Rich donors urge rethink of aid at UN poverty meeting

Budget-strapped rich donors will call for a rethink of strategies to make sure their aid funds are not wasted when world leaders meet this week to discuss U.N. goals to tackle global poverty.

A three-day summit of 140 leaders starting on Monday will appeal for stepped up efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — launched 10 years ago — by 2015.

While countries agree with the goals for slashing global poverty, rich nations struggling with high unemployment and rising debt, want the debate to focus on getting the best development results from anti-poverty programmes.

Of the eight goals, the United Nations agrees that the goal of halving poverty and hunger and cutting in half the number of people without clean water will be met. Progress on the other goals ranging from helping women and their newborns to environmental sustainability are mixed.

The global financial and economic recession has complicated the MDGs, forcing rich nations to cut aid budgets and slowing growth in poor countries hurt by the sharp drop in global trade and soaring prices for food and fuel as well as job losses.

United States aid chief Rajiv Shah said in an interview with Reuters that it was time to rethink strategies for tackling poverty to focus on economic growth, accountability and fighting corruption.

Shah said President Barack Obama’s administration, which remained committed to boost the US aid budget to $52-billion from about $25-billion, was pushing for a new approach to making aid more effective.

He called for more rigorous accountability standards, programmes that emphasise local economic development over handouts and a more aggressive effort to bring new scientific and technological innovations into development work.

Tax dollars not wasted
With US congressional elections on November 2 and voter frustration over the slow economic recovery and high unemployment, Shah said it was vital to show Americans that their tax dollars were not going to waste.

US President Barack Obama is due to address the summit on Wednesday. Also taking part are French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said there were concerns that some donors could divert aid money to shore up their own recession-hit economies.

“We need to keep the pressure on the countries to live up to their pledges. There are so many pledges that have not been fulfilled,” Stoere said, adding that countries should explore new ways to mobilise funding to such things as climate change.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick, in prepared remarks to the summit released on Sunday, said it was important to “connect the dots,” emphasising it was not enough to build health clinics if there were no roads to transport people to them.

Aid agencies said donors should also be made accountable for the individual commitments they have made, including on aid. Aid by rich countries has remained constant at about $38-billion a year since 2008 when the financial crisis erupted.

“We’d have cause for optimism if every leader at this summit agreed to personally account for their contribution to the MDGs,” said Emma Seery, spokesperson for global development group Oxfam.

“They have to be ready to stand up in front of their citizens each year until the 2015 deadline and explain what they’ve done to tackle extreme poverty.” – Reuters

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Lesley Wroughton
Lesley Wroughton works from Washington. I write about U.S. Foreign Policy for Reuters based in Washington. Opinions are my own and retweets are not an endorsement. Lesley Wroughton has over 1577 followers on Twitter.

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