International Aid: A Solution

Thu, 03/01/2007

Quick Summary: Almost all of the deaths from hunger and disease can be stopped. The cost to do this is about $195 billion a year, according to the United Nations. Recently, 22 developed countries listed below pledged to work towards each giving 0.7% (a little less than 1%) of their national income in international aid, which would raise the $195 billion. Poverty keeps hungry people from buying enough food to nourish themselves. Poverty keeps sick people from receiving basic medical treatment or taking simple preventative measures. The vast majority of these preventable deaths occur among the poorest people in the poorest countries. In September 2000, the 189 countries of the United Nations unanimously agreed to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty,” specifically hunger and the “major diseases that afflict humanity.” To accomplish this great objective would be expensive, and the price was later estimated at about $195 billion a year. This amount of money could not be raised by private charities or individuals. It would require the combined efforts of governments throughout the world to do it. Countries Agree to 0.7% in International Aid In the March 2002 Monterrey Conference, 22 of the world’s wealthiest countries agreed to make “concrete efforts” towards the goal of each giving 0.7 per cent of their national income as aid to the poorest countries. This conference was attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. President George Bush, French President Jacques Chirac, and many other world leaders. In the September 2002 Johannesburg Summit, these same 22 counties re-affirmed their commitment to reach the 0.7% goal. This would provide enough money to raise the $195 billion per year. This would allow the problems of extreme poverty to be “substantially eliminated,” in the words of the United Nations. Why the 0.7% Agreement? The countries made this agreement because they realized that it was hard for each country on its own to give a consistent, minimum level of aid each year. Despite good intentions, a country would find that the aid it wanted to give was eaten away by competing political interests, concern about budget deficits, “problems at home,” “problems abroad,” and so on. So they agreed to a minimal, flat rate that each country could afford each year regardless of its current political or economic state. The 0.7% figure may sound complicated, but it is actually quite simple. You take the total income earned by all the people in the country and give 0.7% of that as aid. Or to look at it another way: for every $100 earned in the country, the country gives 70 cents in aid. For every $10, the country gives 7 cents. As the chart shows, five countries have already met the goal to give 0.7% of their income in international aid: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. In 2002 and 2003, five other countries set up a schedule to give 0.7%: Belgium, Ireland, Finland, France, and Spain. In July 2004, the United Kingdom set up a schedule to give 0.7%. In April 2005, Germany set up a schedule to give 0.7%. In May 2005, Austria, Greece, Italy, and Portugal set up a schedule to give 0.7%. It was not easy for many of the countries to set up a schedule to reach the 0.7% goal. In some cases, such as Britain and Germany, it took the combined effort of many thousands of citizens writing and petitioning their government to get it done. Only six countries have not yet set up a schedule to give 0.7%. These are Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States. To raise the necessary $195 billion a year, it will be necessary for these six to reach the goal. These six countries are all democracies. All that is necessary for them to reach the 0.7% goal is for enough of their citizens to show their support. Sources: UN Millennium Project, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).