Millennium Development Goals and US leadership
Should the USA should provide more leadership towards meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals?
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The United States should act to increase the amount of money it gives in overseas development aid. ...
The United States should act to increase the amount of money it gives in overseas development aid. Without adequate funding from rich nations, it will be impossible for the Millennium Development Goals to be met by 2015. Yet the USA currently only gives 0.16% of GNP - the lowest level of all developed countries. The Monterrey Consensus, signed by the USA among others in 2002, urges 'countries that have not done so to make concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7% of GNP in official development assistance'. The EU has already planned to increase its members' aid spending in order to reach the 0.7% level by 2015, but the USA has made no progress and appears to be denying it signed up to this target. Yet 0.7% is a only one seventh of US military spending and only a third of the cost of the tax cuts made in 2001-2004. Put another way, raising US aid spending to only 0.35% of GNP, as the ONE campaign advocates, would only require an extra 1% of the federal budget, but could get over 100 million children into school, prevent 10 million from becoming AIDS orphans, provide clean water to 900 million people and save 6.5 million children under 5 from dying from easily-preventable illnesses.
The United States has consistently refused to adopt targets for overseas development aid, and for good reason. Although the USA can be proud to be the largest international giver of aid ($19 billion in 2004 and a fifth of all development assistance since 1960), it knows that it is a mistake to focus on resource transfers alone in attempting to promote development. The assumptions of the international aid lobby about what is needed for development to occur are badly flawed - many very poor countries have swallowed many billions of dollars of aid over several decades with nothing to show for it, while other countries have grown rapidly to become quite prosperous despite little foreign aid. For example, during the Cold War Africa received $450 billion in aid, and its GDP actually declined by 0.59% per year. It is a shame that the United Nations is still stuck in the thinking of the 1960s and that its Millennium Development Goals emphasise resource transfers over proven aids to development such as property rights, free trade, openness to foreign investment and good governance.
The USA should exercise a clear leadership role, committing more attention and resources to developm...
The USA should exercise a clear leadership role, committing more attention and resources to development aid and being more supportive of the UN in its pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals. As by far the world's biggest economy and its only superpower, the USA is in a unique position to make a difference in the world. Its leadership can set an example for others to follow, yet conversely, without full US commitment other developed nations find it easy to avoid making commitments themselves. Leadership in this area would also help the US gain support from stable, well-disposed countries in its war against international terror.
The USA is the biggest international donor of overseas aid already, and if private donations (perhaps four times larger than federal spending) are added to this, by far the biggest, so there is no lack of leadership. However, it is wrong to put the emphasis upon developed countries to achieve progress in the developing world. If change is to occur, most of the steps have to be taken by the governments of developing countries, regardless of the support available from the international community. In fact, increasing aid to Africa might only entrench corrupt regimes. In the 1980’s, $100 million in famine aid to Ethiopia merely bolstered the country’s Stalinist regime and prolonged civil war and famine.\
The USA can help the process of internal reform along by encouraging states with good policies and a commitment to good governance, as well as by refusing to be railroaded into supporting mistaken UN plans (see points 1 and 3). But ultimately change has to come from within.
Leadership would also mean committing fully to the Millennium Development targets which allow progre...
Leadership would also mean committing fully to the Millennium Development targets which allow progress towards the eight Goals to be measured. In advance of the 2005 UN Summit the USA acted provocatively and against the consensus of world opinion by insisting on removing Millennium Development targets from the Summit Declaration. US Ambassador Bolton claimed that these targets had never been agreed, despite the overwhelming view of other nations that they had been and that the USA had signed up to them. Without these specific, measurable and time-bound targets the MDGs risk becoming a fuzzy wish-list, rather than a critical plan for lifting billions out of poverty. The targets also enable developing countries, richer donor nations, the UN, World Bank and NGOs to coordinate their activities, avoiding duplication and allowing constructive partnerships in a way which has never been possible before.
The USA is right to resist commitment to the UN's various targets for the eight Millennium Development Goals. Although President Bush gave American support to the development goals of the Millennium Declaration in 2001, the targets associated with them were only later created by the UN, and never properly agreed by member states. Other nations are welcome to commit to these indicators of development if they wish, but the USA believes they are flawed and should not be formally adopted. Many are vague and impossible to measure in practice - for example, how can the indicator about reducing malarial infections be met when no baseline figures exist against which to judge progress? Many at the UN privately acknowledge many of the targets will have to be dropped for similar reasons. More fundamentally, the targets focus upon the symptoms of poverty, rather than on the causes - why some countries remain poor and what can be done about it? If the focus is put upon achieving growth, then all the desirable things in the MDG targets will follow.
Greater US commitment is also important to show that America keeps it promises. In 2000 the USA sto...
Greater US commitment is also important to show that America keeps it promises. In 2000 the USA stood alongside 188 other nations and pledged itself to pursue the Millennium Development Goals. In 2002 in the Monterrey Consensus, President Bush explicitly pledged his government to this agenda - and this promise was repeated in his September 2005 speech to the UN General Assembly. Yet in both funding and political commitment the US government is failing to keep these promises, further damaging America's image abroad and calling into question the value of its word in any negotiation. The Administration should support Senator Lugar's Bill of 2005, which would require the government to report annually to Congress on its contribution towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and on what further action is necessary to achieve specific targets. This would prove the USA was serious in delivering on its commitments.
The USA has made a commitment to work with other states towards the Millennium Development Goals, but it has been clear about not signing up to any targets the UN has associated with these and not making any promises about specific levels of aid. The MDGs are a fine aspiration and the US administration will continue to work towards them, but it would be wrong to commit to the implementation of policies it believes are unwise simply for the sake of short-term popularity.
Although the Bush Administration's increases in funding for development aid have been welcome (altho...
Although the Bush Administration's increases in funding for development aid have been welcome (although still too little), there is concern that new initiatives will draw funding and attention away from existing programmes, and make it harder to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In particular, the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) will only give grants to twenty countries who meet a wide range of governance criteria - which of course automatically excludes hundreds of millions of people suffering from poverty in most of the developing world. Unless their needs are also addressed the MCA will do little towards the MDGs. The President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is also praiseworthy, but even in Africa no more than 8% of all childhood deaths among under-5s are due to HIV/AIDS. These key programmes need to be clearly placed within a wider development context if the USA is to make a serious contribution to the ending of poverty.
President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account is an important and innovative programme for supporting development overseas. Unlike poorly-considered traditional aid projects, it insists upon achieving value for money by only awarding funding to states which are serious about making changes in order to promote development. Rather than imposing programmes upon them, the Millennium Challenge Corporation invites them to design appropriate programmes and then bid for funding. In this way the MCA acts as a lever for change and because of its demand for measurable results, successful projects can provide an example for other countries to follow. By contrast, the worst governments would be bypassed and limited to emergency relief only. This strategy will create strong incentives for accountable government policies. Nor is the MCA drawing money away from other aid budgets - its funding is all new money. Indeed the Bush administration has greatly increased the budget of USAID in addition to the major sums it has also committed to MCA ($5 billion per year by 2006) and to fighting HIV/AIDS ($10 billion over five years) in the developing world.
The USA also needs to reassess the way it gives development aid, if it is serious about ending want ...
The USA also needs to reassess the way it gives development aid, if it is serious about ending want and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. At present much US aid goes to key allies, such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan, for diplomatic rather than humanitarian reasons. Despite the rhetoric, very little US money goes to Sub-Saharan Africa (only 0.03% of GNP) and other truly needy countries that are most likely to fail to achieve MDG targets. Aid is also often tied, requiring money to be spent on the purchase of US goods and services rather than allowing it to stimulate developing world markets or ensuring it provides the best value for money.
The USA is serious about achieving a reduction in poverty, but this is not best done by abandoning traditional partners. Countries like Egypt and Pakistan are genuinely poor and deserve US support, and there is nothing wrong with ensuring that aid also helps to deliver important US diplomatic objectives. After all, peace and security are essential for economic growth. In any case, large sums of US aid are given to Sub-Saharan Africa each year - most of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will be spent there, for example. The USA has been a generous donor during various humanitarian emergencies in Africa, with huge sums raised in private charitable contributions as well as federal money. And what is wrong with donating shiploads of American-grown wheat, rice, etc. to starving people anyway?
US leadership would also involve significant moves on trade and domestic subsidies. A successful Do...
US leadership would also involve significant moves on trade and domestic subsidies. A successful Doha Round of World Trade Organisation negotiations would secure fair trade access for developing countries and do more than any other measure to bring them prosperity. To achieve this the USA must be willing to open its domestic markets further and, crucially, to end subsidies for crops (e.g. sugar and cotton), at home which distort the world market and trap developing world producers in poverty. The administration has made some rhetorical statements about this, mostly abroad, but has shown no willingness to stand up to protectionist lobbies at home - indeed both agricultural subsidies and industrial protection have greatly increased since 2000. Actual trade figures show that the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is doing little to increase US imports from Africa outside the petroleum sector, which is confined to only a few countries and which does little to boost the incomes of ordinary Africans.
The United States is fully committed to changes in the world trading system to make it fair to all, including the poor. President Bush has said, 'the United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free flow of goods'. Already its African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) allows many poor nations to export freely to the USA. Its recent offer in the Doha Round of the WTO talks to cut domestic subsidies and reduce tariffs was widely hailed as very constructive. Sadly the European Union has failed to respond in kind, tabling a very limited offer that has been widely criticised, while protectionist countries such as Japan and Switzerland have so far offered nothing. The success or failure of the Doha Round now lies in their hands.
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