UNDP chief says development aid is investment in secure future

Mar 5, 2013

CALGARY, Canada — Development aid amounts to an investment in a more secure future for developed countries, which reap enormous benefits from better-fed, better-led emerging trade partners, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said here Tuesday.

“We all gain when developing countries have vibrant economies, are well-governed and peaceful, have educated and healthy populations, and can support the fight against climate change by pursuing low-carbon routes to development,” Ms. Clark said in remarks at the Kenneth and Patricia Mariash Global Issues Dialogue here.

Aid from developed countries makes up a relatively small share of resources invested in development, she said, citing flows from trade, foreign direct investment, remittances from migrant workers, and domestic funding.

“It’s worth noting now, as a number of advanced economies suffer continuing fallout from the global financial and economic crises, that developing economies and regions, including Africa, have become very important global growth engines,” she said.

“Demand for commodities, goods, and services from growing numbers of people with higher disposable incomes and better prospects have undoubtedly helped economies such as those of Canada and New Zealand at a time of sluggish demand from many advanced economies.”

UNDP's flagship 2013 Human Development Report, to be launched 14 March,  addresses this trend. China has already overtaken Japan as the world's second biggest economy while lifting hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty, it notes, while India is reshaping its future with new entrepreneurial creativity and social policy innovation and Brazil is lifting its living standards through wider international ties and antipoverty programs emulated worldwide. But other countries including Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, and Indonesia are also becoming major players and, increasingly, trading partners.

‘Governance drives development’

Significant official development assistance is now directed toward countries deemed “fragile,” some mired in conflict and others recovering from it. In these countries, numerous problems demand solutions: poor governance, lack of social cohesion, conflict over resources such as land and water, and grinding poverty.

Addressing the drivers of these issues “matters to all of us,” Ms. Clark said. “In weak states where the reach of government is limited—if it exists at all—citizens suffer. It is no coincidence that not one of the 50 states identified by the World Bank as burdened by fragility has achieved or will achieve a single anti-poverty Millennium Development Goal (MDG) by 2015.”

“But weak states harm not only their own citizens. Without rule of law and effective governance, they may harbour groups capable of inflicting and motivating damage far away. Think of the destruction of the World Trade Centre and the bombings in London, Madrid, and elsewhere. Think of the international drug and criminal syndicates, which base themselves in weak states. The absence of the rule of law and effective governance is a threat to us all.”

“Effective governance drives development. Governments need to be able to make quality decisions and implement them. That requires capacity to plan, legislate, regulate, raise and allocate resources, and deliver. That is as relevant to building resilience to natural hazards as it is to attracting investment in basic infrastructure such as energy. Poor governance lies at the heart of the non-financial constraints the hinder development.”

Much of the Western world now faces economic hard times, and budgets for international development face cuts, along with everything else, Ms. Clark said, adding: “I understand that.”

“I’ve sat in the chair which brings down the gavel on a nation’s budget. But I also know it’s important to invest in our future growth and prosperity. If major growth prospects are beckoning in the developing world, the efforts we make there to support development not only benefit the citizens of those countries—they will help sustain jobs and living standards in our own.”

MDG victories, long-term challenges

“When humanitarian crises arise, the world is generous. Starvation was averted in Africa’s Sahel last year and most of the Horn of Africa the year before because of timely responses to severe drought and food shortage,” Ms. Clark said.

“What is important is for the investment not to end when the relief phase is over, or to be confined to the very important humanitarian needs. Each of those crises, and many others like them, are crises augmented by underdevelopment, as in the case of drought where lack of water infrastructure and social protection schemes leave communities very vulnerable. The phenomenon of climate change will deliver more extreme weather events more often, so the need to invest in adaptation and resilience to those events is pressing,” she said.

UNDP’s core mandate, human development, aims to lift living standards, create opportunities, and enabling people to live fulfilling lives, Ms. Clark said. “None of that happens in a vacuum. Money isn’t everything, but it helps. Developing nations do need to grow their economies, but it’s also important to apply the fruits of growth in ways that sustain and improve human well-being.”

“At UNDP we see many of the non-financial constraints on human development—war and conflict, armed violence, low social cohesion, poor governance, corruption, poor enabling environments for trade and investment, and a lack of capacity to drive development and implementation of strategies that could bring about transformational change.”

With some 1,000 days until the MDG target date of 31 December 2015, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty is now half of what it was in 1990 and the world is within reach of seeing every child enrolled in primary school.

Spending on vaccines, bed nets, and nutrition has helped push child mortality rates in sub-Saharan countries down by 41 percent. Children under five are now more likely to survive in almost every country in the world.

But in 2015 some 1 billion people will still live in extreme poverty, without clean water or improved sanitation. Many will still suffer from hunger, malnutrition, the burden of preventable ill-health, gender discrimination, and more.

The MDGs were set out by the 2000 Millennium Declaration, in which 189 national delegations pledged to work toward eight goals such as reducing child and maternal mortality, expanding access to clean water and sanitation, and tackling acute hunger. 

Forty-five countries are now using the UN Development Group’s MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF)—developed by UNDP and piloted in 2010 by UN Country Teams—to identify pragmatic solutions to expedite progress on lagging MDGs. 

Contact information

Sarah Jackson-Han
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Washington
+1 202 331 9130 tel.

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