‘Does Aid Work?’
Lecture by Rt Hon Clare Short
27th April 2015 at All Hallows by the Tower Church, London
Does aid work? The short answer is yes. 14 years ago, to mark the new millennium, world leaders agreed to work together to systematically reduce extreme poverty in the world. In the words of Bill Gates "the accomplishments of the MDG era has been stunning. To take just one example, The number of children who die each year has gone down by almost half, from more than 12.4 million to 6.6 million." And the MDGs arose from the work of development agencies who proposed that the achievement of development and the lessons learned be scaled up to a global level and this is what was done.
However this question - Does aid work? - is the wrong question. It is like asking does ‘public expenditure work?’ or ‘does health spending work?’ For example the US spends more on health per head of population and cares for people worse than any other country. Some aid money is very well spent as investment in helping countries lift up the prospects of their people or simply to rescue people from humanitarian disasters, and other aid money is badly spent. But development which is well organised and properly motivated works well, and there is much more to do to build on this success of the past 15 years.
Beyond development success, a serious commitment to development is inspired by both a moral commitment to the equal worth of each human being and is built on an understanding that a world that is organised to give respect, dignity and decent life opportunities to all will be a safer world for all. This is the challenge to current foreign policy thinking that need to be intensified. Defending aid is about much more than a quantity of spending.
Clare Short was MP for Birmingham Ladywood from 1983 to 2010 and Secretary of State for International Development from 1997 to May 2003. DFID was a new Ministry created after the 1997 general election to promote policies for sustainable development and the elimination of poverty.