Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Gap in Pledged Vs Received Aid

If one measures international aid simply in the amount of aid pledged, then nations are doing a remarkable job. It seems the Obama administration or USAID announces major pledges to fight disease and poverty monthly, if not more. Last year, world leaders agreed to a $20 billion agricultural fund to assist the poorest of farmers. In September, the same leaders re-affirmed their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. And reports are already coming out abut the various deals reached in regards to developmental aid during the on-going G-20 conference. Yet at the same time we hear that the MDG has hit major challenges, and in some cases barely any progress has been made at all. President Obama campaigned on a promise of renewed vows to the developing world, but has hit road blocks as well.

So what's the problem? Why is there a disconnect between the amount of aid promised and the amount of aid received. I think there are three major reasons.

The first amounts to peer pressure. Nations want to look respectable and to be perceived as charitable by other nations, and so many nations commit to causes that they cannot feasibly support. The second, explained in a New York Times article by Helen Cooper, is the tendency for nations to double dip their accomplishments. USAID may produce an article touting their recent program spending millions of dollars to combat a major disease without acknowledging that those funds came from its already accepted budget and is not a new addition. Or worse, nations remove money pledged to an old campaign and move it into the new fund, which draws attention to the new fund while leaving the old one empty.

The final, and most important, reason of the "aid gap" is the simple fact that no matter how well-intended political leaders are, (at least in the case of the American President), they still have to respond and answer to those who hold the purse-strings: Congress. Congress has the power to control the budget and as such holds the final answer to whether or not the programs promised will actually be delivered. USAID, for example, receives billions of dollars less than it requests every year, as Congress looks for ways to balance the budget.

Too often, we applaud our nations for making pledges to developing nations without ensuring that the money actually ends up in the hands of those who need it the most. That is why The Borgen Project believes that contacting your Congressional leaders is essential. They are the ones that make the decisions involving the budget, and your phone calls communicate to them that international poverty reduction is important to you.

So make a call today. And sign this petition letting your Representative know that they should make water access for all a priority.

-Corey Cox

SOURCE: New York Times