Among the many ideas for reform is localizing the humanitarian response system. This not only involves having the local communities making crisis response decisions, but also changing the humanitarian funding methods. Currently, larger organizations such as OCHA and WFP receive the vast majority of the funding, while local organizations receive little funding.

Another important reform proposal, is making the top jobs available to everyone, not just permanent members of the Security Council. This is something the UN has been heavily criticized for.

Having only people on the inside of the organization and not bringing an outside perspective is definitely not conducive to change. It’s also not conducive to avoiding politicisation, one of the many causes of humanitarian problems.

Despite all of these ideas, the question still remains – is reform the answer to a more efficacious humanitarian response system or should we get rid of the system all together?

Paula Acevedo

Sources: IRIN News, World Humanitarian Summit
Photo: Flickr

Education and the Sustainable Development Goals
Long idolized were the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight targets created and adopted by the United Nations in 2000. Central to their aim was the eradication of global poverty by improving maternal health and access to clean water, food and education while reducing the number of people living on under $1.25 a day across the developing world.

However, the days of the Millennium Development Goals are over. They expired this year after 15 years mixed with success and failure. A new set of global development goals is now on the horizon: the Sustainable Development Goals. Once again, there will be a specific goal tailored to improve equal education access for all. But before delving into how that goal is currently shaping up, it is worth examining how education fared with the Millennium Development Goals.

Goal two of The Millennium Development Goals aimed to achieve universal primary education. The goal only had one target: “ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.”

Unfortunately, this target was not met. On the bright side, the number of children globally that now attend primary school has risen dramatically since 1990. Enrollment in the developing world has risen to 91 percent, but the goal was for universal primary education, meaning all children everywhere. There is also still a fairly large gender gap in some areas. Of the 57 million kids out of school, 33 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa and 55 percent of those 33 million children are girls.

So where are the Sustainable Development Goals heading in terms of education development in the next 15 years? First off, education gets another specific goal for itself. The target this time is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” not all that different from the Millennium Development Goal before it.

The Sustainable Development Goals’ “vision is to transform lives through education, recognizing the important role of education as a main driver of development.” Looking to continue with the progress created by the Millennium Development Goals, goal four of the Sustainable Development Goals will look to expand access to all by providing 12 years of free, publicly-funded, high quality equal education. Nine of these years will be compulsory.

Particular emphasis is put on the quality of education going forward. By increasing quality of education, the 100-year education gap between the developed and developing has the potential to be reduced. Another benefit of an improvement in the quality of education is that it will improve learning outcomes. How can this be done? By “strengthening inputs, processes and evaluation of outcomes and mechanisms to measure progress.”

Another facet to quality education is ensuring that the teachers are well trained, empowered, motivated and supported. This ensures a higher level of quality when it comes to education.

Often seen as a gateway out of poverty, education is an extremely important issue when it comes to development in the developing world. It will be interesting to track the evolution of the Sustainable Development Goals’ development toward a fully-fledged goal. Hopefully it can continue the inroads created by the Millennium Development Goals and improve education for the millions of children without it.

Gregory Baker

Sources: UNDP, UNESCO UN Millennium Goals, UN Sustainable Development,
Photo: Flickr

Currently, 60 million people have been forcibly displaced globally. Ongoing conflict around the world has led to large populations to flee and start over with nothing, creating a situation where humanitarian relief agencies can’t keep up with the amount of services and funding they need.

Fortunately, in early August, UN under-secretary-general of humanitarian affairs, Stephen O’Brien, announced that $70 million had been allocated for the worst kinds of under-funded emergencies. The money comes from grants from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and is viewed as a last resort for aid operations.

The United Nations relief will provide much-needed resources to those who have fled their homes, in Bangladesh, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan.

Each country faces varying challenges, most of which have to do with conflict. Sudan and Chad, for example, will receive $20 million for basic services and protection from Sudan’s Darfur region which has endured 13 years of conflict.

Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia will receive $33 million, to deal with the recurring conflicts and climate shocks in its region. Somalia has more than 730,000 people continuously needing emergency food and nutrition assistance, also a result of the Yemen conflict with the amount of people fleeing their homes.

Myanmar and Bangladesh, will receive $8 million. Both of these countries have some of the world’s most neglected communities and displaced people that need access to emergency shelter and healthcare.

Afghanistan will receive $8 million for humanitarian operations, where relief agencies have decreased services due to underfunding, although they really need to increase their services as a result of ongoing conflict.

CERF was created in 2006, has 125 member states, totaling $4.1 billion to support 95 countries and territories since 2006. It receives most of its funding from governments, as well as foundations, companies, charities and individuals by placing it into a single fund and then distributing the funds in emergency situations.

Considering the alarming amount of people that have been forcibly displaced and desperately need basic services, we should all be doing more to not only meet the basic human demands they so desperately need, but also help stabilize these areas.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: UN News Centre, Xinhua
Photo: Flickr

Changes to Food for Peace to Increase Sustainability
Sixty years after being put into effect, the Food for Peace program faces congressional reform that will lower costs and provide sustainable support for those living in conflict-ridden countries. Currently, law requires that food aid be grown in and shipped from the U.S. – a mandate that increases costs 25-50 percent more than they would be on the current market. Advocates for reform criticize the program for its inefficiency and helping American shipping and farming businesses profit from such programs.

Shipping firms, farms and some NGOs form an “iron triangle of special interests” that have benefited from international aid and attracted criticism from politicians in both parties. Between 2004 and 2013, 88 percent of USAID funding was used to harvest and ship food- a huge cost that decreased the amount of food the organization was able to provide by 64 percent.

A system designed this way is not only inefficient in properly allocating resources, but also counterproductive in affecting any kind of change in the countries that need it most. Daniel Maxwell, professor and research director at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, commented, “We need to support local agricultural producers and markets, or at a minimum, not undermine them.” Reformers advocate for changing the system to implement locally grown and shipped food resources rather than those from the U.S.

Senators Corker and Coons, who are cosponsoring the reform of the bill, have estimated that such changes could expand the program’s reach by 12 million people and free up $440 million through local, sustainable production. Providing support for local growers and shippers will strengthen local economies rather than keeping them reliant on international resources, empower and employ more people, and create a more sustainable rebuilding of communities.

Eric Munoz at Oxfam America says that a program created 60 years ago is not useful or appropriate for current times. Indeed, when 60 million people per year are in need of food aid, expansion of resources and lowering costs is more greatly needed than ever. Many farmers believe they have a right to profit from food aid programs and would suffer from reforms, but experts estimate such programs amount to only 1 percent of agribusiness profits.

For policy changes that would so greatly impact those in need, lessening the profits of huge farming businesses in the U.S. seems trivial. Worrying about this profit loss is “an inappropriate way of viewing the rationale of providing emergency assistance and foreign assistance, particularly assistance that is meant to address food insecurity in complex crises like Syria or South Sudan,” says Munoz.

Corker and Coon’s reform bill will see congressional debate in September.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IRIN 1, IRIN 2
Photo: Flickr


Recently, the Millennium Challenge Account-Philippines vowed to complete anti-poverty projects funded by the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation. The MCA-P marked May 2016 as the new deadline for project completion.

The announcement of this new goal came just one month after an important meeting in Washington D.C. In May, the social welfare and development secretary for the Philippines and CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation met at the MCC headquarters to publicly reaffirm their “strong partnership”.

During the meeting, Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman praised the partnership for strengthening the country’s democratization process. She acclaimed the MCC’s support of the Philippine Government’s community-driven development approach. This approach has encouraged ordinary citizens to become more civically engaged.

Soliman went on to praise MCC’s supporting of the Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services program in the Philippines. She explained that it is one of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s three core social protection programs working to alleviate poverty.

The $434 million First Philippine Compact was originally implemented on May 25th, 2011. Its mission is to allow poor communities to develop small-scale projects and manage assets sustainably, reduce transportation costs and increase the efficiency of revenue collection through the computerization of business processes.

In response to a Commission on Audit report that reproached the DSWD for its slow utilization of the $434 million grant, Marivic Anonuevo, MCA-P Managing Director and CEO, assured anti-poverty project completion by the scheduled end of the Compact: May 2016. She attempted to calm the nerves of American skeptics.

Anonuevo stressed that the MCA-P has returned a total P600 million in unused government funds that were previously allocated for anti-poverty projects. She said that MCA-P management is optimistic that the funds will be fully utilized in the anti-poverty projects by the end of the Compact, and also vowed to return unused funds.

She has responded to accusations of inadequacy, neglect and foul play by stating, “Strict MCC guidelines make it impossible to divert funds to other purposes. Everything that we have done has been to help uplift the lives of Filipinos through economic growth.”

Anonuevo pointed out that the MCA-P has completed 2,180 community-driven development programs benefiting approximately half a million households spread out across six regions in the Philippines as of May 2015. Over the next year, the agency will work to bring that number up as quickly and dramatically as possible.

Only time will tell if the agency will be able to fulfill its commitment to maximize anti-poverty efforts. In spite of recent allegations against the DSWD, the U.S.-Filipino partnership seems to still be going strong. Now that the agency has restated their anti-poverty commitment, we can rest easy knowing that we share the same goal.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Filipino Express,Global Nation,Manila Bulletin
Photo: MCC

Ghana halved the number of people living in extreme poverty before the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) deadline, but many of the challenges remain in certain parts of the country. In the northern region, poverty needs to be reduced by 11.7 percent to meet the target; in the upper west region, it needs to be reduced by 41.8 percent.

Since 1996, the proportion of undernourished people in Ghana has dropped from 23.5 percent to 2.9 percent. However, the prevalence of underweight children under five years of age hasn’t changed much since 2007.

In July, seven District Chief Executives decided to join USAID project “Resiliency in Northern Ghana” (RING), for one year. RING is a $60 million contract and is a part of USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative. The goal of RING is to reduce poverty in Ghana and improve nutrition in vulnerable populations.

USAID will focus on the lives of rural families by improving livelihoods and nutrition, with a goal to improve the nutritional status of children under two years as well as women. In return, the RING project will increase income for households, access to credit, community safety nets and output from agricultural activities.

By 2017, there will be a 20 percent reduction in stunted, wasting and underweight children.

Agricultural production is important in order to reduce poverty in Ghana. About 88 percent of livelihoods in northern Ghana rely on the production of crops, and 63 percent of all northern citizens live below the poverty line.

Other USAID projects focused on improving the quality of life in Ghana are the Systems for Health project and the Strengthening Partnerships, Results and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project.

Systems for Health is committed to reducing the number of underweight children and the rate of anemia in women and children in Ghana by 2019. The SPRING project is committed to reducing stunting and anemia in children under five years of age by 2017.

Feed the Future strategizes these projects by linking agricultural production to income. It acts by improving production methods to reduce harvest loss and bettering output for rural farmers, specifically in the northern regions where farming is more prominent.

USAID has reached more than 324,000 children and has improved their nutrition in order to reduce stunting and child mortality.

Reducing poverty in Ghana was achieved by lowering the national rate from 52 percent to 28 percent. Due to regional disparities, poverty is more prevalent in the north and needs sustainable agricultural methods to increase food security and catch up with the rest of the country.

Donald Gering

Sources: Business Ghana, Knoema, UNDP, USAID, WFP
Photo: USAID

5 Ways to Ensure Effective Health Aid Dispersal-TBP
Not all aid is created equal. In the fight against global poverty, ensuring sufficient funds for aid programs is only half the battle. The other half is ensuring that aid is results-oriented, transparent, expedient and cost-effective.

During the second High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Paris in 2005, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries formulated the Paris Declaration. This declaration was meant to set benchmarks for how to measure the five key categories of effective aid: ownership, alignment, harmonization, results and mutual accountability.

While these five categories are intended to measure the effectiveness of all kinds of aid, they are particularly pertinent to health aid. Developing public health infrastructure in poorer countries is the “gift that keeps on giving,” ideally continuing to serve local populations well after aid has ceased. Thus, a robust public health outcome is an ideal metric to judge the quality of aid using the five categories of the Paris Declaration.

1. Ownership

Ownership, according to the Paris Declaration, involves partner countries exercising “effective leadership over their development policies and strategies.” This category is a measurement of how much aid recipients are involved in developing and executing programs that actually take advantage of the aid they are receiving. Aid strategies have traditionally assumed that once a country reaches middle-income status, it will have sufficient resources and self-interest to invest in public health, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.

For example, Nigeria is technically a middle-income country, but it spends less on public health than Rwanda, which a low-income country. Health aid can really only be considered effective if countries take ownership of health programs that outlive donor support as the country transitions into middle-income status.

Ownership is especially important given a recent estimate by the World Health Organization that predicts that in the next few decades, there will be a global health workforce shortage of up to 12.9 million. Aid programs need to ensure that recipients are developing adequate long-term strategies, especially when it comes to investing in health training and education.

2. Alignment

The dimension of alignment measures how well aid matches up with recipient strategies for dispersal and development. Development experts often criticize “tied” aid. This is aid that is contingent on the recipient procuring health products from the donor country, using their distribution infrastructure, employing foreign personnel or involving some other condition which is often not the most cost-effective or desirable for the recipient. Alignment essentially means “untying” aid to make sure that it aligns closely with the national development strategy of the recipient country.

A topical example of alignment of health aid is the Global Food Security Act of 2015. This bill, currently introduced to the House and awaiting consideration, encourages local procurement of food aid for U.S. aid programs (among other things). Traditionally, food aid dispersal from the U.S. has been tied, requiring that a certain percentage of that aid be procured from the U.S. and dispersed using the U.S. merchant marine.

However, this bill seeks to do away with those requirements, instead favoring recipient-country producers. This encourages the growth of local agriculture and health aid infrastructure, rather than out-competing them. Additionally, local procurement is faster, and in the event of a humanitarian emergency, recipient populations would not have to wait as long for foreign aid to reach them.

3. Harmonization

Harmonization involves cutting down on the plurality of programs that may have the same goal yet interfere and undermine each other. An aid recipient country may be host to dozens of organizations or programs that target public health outcomes yet do not communicate with each other, thus creating redundancies or inefficiency.

Harmonization is especially critical to public health, more so in emergencies. Currently, there is no standard system whereby donors can track and share how much and to where health aid is going, making it difficult to determine where it is most needed. The recent Ebola epidemic was a particularly disastrous indication of the need for better logistics and donor coordination; it is difficult to tell if health aid has even reached a recipient population, much less if it is redundant, or necessary.

4. Results

Just as it is important to harmonize aid efforts, tracking progress of health programs has also been an ongoing challenge for donors and recipients. Health aid, despite good intentions, can be totally ineffective when it isn’t results-oriented. Tracking public health outcomes generally involves better data collection and census practices, which can be incredibly difficult to implement in developing countries that lack basic infrastructure.

Very recently, the Girls Count Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives. This act directs the Secretary of State as well as the United States Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) to work with developing countries to build adequate civil registration systems as well as create economic and social policies that are deliberately inclusive of women and girls. The idea is that better demographic data and inclusive policy can help traditionally marginalized populations (such as women) take advantage of existing social safety nets. Additionally, better demographic data would lead to more effective health aid, as donors often lack access to accurate census information and thus may be unaware of vulnerable populations, or unable to determine the impact of aid.

5. Mutual Accountability

The final category calls for recipients and donors to exercise “mutual accountability and transparency in the use of development resources.” This emphasis on accountability stems from a history of aid inefficiencies due to a lack of transparency, or even outright corruption in recipient countries. For example, millions of dollars in aid money were simply pocketed by corrupt dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of the Republic of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) during the 70’s and 80’s.

Conversely, donor countries must be transparent about where aid flows are going in order to provide recipient countries (as well as other donors) with accurate information they can present to their citizens. In general, developing genuine partnerships between donors and recipients is crucial in ensuring that resulting health and development programs are effective and long lasting.

Derek Marion

Sources: Reuters, Devex, Partners in Health, OECD
Photo: Livbit

For Action/2015, “This is our year.” The coalition of more than 1,950 organizations worldwide is carving a brighter future in order to make 2015 the year of action and change. The agenda includes tackling climate-change, poverty, and inequality, and so far, Action/2015 made substantial progress through key campaigning and advocacy events.

Action/2015 launch:
On January 15 2015, Action/2015 launched campaigns all over the world from Mali, Mexico, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and the UK to name a few. Twitter helped spread #Action2015 to millions of people.

International Women’s Day:
On March 8 2015, Action/2015 held street marches and rallies around the work in support of women’s rights. They could be spotted from the UK, Nicaragua, Spain, Ecuador, New York City, Bangladesh, Spain, and South Africa.

Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day:
Action/2015 mobilized its campaign via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in order to address the annual spring meeting of the World Bank held in Washington D.C. #Hero addressed the world’s Finance Ministers to fund poverty reduction projects such as the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Goals.

Throughout the month, Action/2015 campaigned to pressure world leaders attending the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal Summit in September and the COP21 climate negotiations in December. More than 22 million advocates in 150 countries held events to call for change. In Kenya, the President responsively agreed to a 12 percent pay increase for workers.

May’s Days of Actions guided support through various themes of change. May 1 was Yes to Labour Rights, No to Social Exclusion Day, and May 13 was Poverty is Sexist Day. Among more, these days calling for global action complemented other events like Citizen Heartings, community sports days, caravans, and concerts.

The G7 Summit was held June 7-8 in Germany. Action/2015 played its party by taking to Twitter to stand #AgainstPoverty. Many participants were also a part of a free concert, United Against Poverty, also calling to the G7 leaders for greater attention to end poverty.

The Financing for Development was held in July 13-16 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Just before the conference, 4.8 million Action/2015 events in 150 countries rallied to demand that world leaders “meet outstanding sending commitments, fight structural injustices of unfair tax, and many other issues.”

International Youth Day unleashed #YouthPower. Sri Lanka, South Africa, Brazil, and Benin hosted marches, workshops, political meetings, flash mobs in honor of the movement. Action/2015 offered guidance through the options to download from their website, International Youth Day toolkits, YouthPower Workshop plans, and contact the Action/2015 team for direct consultation.

The United Nations General Assembly will take place September 15-28. The world’s most influential leaders will meet to conclude the Millennium Development Goals and create a new set of Sustainable Development Goals. Action/2015 is scheduling September 24 as a Global Day of Action for global mobilization.

From November 20 to December 11, Paris will host the UN Climate Change Conference. Action/2015 advocates will join around the globe to pressure their world leaders for stronger leadership and progress in poverty-reduction.

Lin Sabones

Sources: Action/2015 1, Action/2015 2, Action/2015 3, Action/2015 4, Action/2015 5, Action/2015 6, Action/2015 7, Action/2015 8, Action/2015 9, World Bank
Photo: Restless Development