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Effective Altruism Movement
The effective altruism movement explores the concept of how cost-effectiveness can improve the world. The U.K. recently formed a merged Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, reshaping its foreign aid program. Effective altruism ingrained in foreign aid programs can create more sustainable institutional change.

The Basics of Effective Altruism

Dominic Cummings, an influential advisor of the U.K.’s Prime Minister, is a proponent of the effective altruism movement. The concept of guiding the campaign promotes the use of reasoning and resources to maximize the good and apply it to the world to make it a better place.

The principles of effective altruism are scale, solvability, neglectedness and long-termism. Scale pertains to the range of effect and potential for positive impact. Therefore, if applied, U.K. aid and international development can render significant change through the multilateral system. This can lead other powerful actors to make their governments’ spending cost-effective. Solvability refers to the probability of growth regarding the relationship between the number of resources and eradicating epidemics. Neglectedness relates to the specific significance and size of under-resourced issues. Meanwhile, long-termism undoubtedly regards the long-run effects of projects’ decisions. They could either increase or decrease the expected value.

In the past, the U.K. considered the benefits and costs of projects’ impacts on the poorest and most conflict-affected regions. Its significant influence is in the multilateral system due to its contribution to official development assistance. It embodies effective altruism through pushing for greater cost-effectiveness and evidence to create a more significant impact on the development system. Department for International Development (DFID) projects, for example, tend to be high-risk and high-return.

How UK Aid Can Go Further

The UK currently funds thousands of projects. However, effective altruism principles suggest that the government merely focuses solely on the most significant projects to prioritize optimal allocation. The government must also consider relatively neglected countries while focusing on critical partnerships. Furthermore, as the U.K. works to fulfill its high-risk, high-return pledge, it should also increase research aid productivity to maximize the impact of support.

The Center for Global Development displays that adding additional objectives onto focused single-objective programs weakens the project, becoming more ineffective. Additionally, due to the U.K.’s significant influence in the multilateral system, DFID needs to hold funds accountable. This can occur by measuring its agencies’ achievements first and by multilateral spending. This is preferred over spending aid via large organizations.

Becoming More Effective

Due to the focus on systemic change, the U.K. can adhere to effective altruism values through investments in energy infrastructure, transportation infrastructure and market integration. Effective altruism principles also suggest that foreign aid can benefit national interests and the economy. Investing more in a global system for different funds for assistance and research helps the U.K. and other countries in its more notable impact.

The U.K.’s foreign aid programs are changing due to the recent formation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. By applying the principles of the effective altruism movement, the U.K. can ensure that aid reaches the poorest and most affected countries. Government aid programs can create institutional change by depending on the evidence that displays where and how they should give support and through which agencies.

Isabella Thorpe
Photo: Flickr

The Private Sector in Public Health
The private sector is often seen as antithetical to public solutions to global health issues, detracting from the establishment of more flexible, long-term social safety nets and health systems. However, in developing countries such as Afghanistan, where public spending on health amounted to only 21 percent of total health spending in 2013, private solutions can help fill in the gaps.

The World Bank estimates that around 1.2 billion people on the planet live in fragile countries, meaning that they are exposed to some sort of social, political or natural instability or uncertainty. These countries, often plagued by armed conflict or an unusually high disease burden, are also home to some of the world’s poorest people.

The World Bank calculates that countries afflicted by civil war or other forms of conflict account for one-third of all AIDS deaths, one-third of people with no access to clean water, one-third of children who don’t make it through primary school, and half of all child deaths among poor countries.

Public solutions to health issues within these fragile countries are often difficult or impossible. Normally, a country-led, public approach to health that leads to overall structural changes in public expenditures is ideal. However, private solutions could be the only way to adequately address public health concerns in countries where public health care is politically or socially untenable in the short term.

Somalia is one such country, where the private sector fills in when public programs leave something to be desired; 60 percent of total health expenditure comes from private sources. In these types of countries, it may be better for the public sector to co-opt and regulate the private rather than to try to reinvent the wheel.

A report commissioned by the DFID, the United Kingdom’s aid agency, found that a lack of public oversight in private health care in Somalia led to a wide circulation of unregulated drugs. The report concluded that complications arising from the unregulated sale and use of these pharmaceuticals would likely strain the already anemic public healthcare sector in that country.

Somalia doesn’t necessarily need to have a robust public healthcare system; it just needs to properly harness the private system that is already in place by setting standards for quality and safety.

Elsewhere, the private and public health sectors have a symbiotic relationship, providing coverage in areas where the other cannot. In Somaliland and Puntland (autonomous states located within Somalia), the public sector hands off patients who need specialty care or equipment to the private sector, and, in turn, the private sector sends them patients who need emergency care.

This relationship, at present, is only informal. If the public and private sector were more seamlessly integrated and had access to common information (such as medical records, inventory etc.), they could provide more effective coverage.

And, effective coverage is desperately needed in countries such as Somalia, which, for several years, was number one on the Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index. The private sector, though perhaps not providing long-term structural change, can still be adapted to meet the basic healthcare needs of the poorest people in the most fragile places.

Derek Marion

Sources: The Guardian, DFID, WHO, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

Gender_Inequality
A new collaborative study published by the Great Initiative and Plan UK, two development organizations who work to promote female rights, reported that the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), reached a great success in the implementation of a new legal statute that will measure the impact of the agencies foreign aid operations in reducing the prevalence of gender inequality.

The International Development (Gender Equality) Act, which was put into effect last May, placed a responsibility on the United Kingdom to continually assess and implement strategies designed to strengthen gender equality within countries who received funding for development. The report praised DfID for establishing a new international precedent for the integration of the issue of gender inequality into broader humanitarian efforts and noted the UK should encourage other Western nations to take similar measures.

Many developed nations have gotten involved in the battle against gender equality in recent years, including the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who launched the Millennium Development Goal 3 Fund in 2008. This investment of nearly $100 million proved to be the largest ever government gift to support development organizations working to support gender equality efforts. According to the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, the fund succeeded in impacting the lives of 220 million people, including 65.5 million women and girls, and provided assistance to over 100,000 women’s rights organizations.

The study concluded, “We were delighted to find that the act has both driven, and joined forces with, other measures to promote gender equality. At the time of our analysis (May 2015), 64 percent of the business cases in our sample contained a clear statement addressing gender impact and only 18 percent of business cases lacked this statement,” referring to 44 development projects analyzed as part of the study.

A specific case study included within the report analyzed the impact of a DfID-funded program to repair and resurface a road within Western Uganda on gender equality. Mariella Frostrup, a founding trustee of the Great Initiative who was familiar with the study, stated, “It surprised us, and indeed it turned out to be one of the most transformative projects we found in our evaluation. It identifies women’s land ownership, violence against women, women’s employment and social norms and stereotypes as issues to be addressed.”

She continued in explaining, “It mandates that 25 percent of jobs on the project are reserved for women, that women’s safety and security is guaranteed and that gender sensitization and awareness projects are run alongside the actual construction.

Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary of the UK, explained in a June interview that DfID was determined to continue pursuing the issue of gender inequality, specifically working to reduce the occurrence of female genital mutilation and child marriage. Two of the largest issues associated with gender inequality, officials hope to reduce the persistence of such human rights violations by providing continual funding and assistance to developing and impoverished regions.

James Thornton

Sources: The Guardian, Devex
Photo: Flickr

disability aid
When foreign aid is discussed today, the primary points of discussion are normally water safety, affordable housing and access to basic health needs. These are all important issues that need constant aid and attention. However, there is another important issue that goes seemingly unnoticed in third world countries; disability among the poor. There are 1 billion disabled people on this planet, 80 percent of whom live in developing nations. That is one-sixth of the world’s population that lives with a disability, yet hardly any foreign aid goes towards making the planet a more disability friendly place.

The prevalence of severe and moderate disabilities increases from 2 percent in newborns to 55 percent among those over 80. Furthermore, as infant mortality rates decline there are higher survival rates of babies born with disabilities.

Research conducted through the World Health Organization shows that children with disabilities are three to five times more likely to suffer sexual and physical violence. For example, 14 percent of children in Mozambique between the ages of two and nine are disabled. Many of these children are hidden away by their families since it is a negative stigma in the country to have a disabled child. These disabled children are more vulnerable to discrimination. They have very little interaction with their peers and most of them do not attend schools. Out of the 58 million children worldwide who are missing from schools, almost a third of these children are missing due to disabilities.

These disabled poor cannot be ignored any longer. The Department for International Development in the UK has increased their commitment and focus on the issue of disability aid. DfID has committed to focus on social inclusion for disabled persons as well as bolstering its disability team and enabling them to act quicker in humanitarian emergencies. This could be the beginning of a new focus on disability aid, not as an afterthought, but as a well-planned area of humanitarian efforts.

DflD has committed to publishing a framework on disability aid in November. This framework will outline how they intend to tackle the issue of disability in relation to certain policies and practices. There needs to be a real and lasting focus on disability aid. The disabled are too often overlooked.

  • Catherine Ulrich

Sources: The Guardian, GOV.UK, The Guardian
Photo: Bloomberg

Corruption_Stifles_Aid_Malawi
In the wake of the recent corruption scandal known as “Cashgate,” the British Department for International Development (DfID) has frozen aid to Malawi. Experts on foreign aid are concerned the freeze might prove catastrophic for both the health and education sectors in the small country.

In November 2013, it was discovered that governmental officials in Malawi had taken aid dollars for themselves to the tune of $250 million. After the failed assassination, Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo—who was thought to be a whistle blower—and the region’s police force found money stashed in the homes of several members of the government.

Nations responsible for supplying Malawi with foreign aid promptly suspended all funds that had gone to support the Malawian government directly. Additionally, The Guardian reports “the DfID went a step further” by freezing funds that affect healthcare and education.

Malawi receives nearly half of its budget from foreign sources, meaning that its people will soon be without essential services, experts warn. To make matters worse, the United Kingdom is the largest donor to Malawi.

The breakdown, however, illustrates a difficult challenge for all donor nations, not just the U.K. For example, amid rampant and violent corruption it is difficult to rationalize making contributions to a developing nation. Likewise, pulling the plug on necessary programs creates internal instability and hardship for the people who rely on those donations.

Most Malawians survive through subsistence farming, and nearly three-quarters live on $1.25 per day or less.

Malawi is now making attempts to be more transparent with donor money, and is trying, yet again, to inspire donor confidence. However, this latest breach of trust was, for the DflD, a point of no return.

The head of the Malawi branch of the DflD, Sarah Sanyahumbi, was quoted as saying, “This is not business as usual. As far as we are concerned, the line has been crossed, so once the line has been crossed you cannot go back to what you had before.”

For many of Malawi’s most vulnerable, this is unfortunate news. The future for the young and ill in Malawi remains unclear as of yet. However, it seems unlikely it will be good without a new agreement between nations.

Chase Colton

Sources: The Guardian, International Business Times, The Borgen Project
Photo: Mideast Posts