Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Christian Science Monitor series: "An End to Poverty"

This week, the Christian Science Monitor is running a five-part series called "An End to Poverty: New Hope for the Last Billion Poor." Today’s segment is about addressing some of common myths about global poverty. It also highlights how uncoordinated our aid is and how it isn’t targeted toward the poorest of the poor.

"A First Step for the Global Poor- Shattering Six Myths"

Here are some excerpts:

" 'There are too many impoverished people to help.'

A bogus excuse. Historically, the world's poorest covered the globe. That's no longer the case. The mid-tier developing world in much of South and Central Asia is steadily and remarkably rising in prosperity. The last billion who suffer extreme poverty are concentrated in fewer than 60 very small sub-Saharan, Asian, and Latin American countries, which means we've never been in a better position to eradicate it."

" 'If aid is good, more aid is better.'

Not really. Since 2001, the Bush administration has tripled foreign assistance worldwide, and quadrupled it in Africa. And NGOs build their identities around raising and giving money. But more funding isn't the most critical issue.

While humanitarian assistance has saved millions, consider this startling conclusion from a recent study by the Center for Global Development: When aid rises to 8 percent of a recipient nation's gross domestic product, it has zero effect on economic growth. Above that, it has a negative effect.

The serious challenge is one of coordination. Chronic shortages of skilled citizens in the very worst-off nations mean that more resources simply can't be deployed effectively. Instead, donors, NGOs, and private philanthropies trip over one another, competing to give money away, rather than coordinating at ground level to get results. More isn't always better; smarter is better."

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