Published On: Tue, Aug 6th, 2013

The Future of Development: Its not about Aid

In the focus on aid projects, it’s easy to forget that supporting global development means a whole lot more than aid. If you look at the big picture, official development aid is swamped in impact and in sheer numbers by a lot of other things. Moving people out of poverty and improving the lives of poor people involves a whole lot more than just foreign aid. A few examples:

Reforming protectionist trade policies in the wealthy world would benefit developing countries. Pushing lower income countries to allow free trade while protecting our own with tariffs can devastate economies in the developing world. Bill Clinton actually apologized to Haiti for the damage done by US trade policy.

photo credit: fung.leo

photo credit: fung.leo

Allowing more immigration into wealthy countries benefits poor people. Nobody likes to talk about emigration, but it’s a massive driver of wealth in the developing world and supports the economies of wealthy countries. Filipino migrant workers sent home approximately 24 billion dollars in 2012, 10% of the nation’s GDP. Mexican workers sent back 22.7 billion dollars from the US in 2011. In Tajikistan in 2010, for example, the almost three billion dollars sent home by citizens working abroad made up 45.4% of the GDP. That swamps the amount of money these countries receive in aid.

Slowing climate change would make a huge different in the lives of poor people. Poor countries emit the least carbon, and will be hardest hit by climate change. The continent of Africa, for example, contributed about 3 percent of the global emissions of carbon dioxide from fuel burning since 1900, yet its people will be the most severely affected by climate change.

Stopping corruption supports development. For every dollar in foreign direct aid, $10 leaves developing countries – and it goes to Western banks and tax havens. Mexico lost $51.17 billion in illicit flows in 2010 for a total of $476 billion over the last decade. That doesn’t even count the billions of dollars in bulk cash that probably left under organized crime and drug dealing.

Finally, the developing world carries the burden of manufacturing pollution. When you buy goods made in China, you benefit from your purchase while the environmental impact stays in China. Chinese rivers, lakes, and skies are being overwhelmed by the manufacturing waste of the wealthy world.

All of this means that international development is surprisingly personal. If you want to change the world, there are a thousand ways to do it. You don’t have to move to Darfur and help refugees or get a job with a multinational development bank. You can campaign for better trade policies, support environmental justice, develop cleaner manufacturing technology, or support anti-corruption legislation. You can choose to reduce the pollution you create by consuming less. You can lobby to allow more immigrants into your country.

Our mental image of international development always seems to come back to an aid worker in a multi-pocketed vest, handing out porridge with one hand and vaccinating babies with the other. The reality is a lot more complex and a lot more interesting. And everyone can find a way to be part of it.

Read the orginal post here

photo credit: fung.leo

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