Global poverty and foreign aid

Despite various myths about global poverty and foreign aid, evidence supports the claim that foreign aid works well in the fight against poverty.

According to the Gates Foundation, there are currently more than one billion people worldwide living in extreme poverty. Foreign aid (when one country donates a portion of their resources to another) aims to lower that number.

However, many people subscribe to the belief that foreign aid is ineffective. They argue that corruption prevents resources from reaching the people who need it most. In addition, they assume that countries who receive foreign aid will grow to depend on it too much.

The Millennium Development Goals

Thankfully, the data suggests otherwise. The relationship between foreign aid and global poverty is a positive, effective one.

Perhaps some of the strongest examples of the effectiveness of foreign aid are the Millennium Development Goals.

These goals, proposed by the United Nations and ratified by all countries across the globe, aimed to:

  • reduce poverty, hunger and child mortality;
  • achieve universal primary education, gender equality and environmental sustainability;
  • improve both overall health by fighting treatable diseases;
  • and act as a global partnership for development.

“The MDGs helped to lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty, to make inroads against hunger, to enable more girls to attend school than ever before and to protect our planet. They generated new and innovative partnerships, galvanized public opinion and showed the immense value of setting ambitious goals,” stated Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, in the project’s 2015 annual report.

After the success of the MDGs, the U.N. introduced a set of followup goals in 2015. These new initiatives were called the Sustainable Development Goals and have a deadline set at 2030.

Global Food Security Act

In 2010, the United States shifted the focus of its foreign aid spending to small farmers across the globe through initiatives such as Feed the Future. The Global Food Security Act aims to build off of the Feed the Future Initiative by expanding investments in small farmers.

The hope is that these investments would aid families (especially women and children) lift themselves out of poverty. In addition, they would also simultaneously provide families access to cheap, nutritious food.

During an interview with Grist, Raj Shah, head of USAID, said that thanks to Feed the Future, they “are starting to see a rapid reduction in rural poverty, in the percentage of children who are stunted, and in the total number of people that don’t get 2,100 calories a day. Those are rough indicators of a large-scale transformation starting to occur.”

Domestic Benefits from Global Contributions

Despite strides made towards ending global poverty, less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget goes toward foreign aid.

In terms of foreign aid, nations can and should do more to help the world’s poor. Moral obligations aside, lifting people out of poverty also provides new economic markets for the U.S. and reduces national security risks.

Sabrina Santos

girls in african countries

The U.N. Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal education has played a vital role in advancing education for boys and girls in African countries, however, obstacles still remain.

In addition to increasing access to education, the U.N. Millennium Development Goals also included overcoming extreme poverty, promoting gender equality and women’s rights, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, combating HIV and malaria, creating a sustainable environment and advocating for global partnership. These goals are not isolated in nature, but rather each builds upon the next.

“Children who don’t have access to clean water and who aren’t taught proper hygiene practices like hand-washing with soap are more likely to be ill and absent from school,” according to Canadian Feed the Children (CFTC). “Combined with lack of proper nutrition – and often, the schools are the one place they have a guaranteed daily meal – children’s susceptibility to preventable, waterborne disease increases dramatically. Disease also spreads much more rapidly in schools without proper hygiene and sanitation.”

Canadian Feed the Children is a registered Canadian charity that works with local partners to establish food security and education in developing countries. The organization believes that “education is the best investment in prosperous, healthy and equitable societies.”

With more children having access to an education, more resources are needed; such as books, maps, research and reference materials, blackboards and writing materials. Infrastructure becomes a challenge when the number of students outgrows the number of available classrooms.

Additionally, kitchens and latrines are essential components for health and hygiene and each must be outfitted with their own supplies and equipment. A productive learning environment requires the availability of meals and safe, clean facilities.

When schools are overpopulated, understaffed and lacking necessary supplies, it is difficult to recruit teachers. Many times underqualified and unpaid volunteers step in to teach in impoverished communities, which can do more harm than good.

Crop failure, parents’ illness and rising prices are some of the barriers families living below the poverty line are facing when they sacrifice the education for one or more of their children in order to feed the family. Most often, it is the girls who are chosen to miss out.

Schools lacking a latrine present another obstacle for girls, for whom modesty and safety are important.

“For many girls, the need to leave the classroom several times a day makes going to school anxious and unpleasant. For older girls, menstruation in an environment where there is no toilet and no water causes embarrassment and further complicates matters. And where toilet facilities are not available or located far away, there is a much higher risk of violence for girls. The risks and hassle just aren’t worth it – and they drop out. There are so many barriers to girls’ education, toilets shouldn’t be one of them,” said Amboka Wameyo, CFTC’s Regional Program Manager – Africa.

Girls in African countries like Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda endure early or forced marriage, the burden of chores, pressure to care for siblings and long-distance walks to school leaving them vulnerable to rape or violence. The dropout rate for girls around age 12 increases dramatically, sometimes reaching 100 percent.

According to Canadian Feed the Children, every year a girl attends school translates into a 15 percent increase in their income as they become less vulnerable to the threat of domestic violence and poverty.

Girls in African countries must be given the opportunity to improve their lives and subsequently contribute to the alleviation of the poverty cycle in their communities.

Emily Ednoff

Photo: Flickr

Bernie Sanders, one of the leading democratic candidates in the 2016 Democratic Party primary race, has been praised for his stance on promoting equality. Over the course of his congressional career, he has been an ally for the millions of impoverished around the globe.

In speeches, Sanders has claimed that investing in global poverty has several positive outcomes, such as lessening the instances of terrorism abroad. He has claimed that with a sound foreign aid policy, living conditions abroad are less likely to produce conflict.

Sanders has an impressive track record on global poverty to back up these claims. In 2000, he voted in the Senate to allocate $156 million from the military’s large budget to the International Monetary Fund. This was in support of the Millennium Development Goals.

In 2008, he also supported funding to combat AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The bill he supported authorized $48 billion to various countries to combat the further spreading of these diseases.

Sanders has also demonstrated his support for combating global poverty in his statements about global warming. He has described how international conflict is produced when populations become desperate as a result of climate-related hazards, including lack of access to water and food.

Sanders has been vocal about eliminating income inequality and domestic poverty. He has shared his aspirations for putting an end to systemic forces diminishing the middle class, claiming that a more equitable economy can be created through fair taxing of corporations and banks. “America now has more wealth and income inequality than any major developed country on earth,” he said.

The presidential hopeful is devoted to redistributing America’s wealth and alleviating the 22 percent of American children living in poverty. His focus on domestic poverty and inequality is a promising indication of his future foreign aid and global poverty commitments.

Mayra Vega

Sources: Global Citizen, Votesmart, Feel the Bern, Newyorker, U.N.
Photo: Vox

Investing_in_WomenThis past month a division of the United Nations held a meeting in Kenya in support of women and children. It was a gathering of the U.N.’s Global Financing Facility (GFF) to provide funds for the Every Woman Every Child initiative.

The Every Woman Every Child program was created by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to address the issue of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) in the developing world. By investing in women and children, it aims to reduce the number of maternal deaths from childbirth and also the number of children that die from lack of medical attention.

The funds from the GFF came at a perfect time, as Kenya is trying to address these issues at home. The health of women and children are of particular importance to Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta who was in attendance.

The First Lady addressed the Every Woman Every Child meeting to stress its importance for Kenya’s health and economy. “Investing in women and children is a smart foundation for sustainable development,” said Kenyatta. Improving the RMNCAH of nation helps lay a foundation for economic growth and development.

The funding for the Every Women Every Child program comes primarily from the GFF. The U.N. uses the GFF as its main financing platform for the program and uses a breakthrough financing model that unites nations, international donors, and the private sector. All of these parties contribute to help support advancements in the health of women and children.Investing_in_Women

The GFF was announced in September 2014 after exhaustive meetings with national governments and major institutions like the World Health Organization, the World Bank and UNICEF. Its mission is to close the $33 Billion financing gap between rich and poor nations for women and children’s health by 2030. This organization is unconventional in the sense that these multiple parties unite to invest in a nation’s domestic resources and its health infrastructure, rather than just giving aid.

This investment aid is essential for developing nations because it allows them to grow and sustain their infrastructures. The GFF pride themselves on smart financing that is based on evidence from the WHO to achieve results and sustainability. This developmental aid allows the healthcare infrastructure to become successful and grow larger which provides access to more people. It also ensures that the infrastructure grows at the same rate as the economy.

The GFF was primarily created to ensure the success of the U.N.’s Every Woman Every Child program. The UN believes this initiative can improve the lives of millions by investing in women and children.

It also believes it will determine whether its Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals will succeed. First Lady Kenyatta echoed these sentiments when she said that the SDGs will only be achieved with the proper support from leaders.

She also noted that the health of women and children is important to almost every aspect of human development and progress, and it is the cornerstone of public health. Healthy women and children create a strong base for a healthy nation. This healthy nation can then focus on improving the economy which in turn stabilizes the politics and creates social harmony. The basis of a developed nation is the good health of its women and children.

With an initial budget of $40 Billion, the UN hopes the Every Woman Every Child program will help reduce poverty and improve the lives of millions.

Andrew Wildes

Sources: Every Woman Every Child, Global Financing Facility, KBC, World Bank 1, World Bank 2
Photo: UN Multimedia, Flickr

millennium_development_goalsIn the year 2000, world leaders agreed upon the Millennium Development Goals to address extreme poverty.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest.”

Now that 2015 is coming to an end, the world is evaluating the success of the MDGs. While the overall targets were not met, significant progress has been made toward achieving several of the stated goals.

The official report declares, “The 15-year effort to achieve the eight aspirational goals set out in the Millennium Declaration in 2000 was largely successful across the globe, while acknowledging shortfalls that remain. The data and analysis presented in the report show that with targeted interventions, sound strategies, adequate resources and political will, even the poorest can make progress.”

In terms of fighting poverty, the MDGs produced the largest and most successful anti-poverty movement so far in the world’s history. With every country focused on the effort, the results have been impressive and inspirational.

For example, looking closer at the goal of education: “Primary school enrollment figures have shown an impressive rise, but the goal of achieving universal primary education has just been missed, with the net enrollment rate increasing from 83 percent in 2000 to 91 percent this year,” according to The Guardian.

Each target area received similar improvements. But the biggest result that has come from the MDGs is a determination to succeed in ensuring sustainability for future generations of the world’s citizens. Since the conclusion of the MDGs, countries have regrouped and pushed on into phase two: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN has caught hold of the vision and is pressing forward. “The United Nations is… defining Sustainable Development Goals as part a new sustainable development agenda that must finish the job and leave no one behind.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: UNDP 1, UNDP 2, The Guardian, UN
Photo: Pixabay

MDG Failures MDGs
As 2015 comes to a close and the world takes a look at the progress that has been made, it is clear that while much has been accomplished — with more than a billion people having been lifted out of poverty — many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were not complete successes, and some failed outright. Discussed below are the MDG failures and their implications.

Shortcomings: Assessing the MDG Failures

One of the major MDG failures is the fact that the success of the goals was not experienced equally across the globe; this in itself is a major defeat. Consider a few of these statistics from different countries concerning the same MDGs.

Extreme Poverty 50 Percent Reduction Rate:

  1. Southeastern Asia exceeded the goal for extreme poverty reduction by 16 percent
  2. Southern Asia exceeded the goal by 12.5 percent
  3. Northern Africa scraped by at about 1.2 percent
  4. Sub-Saharan Africa was by far the most behind. It did not even meet the goal for extreme poverty reduction and was 12.5 percent away from doing so.

The extreme poverty reduction goal of at least a 50 percent reduction in those living on $1.25 a day arguably had the best statistics for each country; from there it goes steadily downhill. This trend can be seen throughout the different Millennium Development Goals. Sub-Saharan Africa was far from reaching its goals, and not one country achieved the goal set for maternal mortality rate reduction.MDG_failures

Gender inequality was also a focus of the MDGs, but unfortunately, according to the United Nations, “gender inequality persists in spite of more representation of women in parliament and more girls going to school. Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making.”

Although there were huge successes achieved through the MDGs, it is important to note that more than 800 million people continue to live in extreme poverty.

According to the U.N., “children from the poorest 20 percent of households are more than twice as likely to be stunted as those from the wealthiest 20 percent and are also four times as likely to be out of school. In countries affected by conflict, the proportion of out-of-school children increased from 30 percent in 1999 to 36 percent in 2012.”

In addition, the numbers for global emissions of carbon dioxide as well as water scarcity are disheartening. There has been a 50 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions and water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the world in comparison to 1990 statistics.

Although there have been failures in trying to implement the goals, all hope is not lost. Progress in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals is already being made.

Global leaders are regrouping, and as the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, “The emerging post-2015 development agenda, including the set of Sustainable Development Goals, strives to build on our successes and put all countries, together, firmly on track towards a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable world.”

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: IRIN News, UN
Photo: Flickr, Pixabay

MDGsAt the Millennium Summit in 2000, history was made when a record number of world leaders gathered to adopt the U.N. Millennium Declaration, committing nations to cutting extreme poverty in half through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and eradicate poverty through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Through the agreement, the MDGs target different dimensions of poverty including hunger, disease, insufficient shelter, gender inequality, global education and environmental sustainability.

With an expiration date of December 2015, the achievements made through the MDGs provide evidence that poverty can be eliminated worldwide by 2030.

MDG 1: Cut Extreme Hunger and Poverty in Half

Since 1990, the amount of people living on less than $1.25 per day decreased from 1.9 billion to 836 million in 2015. While extreme poverty was cut in half, extreme hunger narrowly missed the mark, dropping from 23.3 percent to 12.9 percent.

MDG 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

Primary School Enrollment has seen a slight rise, increasing from 83 percent in 2000 to 91 percent in 2015.

MDG 3: Eliminate Gender Disparity in Education and Empower Women

Since 1990, approximately two-thirds of developing countries have achieved gender unity. In Southern Asia, the primary school enrollment ratio favors girls over boys in 2015.

MDG 4: Reduce Child Mortality by Two-Thirds

The child mortality rate decreased from 12.7 million in 1990 to 6 million in 2015. In addition, the measles vaccine compared to 2000 covered almost 10 percent more children worldwide.

MDG 5: Reduce the Maternal Morality Rate by 75 Percent

Compared to 1990, the maternal mortality rate has been cut in half, narrowly missing the 75 percent benchmark.

MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

Since 2000, the number of new HIV infections decreased by 40 percent, dropping from 3.5 million to 2.1 million in 2013.

MDG 7: Increase Environmental Sustainability

In 2010, the goal to increase access to clean water was achieved five years early. Since 1990, 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water.

MDG 8: Develop an Open Partnership for Development

Overseas development assistance from developed nations to developing countries increased 66 percent. With the expansion of technology, Internet infiltration increased significantly from 6 percent in 2000 to 43 percent in 2015.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: The Guardian
Photo: NaijaLog

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed leaders from all over the world in September, calling on them to join him in ending poverty.

“Our aim is clear,” he said during the 70th UN General Assembly meeting. “Our mission is possible. And our destination is in our sights: an end to extreme poverty by 2030, a life of peace and dignity for all.”

Ki-moon proposed a new UN framework for addressing global issues. The new 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a continuation of the eight Millennium Development Goals introduced in 2000. The 17 goals focus on the UN’s agenda for the next 15 years.

The new framework, he said, “weaves the goals together, with human rights, the rule of law and women’s empowerment as crucial parts of an integrated whole.”

Poverty was a top priority during the 70th UN general assembly. President Barack Obama, among many other world leaders, voiced concern about global poverty, citing urgency and opportunity at this year’s meeting.

Obama’s speech drew attention to the importance of collective diplomacy between nations on issues of poverty and economic inequality. He commended the gathering of nations for securing, as he said, “a global economy that has lifted more than a billion people from poverty.”

At the same time Obama warned that much is left to be done, saying “the march of human progress never travels in a straight line,” and that “dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world.”

Obama summarized the UN meeting with a sense of hope. He emphasized progress requiring “a sustained commitment to our people — so farmers can feed more people; so entrepreneurs can start a business without paying a bribe; so young people have the skills they need to succeed in this modern, knowledge-based economy.”

Obama and Ki-moon’s speeches were preliminary descriptions of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals project proposal. The proposal creates a novel structure of how the UN concentrates on global issues.

The UN Sustainable Development agenda outlined problems nations face in the next 15 years. The UN document acknowledges global issues but also envisions, as it says, “a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.”

The document both analyzes challenges and presents solutions.

Nations are meeting at “a time of immense opportunity,” the document says in its message. “Within the past generation, hundreds of millions of people have emerged from extreme poverty.”

The 17 development goals for 2030 aim to make the dimensions of the environment, economics and government sustainable. Human rights are at the forefront of the goals, with the alleviation of poverty and curable diseases major points.

“What counts now is translating promises on paper into change on the ground,” Ki-moon said, concluding his speech. “We owe this and much more to the vulnerable, the oppressed, the displaced and the forgotten people in our world.”

Michael Hopek

Sources: General Assembly of the United Nations, Millennium Project, The White House, UN, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
Photo: Wikimedia

Target Year 2015: Increases in Water Access Mark Progress in Achieving Millennium Development Goals
When the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were established in 2000, 2015 was designated as the target year to achieve many improvements in access to basic human rights such as water and basic sanitation.

Access to water ensures reliable sources of safe drinking water, and basic sanitation guarantees hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact. The MDG established a mission to halve the number of people worldwide without sustainable access to sanitation and drinking water between 1990 and 2015.

According to the United Nations, the world successfully halved the number of people without access to drinking water by 2010, and by 2015, a total of 2.6 billion people gained water access. Meanwhile, 2.1 billion people have gained sanitation access in this time. However, 2.4 billion people have still not seen improvement in this area.

The benefits of clean water access and sanitation are countless, as safe water is a fundamental building block to security in other areas of life. According to ONE, for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is at least $4 of increased economic opportunity in developing nations.

Also according to ONE, with universal water access and sanitation, the globe would receive approximately $32 billion of economic benefits annually due to reductions in healthcare costs and increased work productivity from increased standards of life.

A reporter from ONE notes that $22 billion would be generated just in Africa and that African women would be especially impacted by such access. Research has demonstrated that clean water and sanitation has had the power to increase school enrollment rates for females by more than 15 percent in relevant areas.

Despite improvements, the world still has a far journey to travel, which has been a big topic of discussion throughout MDG Target Year 2015. Especially with regard to sanitation, the world has reaffirmed its commitment to improving sanitation standards moving forward.

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) annually hosts World Water Week to discuss these issues. This year’s theme was Water For Development, accordingly, to reestablish a global focus on sustainable development for impoverished nations.

Held recently at the end of August, world leaders gathered to discuss the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the future.

Arin Kerstein

Sources: ONE, United Nations Millennium Goals, United Nations Water
Photo: Google Images

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are set to expire at the end of 2015, and a new proposal of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be discussed in September. MDGs have helped alleviate poverty and hunger, reduce fatality rates for children under 5, improve maternal health and help prevent HIV/AIDS from spreading.

For the last 15 years, the MDGs have been the most important global humanitarian effort to help improve living conditions in developing countries. The SDGs have an even more ambitious agenda and will involve all member states instead of just developing countries.

Here are 5 things you can expect from the Post-2015 Development Agenda

  1. Goal 1 is to end all forms of poverty–and achieving this goal is realistic. The MDGs halved the number of people living on less than $1.25 per day. From 1990 to 2008, the extreme poverty rate fell from 47 percent to 24 percent. To eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, it would cost about $66 billion a year.
  2. Goal 2 focuses on ending hunger and improving nutrition. About 800 million people still live in hunger, and many children are underweight. Despite population growth, the number of hungry people has declined by 200 million since 1990, and it will cost $30 billion per year in order to end world hunger. By 2025, it would cost $300 billion, which is less than 1 percent of the world’s combined GDP.
  3. Goal 4 builds off of the MDG to achieve universal primary education and calls for member states to ensure children have free quality primary and secondary education that results in effective learning outcomes. This means ensuring that gender disparities are eliminated. By 2009, 43 million children were enrolled in primary education worldwide, but there are still about 60 million children not enrolled, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. This will involve tackling child labor, building more classrooms and training more teachers.
  4. Goal 9 promotes sustainable industrialization and the building of resilient infrastructure, including an increase in access to the Internet. About 66 percent of people globally do not have access to the Internet. The SDGs call for infrastructure developments in order to improve economic sustainability. Innovation will revolve around increased scientific research, enhanced technology and clean technologies and investments for the Internet and technology in developing countries.
  5. Goal 13 calls to take action on the impacts of climate change and may be one of the most challenging goals to reach. Climate change impacts poverty, economic growth and sustainability, but countries cannot work alone to reduce the impact of climate change. Individual cities will have to change climate policies because they generate 70 percent of carbon emissions. Partnerships between local governments, civil society and the private sector will help make this goal achievable.

If the commitment to the MDGs is a sign of things to come, then there will be many success stories involving the new SDGs.

Donald Gering

Sources: End Poverty 2015, Global Education, Green Biz, The Guardian, Huffington Post,, LA Times, UN
Photo: concorditalia