In 2000, 189 nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight goals designed to reduce global poverty and disease by 2015. If achieved, the MDGs could transform the lives of millions in the world’s poorest countries, but many impoverished nations can’t reach these ambitious targets alone. In signing on to the MDGs, world leaders acknowledged that progress towards the first seven goals — an end to extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality, reduced child mortality, improved maternal health, progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and environmental sustainability — would largely depend on leadership in developing countries. But by committing to goal eight—a global partnership for development—wealthy nations around the globe clearly affirmed the importance of donor support in the fight against extreme poverty and disease.
The spirit of this commitment has been captured in several agreements since the 2000 Summit. In 2002 at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, wealthy countries committed to spending 0.7% of their gross national product on development. At the Gleneagles Summit in 2005, the G8 agreed to deliver an additional $50 billion in global development assistance by 2010, half of which (an additional $25 billion) would be designated to sub-Saharan Africa.
In its annually published DATA Report, ONE monitors the extent to which donors are on track to deliver their commitments to sub-Saharan Africa. In its 2011 Report, ONE found that the G7 delivered only 61% of the increases promised to Africa by 2010. Some countries are more to blame for the shortfall than others. Canada and Japan met or beat relatively modest targets, while the United Kingdom nearly met 86% of its much more ambitious target. The United States also made historic increases, meeting 121% of their commitment. France met 45% of their ambitious commitment, while Germany fell short, meeting only 23% of their target.
However, the Gleneagles agreements expired in 2010 and have not been replaced with any comparable set of commitments. Key donors including the United States, Canada and Japan no longer have overall official development assistance (ODA) targets. The European Union (EU) (plus Norway) represents the only group of countries that have ongoing collective targets to increase ODA as a percentage of gross national income (GNI). These countries committed to increase ODA to 0.7% of GNI by 2015 and to provide 50% of all increases to Africa, including a (non-specified) increase to sub-Saharan Africa. ONE's 2012 DATA Report tracked EU commitments and found that, despite their leadership on development assistance commitments, European countries had already fallen €18 billion short of their interim targets for increasing ODA. Furthermore, as of 2011, EU countries had only met 22.5% of their target increases promised to Africa.
In 2011, ODA flows from rich countries fell (for the first time in many years) by 2.7%, as a result of delayed effects of the global economic crisis. As poor countries struggle to cope with the effects of the food, climate and global financial crises, successes in Africa—supported by donor assistance—are at risk. Core growth of ODA is expected to stagnate between 2013 and 2015, jeopardizing progress towards achieving the MDGs in the final critical years before they expire.
In the past, some donors have used aid for geopolitical purposes, rather than allocating it for economic growth and progress towards achieving the MDGs. This has led some to believe that aid or development assistance is ineffective. But recent successes have shown that high quality development assistance does work; across the globe, development investments are producing lifesaving results (Please see aid effectiveness page). The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria saved an estimated 8.7 million lives between 2004 and 2012, including through the provision of 310 million mosquito nets to help protect families from malaria, and the detection and treatment of 9.7 million cases of tuberculosis. Globally, 8 million people - around three quarters of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa - had access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2011, a dramatic increase of 20% from the previous year. The GAVI Alliance supported the immunization of 370 million additional children since 2000, averting 5.5 million child deaths.
Targeted development assistance and savings from debt relief has also allowed an extra 51 million sub-Saharan African children to enroll in primary school between 1999 and 2010. These results were achieved with only a portion of the assistance promised to poor countries, suggesting that fulfilled commitments delivered effectively could have an enormous impact. In 2011, the total amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided by the G7 (excluding debt relief and including their share of contributions to multilateral donors) decreased compared with previous years to $109.8 million, with a quarter of this ($28.1 billion) specifically for sub-Saharan Africa.
Donors are also developing inventive new tools to provide sustained development funding through innovative financing mechanisms. These mechanisms raised an estimated $57 billion for development between 2000 and 2008, using creative approaches ranging from the International Finance Facility for Immunization's issuing of bonds to purchase vaccines, using an Advanced Market Commitment to spur the creation of a new pneumococcal vaccine, to mobilizing resources from consumers to finance Global Fund programs (via Product (RED)).
Europe’s leaders are in the midst of crucial budget negotiations and some leaders are proposing cuts to these lifesaving programs. This would have a devastating impact on the world’s poorest. Don’t let this happen. Be a lifesaver of the century.
Eloise Todd, Brussels director at ONE said: “Today’s conference was a welcome initiative from the EU and France. The European Commission’s pledge of €524 million, nearly half of the overall EU pledge, will make an important contribution to Mali’s recovery. But the big picture is that aid budgets are shrinking across much of Europe, and the EU itself is looking to freeze aid spending over the next seven years. It’s becoming a zero sum game that could mean less money to respond to other crises. EU countries need to reverse aid cuts, prioritise the world’s poorest, like those in Mali, and make sure aid is targeted at the programmes that have the biggest impact on development, namely health, agriculture and education.”