Foreign Aid: Why do not the poorest countries receive what they need?

In 2016, the least developed countries received only 19.8% foreign aid. This amount is lower compared to the year 2015 where they received 23.7% of the budget granted for Development Assistance. The peak was in 2010, when these countries received 26.9% of Official Assistance. African countries such as the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mozambique and Senegal are some of the countries that currently receive less aid than in 2010. This shows that, although 34 of the countries on the continent are considered the least developed countries (LDC) traditional bilateral aid to Africa continues to decline.

The reasons why this decrease on foreign aid is evident in recent years are varied. One reason is the growth of new conjunctures such as spending on refugees, for example. According to international conventions, donor countries can use the Official Assistance to Development to support refugees during their first twelve months. Therefore, between 2010 and 2016 the foreign aid to the most vulnerable countries decreased, while the expenses for refugees increased.

The imbalance between need and the real help can be explained by the criteria that countries use to direct aid. Typically, the donor countries use three criteria for this allocation: self-interest, need and merit. Self-interest is the most complex. Different providers have different levels of self-interest, and these levels may fluctuate between the different administrations within the same country. According to the voting patterns of the Assembly of the United Nations, the interests of States may have more value than the needs or merits of the destination countries. For example, States are more likely to tend to help their commercial partners, and those with whom they share political interests.

Taking into account these variables, the countries with more merit and the poorest do not receive majority of foreign aid. This fact is very clear and can be explained by the complexity of the self-interest, need and merit criteria. This raises the question: should there be another criterion for the allocation of foreign aid? In response, the Global Partnership for the Effective Development Cooperation emphasized the use of a fourth criterion: effectiveness. This criterion emphasizes transparency, responsibility, orientation and the inclusive collaboration of foreign aid.

So far, the criterion of effectiveness has received support from developed countries, countries in development and regional organizations such as African Union. In the future, it will be necessary to implement measures that quantify the effectiveness of foreign aid to understand and influence in the distribution and allocation of aid.

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