Human Development Report, 2003
July 8, 2003 8:18 PM   Subscribe

Did you know that... Aid fell in the 1990s—by nearly a third on a per capita basis in Sub-Saharan Africa? In Sub Saharan Africa, half the population lives on less than 1$ a day? At current rates Sub-Saharan Africa will not meet the poverty Goal until 2147? If all the food produced worldwide were distributed equally, every person would be able to consume 2,760 calories a day (hunger is defined as consuming fewer than 1,960 calories a day)? These and more facts can be found in the 2003 UN Human Development Report.
posted by stonerose (25 comments total)
Meanwhile, Canada frets at falling out of the top 7, and Bush tells Africa that slavery was a bad thing.
posted by stonerose at 8:20 PM on July 8, 2003

Man! That's like, 4 and a half Big Macs a day!
posted by graventy at 8:57 PM on July 8, 2003

So "hunger" (>1960 calories) includes anyone on a weight loss "diet" (~1500-1800 calories)?
posted by ilsa at 9:42 PM on July 8, 2003

So "hunger" includes anyone on a weight loss "diet"?

I'd say yes. After all, the dieters are losing weight. Which, if you're already normal or subnormal weight with good activity levels, is a bad thing.
posted by aramaic at 9:54 PM on July 8, 2003

I'd agree with aramaic - if you're on a diet, you should be by definition consuming less than someone who wants to maintain their current weight/body mass. So establishing the official "hunger" levels as "more food than you would eat while dieting" seems appropriate.
posted by jonson at 10:00 PM on July 8, 2003

but it wouldn't be fair to people that need possessions to feel good if we just fed every hungry human being on the planet. commies.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:17 PM on July 8, 2003

Thank you for the links, they are very interesting. Anyone have links for some (even if they are small) solutions to these problems?
posted by chaz at 10:53 PM on July 8, 2003

I guess mom was correct when she told me to clean my plate cuz kids in Africa are starving. Oh well, I'm doing my part; I'm only eating 800 calories a day (or less)!
posted by mischief at 4:08 AM on July 9, 2003

This article from the London Times highlights the success stories in sub-saharan Africa:

"... Botswana’s achievement has been even more striking. From a start as one of the 20 poorest countries on earth at independence in 1966, the same combination of multiparty democracy and sane economic policies have given Botswana the world’s highest economic growth rate — 7 per cent a year, comfortably ahead of Singapore (6.2 per cent) and South Korea (6.1 per cent)

In the liberal, multiparty club are Senegal, Uganda, Mauritius, Mali and Ghana.

"..The old picture of Africa as an undifferentiated sea of misery is outdated. To be sure, the successes are fragile and need encouragement. But increasingly the continent will be divided between winners and losers and the success of the liberals will set up strong emulatory currents in the loser states.

Against this background the decline in aid to Africa, much of which was wasted, stolen or both by the kleptocracies which the very same aid kept alive, may not be such a bad thing.
posted by grahamwell at 5:01 AM on July 9, 2003

I found this link interesting:
The New Global Aid-Defense Standard - There is an emerging global standard set by industrialized countries, which spend $1 on aid for every $7 they spend on defense. If the United States were to follow this standard, it would have to commit about $48 billion to foreign aid each year.

The US's 0.1% of GDP spent on overseas aid compares badly to the average of the members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee of 0.39%.
posted by brettski at 5:11 AM on July 9, 2003

My parents are heading to Uganda in October for a 2 year spell as aid workers, specialising in hospital managment and HIV / AIDS counselling and treatment...the amount of aid has fallen alright, but this may be due to the changing face of aid work in certain places - for example, my parents will be doing a lot of training of people when they are over there - teaching the people there how they can take over and replace my parents with Ugandans when my parents go home - this would be different than in the past, where more aid workers would come out to continue the work.
posted by tomcosgrave at 6:17 AM on July 9, 2003

Norway's #1! For the third year in a row. Hah!

(We never get to brag about anything except the winter Olympics. Where we kick ass. By the way.)
posted by widdershins at 6:39 AM on July 9, 2003

tomcosgrave, good luck to your parents! technical transfers and assistance are incredibly important.

Chapter 8 of the report I linked to has some more interesting stats about ODA (Official Development Assistance)

ODA in 2002: 56.5billion USD (0.23% of GNI)
Annual consumer spending on tobacco: 204 billion.

This PDF from UNDP explains what wealthy countries promised to do, and argues that they aren't yet fulfilling those promises.
posted by stonerose at 6:39 AM on July 9, 2003

Possible solutions? Try these links (off the top of my head):

A very interesting report on NPR this morning regarding Investment in Africa.

Regional integration: the African Union (AU) is an attempt by African countries to form a European Union-style political organization.

The AU's proposed solutions to poverty are outlined in NEPAD, the New Partnership for African Development. Foremost among their suggestions are for debt relief for many African nations.

I'm in a bit of a rush so I don't have much time to do anything other than present these links for your information. And to offer the following (over-generalized) opinion based on my experience in Nigeria: much of the aid to Africa that is currently offered in the form of NGOs is mis-directed and often is poorly administered. A lot of aid money finds its way into the hands of those who don't really need it, and a lot of programs are just "busy work" and don't really address the issues involved (ie: flying in "experts" from Western countries to lecture to Africans about what their problems are rather than looking for African-identified problems). Not that I have any solution of my own; I have felt extremely frustrated by my inability to think of any solution of any size to the poverty and governmental corruption that I have seen in Nigeria.
posted by vitpil at 9:24 AM on July 9, 2003

Whenever discussing the "low" US official assistance figure of 0.1% of GDP I am forced to remember several things:

1) This doesn't include money donated on behalf of private initiatives, like the Gates Foundation.

2) This doesn't include the large sums of money (highest in the world) given by the US to multilateral institutions, such as the UN, the World Bank Group, the regional development banks, etc.

3) The US military spends a lot of money that could conceivably be refered to as foreign aid. The US military budget certainly contains many items who's purposes vastly help out other countries. The US spends more on military than Europe, and consquently, the US military is often called on by the world to sort out messes. Example: Somalia, Haiti, East Timor (funded by US and using US C&C assests and logisitical support), Balkans, etc.
posted by pjgulliver at 10:09 AM on July 9, 2003

important points, pjgulliver. and other countries must do more - personally, i'm ashamed that my government (Canada) talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk on this issue. do you feel that the U.S. is doing enough? too much?

what about the issue of the increasing proportion of aid money that is privately administered - is anyone at all uncomfortable with the questions of accountability this raises? isn't it just a way for countries to say 'here, NGOs: you clean up the messes we've helped to create down south'? can we trust faith-based organizations to run these programmes in a way that respects the cultures of those they purport to help?
posted by stonerose at 10:22 AM on July 9, 2003

Most animals live on no dollars a day.
posted by hellinskira at 10:32 AM on July 9, 2003

Well Stonerose, I work in the developing consulting industry, a large percentage of my work comes through USAID and the World Bank.

That being said: my gut reaction is that the US doesn't do enough. We are a rich country and could easily afford to give more.

But when I stop and think about it, have no good solution to the aid quandry. The amount of money I see wasted, by western aid bureaucrats, by aid contractors, by developing country governments, and developing country contractors, is stagering. If more money was given by the US and the other developed countries, would it do good, or would it just disappear into the morass of governments and organizations that distribute foreign aid.

And at the end of the day, where has aid helped? Part of me likes to say I can point to dozens of successful initiatives funded by foreign aid, but another part questions "did these initiatives succeed because of or in spite of foreign aid money?" There is no question that in some places foreign aid creates a dependancy on assistance, extinguishing local hopes for development.

Its a mess.
posted by pjgulliver at 10:33 AM on July 9, 2003

pjgulliver, that's the problem. Sending more money into a corrupted government or organization just makes the corrupted officials richer. It's like throwing more money at schools here in California. It never seems to reach the kids or teachers, but gets "lost" or the administration department suddenly grows a lot.

I have a hard time getting antsy about Africa. I'm not saying we shouldn't care, but we have so many problems here (poverty and schooling and homelessness) that I have trouble getting worked up over Africa. Heartless? Yes, probably. I also have a hard time because they are so screwed up themselves and seem to do very little to try to make it better-just wail for more money and have more bloody coups and wars and dictators and warlords over and over again. Is that wrong? Am I just ignorant?
posted by aacheson at 7:06 PM on July 9, 2003

aacheson, you think we've got problems? look here and here, for a start. Then ask yourself why Bill Gates is donating so much money and effort to this crisis. Is it all about tax breaks? I don't think so.

If you're not 'antsy' about Africa, you are, indeed, a little ignorant. If you think money never gets to where it needs to go, look at Doctors Without Borders, winners of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. If you think Africans enjoy war, disease, and famine, and aren't trying hard enough... then I really don't know where to start.
posted by stonerose at 9:39 PM on July 9, 2003

Aid fell in the 1990s—by nearly a third on a per capita basis in Sub-Saharan Africa?

This is a statement either innumerate or deliberately misleading. (Likely the authors of the report thought it would be an attention-getter.)

The population of Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, is growing at 3% annually (a gasp-inducing 3.4% in Uganda) -- faster than any other broad region on earth. (Places like China and India, both with more than a billion people, have slowed their growth rates both through public education and economic upward mobility, which is a well-known determinant of birth rates.) Given such a high growth rate, if aid stayed exactly the same for the entire decade it would still ultimately fall by 25% or more on a per capita basis.

Indeed, the aid levels to Africa have remained largely stable and in line with world economic growth. What is happening is that the problem in Africa is growing faster than the will to give money to alleviate the symptoms, let alone solve the root causes. What is happening globally is similar to what is happening in many mature countries of the developed world: Italy and Russia, for instance, are experiencing population declines. The United States would be shrinking, if it weren't for immigration (and immigrants' higher birth rates). This puts pressure on the working population to support the aged non-working population, the familiar math of the perpetually cash-strapped Social Security program. As Africa's population booms, the number of First World donors remains stable; the First World would have to increase its aid by dramatic levels (say, how does 3% annually grab you?) just to keep up. At some point there is going to be a disconnect, and we may have passed that point long ago. More Africans will have to get by on the same amount of aid money, which means less per capita.

There are also attendant moral hazard issues given the new consensus that many of Africa's problems are directly related not to external, uncontrollable factors but to the weak governance and widespread corruption found across most of Africa.
posted by dhartung at 11:45 PM on July 9, 2003

dhartung, you obviously didn't bother to read the report vefore making your first allegation. see the graphs on page 146:

Aid to Least-developed countries, 2001
Where 1990 aid levels =100:
Net ODA disbursements have fallen to 80
ODA as a percentage of GDP has fallen to 66
ODA per capita has fallen to 64

Aid to Sub-Saharan Africa, 2001
Where 1990 aid levels = 100:
Net ODA disbursements have fallen to 80
ODA as a percentage of GDP has fallen to 63
ODA per capita has fallen to 75

(Numbers are from 2003, courtesy OECD)

Meanwhile, in 2001, The Monterrey Consensus recognized the
need for a substantial increase in aid, urging donor countries to make concrete efforts to reach the aid target of 0.7% of gross national income set in 1970.

You make some good points about governance and corruption - points which the Monterrey and Doha meetings emphasized. But aid is still falling by any measure, and governments simply aren't meeting the commitments they undertook at those meetings.
posted by stonerose at 4:39 AM on July 10, 2003

Also from page 146 - "..between 1990 and 2001 official development assistance fell from 0.33% to 0.22% of donor countries' gross national income. But that drop mainly occurred in the early and mid-1990s, and by the end of the decade aid had increased considerably. The latest data show this trend continuing, with official development assistance increasing by 5% between 2001 and 2002."

I would be interested to know what happened in the early '90s to so dramatically lower aid, it's reassuring to know that the trend is positive (although that fact has to be teased from the text).

Talking of 'teasing out' the good news, take a look at the coverage of this report from yesterdays Guardian. Here's a sample:

The report said the 90s had seen a drop from 30% to 23% in the number of people globally living on less than a dollar a day, but the improvement had largely been the result of the progress in China and India, the world's two most populous countries.

So that doesn't count then. Hang on, what's the real story here? - during the '90s China and India, accounting for more than 30% of the worlds population have successfully lifted their people at least one rung in development and prosperity. That's surely good news. Interesting news in that these are two countries which have moved furthest from a command to a market economy, somewhat giving the lie to the view that " Market reforms are not enough. You can't just liberalise; you need an interventionist strategy." The example of China and India would suggest that's just what you don't need.
posted by grahamwell at 10:02 AM on July 10, 2003

Grahamwell, aid was dramatically reduced in the early 1990s because the Cold War ended. Which dramatically lowered aid to client states and insurgencies, like Zaire (now DRC), Angola, Mozambique, Kenya.
posted by pjgulliver at 10:05 AM on July 10, 2003

Who cares. As long as those countries are run by a bunch of self-serving despots, no amount of aid will help them.

If you want to make a difference, change their leadership for the better. Sending money and food does little more than sustain the power of tyrants.

posted by Witold at 1:11 PM on July 11, 2003

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