Our Perspective

January 24 2014

The 'foreign-aid-doesn’t-work' argument | Jérome Sauvage

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A Hmong woman and her baby in the village of Sin Chai. Vietnam is an example of how successful foreign aid interventions can transform a country. Photo: Kibae Park/UN

Since my arrival in the United States one year ago, I have come across authors such as Roger Riddell who ask pointed questions to those responsible for aid programs. There is an energetic and well-established body of literature that is skeptical of bilateral and multilateral aid. Here in Washington, I appreciate how USAID focused more on evidence-based reporting whilst we at UNDP are sharing our results much better (as our top IATI rating demonstrates), one person and one country at a time. Yet a significant piece of evidence is often missing in our demonstrations: the very countries that successfully emerged out of poverty. I just returned to Vietnam over the New Year holidays. Hanoi was my first post with UNDP. Then, in 1985, the country’s devastation from the war was everywhere. UNDP joined a small group of donors supporting various rehabilitation projects, notably in the coffee and rubber sectors. Today, Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer after Brazil (OK, mainly Robusta) and is likely to become the world’s third-biggest rubber producer.  Although our presence needed much justifying internationally, we stayed, were able to support the reform process the moment it began, and later on advised the country’s leadership in its negotiations... Read more

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