Element 3 (a developing country recipient) seems like one of the simplest elements to understand, albeit one of the most political, and one that a bunch of pundits completely ignore in their hyperbole. The money has to flow to a developing country, easy peasy. Clear as day.
Soooo, what’s a developing country? Is it self-identification? Do they have to be recognized by the U.N.? Do they have to be democratic? Do they have to have clear borders? Is it an analytical tool by level of poverty?
Don’t worry, the UN and the OECD have done the heavy lifting for you, of course, to create a list of eligible countries. I’m sure it gives you great comfort to know that the DAC List of approved recipients includes the World Bank’s low and middle-income countries based on GNI per capita and all the Least Developed Countries from the UN’s list. It also excludes G8 members (whew!), EU members (umm, shouldn’t some of them reconsider?) and any country with a firm date for entry into the EU. In other words, G8 members can take care of themselves and the EU should look after itself or future members. After that, it should be gravy, right?
Let’s see — 48 LDCs, 6 other (really) low-income countries, 40 more low income countries, and 54 upper middle income countries for a grand total of 148 possible recipients. Doesn’t narrow it down very much, does it? No problem, we’ll just wipe out all the upper middle income countries and we’ll be down to 94. Hmmm…not a lot better, is it? But you did get rid of China and Brazil, and if you go one more category, you can drop India too. Great, down to 54. Feeling pretty good about yourself. After all, you’re focusing resources on those who “need it most” as Maurice Strong said should be done in his recent editorial.
Except India, China and Brazil have large internal disparity issues. Their overall GNI is good, but they have huge populations living below the poverty line. In fact, the combined three populations who are living below the poverty line are more than the total population of the next 54 countries as a group. Are you still helping those who need it most?
Hmm…okay, let’s say we only go with the list of 54. Or forget the six “others”, we’ll go with the LDC list from the UN. Totally defensible. We’ll concentrate our aid on those 48 and everything should be development.
Next part of the question — should each and every donor help each and every one of the 48? Well, of course not. That will just drive up costs…we should divvy them up somehow, all of us taking our fair share. Global donor coordination, efficiency, effectiveness, economies of scale. Great, sounds good.
So, which of the 48 should we take? The worst of the worst? A mix? Maybe bilingual ones because we too are bilingual, ones where we might have a common heritage that we can share and build upon. Or perhaps ones where we already have long ties and a history of working together. Like perhaps, just asking, the ones where we established political, immigration, and trade ties? Or that are members of the Commonwealth or La Francophonie even? Or have ties to our immigrant population?
The reason for choosing one country or another seems easy when it is about categories of countries like going from middle-income down to low-income. It gets more difficult when you start mixing and matching between them. Development best practices do show aid does tend to work better when donors and recipients have a common history, shared language(s), and a history of strong partnerships. All of which FAC says should be given priority in the future (i.e. where we have strong commercial and political interests), but which development purists say is “foul” argumentation.
Regardless of how you slice and dice, unless we’re going to bankrupt Canada, someone somewhere has to choose which countries and no matter how you set criteria, you are talking about politics … why one country deserves aid more than another. To use a medical metaphor, you play “development triage” to pick which countries to help. Some you can help and keep going, others are long-term investments, others might be better left to other countries or other “doctors” with better expertise to help that patient.
The argument applies equally to using multilateral development institutions as your yardstick. Let’s say, as the OECD does, that every $1 you give to UNICEF counts as ODA. Great, right? UNICEF is, after all, arguably the most well-known and well-respected amongst UN funds and programs.
Hmm…but UNICEF’s head office is in Manhattan, not exactly the hotbed of development. Does every dollar spent on their overhead count? What about publications? Public relations? Lights? Pens? Yep, all ODA. Good news though, if you give to an org like FAO, only a certain percentage is counted as ODA (used to be 53%, I’m sure that has changed) because some of what the FAO does is for developed countries (like the Codex Alimentarus). No wasting “development” money on that other stuff. Clear as mud, right?
Again though, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t give more money to the FAO or even France if you wanted to…it just means you can’t count it as ODA. It’s not a ODA-eligible recipient.
At this point, you’re still comfortable you know what development is, I’m sure. I’ve muddied the waters about what a flow looks like or how you define or choose a developing country, but we are still comfortable that we know what “development” looks like on the ground.
On to part 4…