Foreign aid should focus on finding jobs for people in poor countries--and Britain can lead the wayby Paul Collier / November 12, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
Ahead of the general election in May, parliament passed the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act. This enshrined in law the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on aid each year. What should that aid be used for over the next decade? The UN recently came up with an answer: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.”
Unfortunately, the SDGs are fatuous. By consulting widely the UN, perhaps inevitably, arrived at a vacuous compromise: 17 goals and 169 targets, in no discernible order of priority, which are supposed to apply to every country in the world. But saying that “everything matters everywhere” is merely another way of saying that “nothing in particular matters anywhere.” Troubled times demand a less frivolous response. In the future, those disbursing aid should be ruthlessly selective about what they are trying to do and where they are trying to do it.
The SDGs, however, are a licence for every development agency in the world to carry on doing what they want, since that will almost certainly be compatible with at least one of those 169 targets. Agencies that were once the flagships of international aid have given up trying to lead the rest of the world to anything more focuse…