In 2011 the aid provided by governments to developing countries fell by nearly 3% according to OECD. Greece reduced its aid by 39% and Spain by 33%. Not exactly surprising given the economic circumstances they faced. Even the UK registered a slight reduction.
Why does this matter?
I’d like to think that it wouldn’t that we lived in an equitable, fair and just world where aid was only needed to help with disasters (and even then the impacts of earthquakes, floods, etc. were dramatically decreased as people were well prepared and able to survive) . But we don’t live in a perfect world; development aid makes a practical difference in millions of people’s lives. For example in 2011 DFID supported over 5 million children to go to primary school; the World Food Programme helped 99 million people have enough to eat, etc.
Aid – much as we may hope for a day when it’s no longer needed is vital.
But aid needs to be both effective and efficient – for Practical Action that means it has to care for peoples material wellbeing and relational. I know it’s a strange term but what we mean is that people must be part of their own development, have a choice and a say – we believe this is important in part because it makes all our work more effective.
Let me give you an example – in Zimbabwe we were funded to rehabilitate bore holes (water points for communities) as lots of them were no longer working. We argued with our funder that we needed to engage the communities; they needed to ‘own’ the solution and be taught how to maintain and repair the hand pumps so that they could fix them if there was a problem in the future. The donor declined saying they just wanted to fund us to fix them. So we took the donor money, rehabilitated the bore holes and used our own money (from supporters) to engage communities and train them on maintenance. We then in our eyes had a much more sustainable solution.
Aid is necessary – and even in this time of economic turmoil we need to be generous.
By the way have you noticed the number of fundraising adverts from poverty reduction charities focused on hungry or distraught children? What they depict of course real – people do struggle sometimes sadly desperatly – but its only part of the picture. There are lots of examples where communities have been helped, lives have been changed by people working together with organisations like Practical Action. In Darfur we work with farmers – we do our part they do theirs, etc. But the very emotional pictures of desperate children I am told are more likely to prompt donations than solutions focused stories.
Money may be difficult but we at Practical Action are proud to be different – we are proud to work together with people and proud to work towards long term solutions not sicking plaster development.
Money may be tight but we can change lives forever!