What is Poverty-Focused Development Assistance?

Tue, 08/01/2006

In 2005, the United States provided more than $19.5 billion in aid to countries around the world. Only $9.6 billion of that aid was resolutely focused on reducing global poverty and helping countries build the kinds of institutions that can deliver health care and education to poor people, protect poor people from government corruption, and provide infrastructure – clean water, sanitation, roads, schools, clinics and hospitals – that enable people to improve their livelihoods. In order to help poor countries reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the United States and other rich countries should do much more both in terms of the quantity and the quality of the development assistance they provide. Poverty-focused development assistance is a catch-all phrase to describe those accounts within the U.S. foreign aid budget that most effectively provide assistance to poor countries to meet the challenges of reducing poverty and investing in broad-based economic development. These accounts fund the oral rehydration therapy, vitamin A supplementation and immunization programs that have halved childhood mortality between 1960 and 2000. They fund the building of schools, the training of teachers, and the supply of appropriate educational materials in the poorest parts of the world. These accounts provide anti-retrovirals – life sustaining medication – to hundreds of thousands of Africans who have AIDS. Poverty-focused development assistance also includes U.S. contributions to international organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the Global Fund Against AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. The programs funded by poverty-focused development assistance try to integrate lessons learned about effective assistance. Some of these programs are engaging local citizens to determine priorities and monitor the implementation of programs. Others are putting more responsibility and ownership in the hands of national governments that have been democratically elected, have demonstrated that they govern well, and have the interests of the people at heart. Most of the programs work directly with the poorest communities – through U.S. and local non-governmental organizations, such as Catholic Relief Services, CARE and Save the Children. This is not to say that these programs cannot be improved – they can and they should be. Development assistance needs to be delivered in a predictable and timely way. Donors should coordinate with each other more effectively. Where there is a problem of corruption, aid should be given through non-governmental organizations. Aid should be used to strengthen local institutions so that countries themselves can better monitor how development assistance funds are spent. But these programs are making a real difference in the lives of poor people in poor communities across the globe and should be supported. The U.N. Millennium Project estimates that aid must be significantly and quickly increased in order to reach the MDGs by 2015. It estimates that aid from wealthy countries must be increased by $75 billion each year by 2010. The United States would need to be contributing an additional $25 billion each year, or an additional 1% of the federal budget