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On 30 November, at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, a historic moment was seen as government ministers agreed that they would make their aid transparent by 2015.
The run up to the meeting was marked by a number of donors publishing data to the registry of the Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), In addition to this, the US (the worlds biggest donor), Canada, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture and Development signed up to IATI, taking the total number of signatories to 26 or, in monetary terms, over three quarters of international aid flows.
This huge progress could not have happened without the dedication and support of nearly 64,000 people from 218 countries, many of whom are Global Poverty Project supporters who have been campaigning hard on this issue all year.
Before the meeting at which the petition was handed over, jigsaw pieces made from a board identical to that used for the handover were placed around the plenary room, leaving hundreds of country delegates confused and intrigued.
The ‘completed’ jigsaw was then handed over to the Swedish Minister for Development Cooperation at the front of the conference hall.
The pieces were shared out to demonstrate the fact that a small piece of the puzzle (or one bit of aid information) is of little use on its own – it’s only when you have all those pieces together (or all donors’ aid information in one place) that the component parts make sense, gain value, and ultimately become useful.
As aid spending becomes more transparent, we can make sure aid money has the best possible impact, and gets to those who need it most. Aid donors will be able to coordinate with each other, reducing waste and overlap; developing country governments will be able to plan better and citizens will be able to hold their governments to account. More transparency will help reduce corruption too.
Thank you to all our supporters and those across the world who signed the petition and called on governments to make their aid transparent, there has been huge progress made because as Amy Barry, Campaigns Director at Publish What You Fund said: “[The petition] demonstrates the widespread and irrefutable demand from citizens from all over the world for more transparent aid.”
Together, the 40+ countries, the European Commission, faith-based organizations, private foundations, and corporations pledged just $11.7 billion, short of the $13 billion the Fund needed just to continue their work at the same level they were currently and well short of the $20 billion needed to scale up their work in a way that would enable us to hit the millennium development goal targets for HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.
Yesterday we saw the fall out from this failure. At a board meeting of the Global Fund in Accra, Ghana, the next round of grant-making from the Fund was effectively cancelled. This represents a very real and very dangerous threat to the progress that has been made over the past few years in fighting these major infectious diseases and will put the lives of millions of people at serious risk.
We know that with the right funding, the Global Fund and others can make sure that all children in the world are born HIV free by 2015, and by 2015 we want to achieve the UN target of near zero deaths from malaria. We have the medicines, skills and awareness to help end these diseases... and we have the manpower too. We know that small things can make big changes, like expanding the provision of bed nets to protect against malaria or providing basic skin tests for TB among high-risk communities.
To break it down to a few key facts:
Since 2002, the Global Fund has saved an estimated 7.7 million lives in 150 countries. It has signed grant agreements to invest $22 billion fighting poverty and delivering better health care across the developing world.
With Global Fund resources, 3,600 lives are saved every day.
Two thirds of all international funding to fight tuberculosis and malaria, and almost one quarter of the money used to fight AIDS is channelled through the Global Fund
Exceptionally low overhead costs mean that virtually all funds are delivered to the people who need them. The Fund esti¬mates that 97 pence of every pound raised goes directly to grants.
The Fund has been recognised for its leadership in transparency and accountability – all proposals, applications, grant agreements and progress reports are published on the Global Fund’s website.
DFID conducted a review of the Global Fund which found that was “very good value for money” and “critical to the delivery of the health related MDGs.”
And yet the shortage of funds that has been created through governments’ unwillingness to provide extra funding, leaves the progress that can, and indeed already has been made against major infectious diseases at risk of being destroyed. As UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon stated at the replenishment meeting last year:
If we lose the ground we have gained, we will be back to square one – all that effort and investment, lost.
We cannot allow that to happen, which is why, over the past months, we have been campaigning hard in the UK with our partners, Malaria No More UK, for the government to Fund the Fund.
Now it is more urgent than ever that we make our voices loud and clear and tell our governments that we cannot turn our backs on the worlds poorest, we cannot close the door on the progress that has been made, we cannot ignore our obligations to stand up against the injustice of poverty.
You can join our call in the UK by signing the petition on the right and sending a letter to your MP telling them of your support for the Global Fund and asking them to join you in calling for the UK to set an example for the rest of the world to follow by doubling their commitment to the Global Fund.
If the Global Fund has the extra money it needs, it will get us a long way towards saving 3 million children’s lives from malaria by 2015. Not to mention the millions more that will be helped by the Global Fund’s work on TB and HIV, so please add your name to the petition.
Let me tell you a story about poverty and prosperity.
It begins with a natural resource. A massive opportunity buried, beneath the ground, with the ability to bring huge wealth into a country and allow citizens to secure their own future and fight poverty.
However, too often the wealth generated by the natural resources doesn’t go towards improving the lives of the citizens. Instead meetings take place behind closed doors, and decisions are made out of sight meaning the money goes to only a few, leaving many worse off than before.
If governments and companies operated openly, this would allow the people they represent to hold them to account. The money brought in could create jobs, hospitals, schools. We could create a fairer world.
Equatorial Guinea is an example of the problem that exists. It had the 12th highest gross domestic product in the world in 2008, with more than $30,000 per capita.
It also ranked 121st out of 177 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (a composite of life expectancy, educational attainment and income measurements that attempt to show a more accurate portrayal of someone’s life).
On 25 October, the US Department of Justice filed an asset forfeiture claim against a $30m Malibu house, a $38.5 million Gulfstream jet and other assets owned by Teodorin Obiang, the son of the Equatorial Guinea’s leader, who as a government minister was earning a reported salary of just US$4,000 a month. This sent a clear statement that “the United States will not be a hiding place for the ill-gotten riches of the world’s corrupt leaders”. However, we need to put laws in place to avoid this kind of corruption from occurring in the first place rather than react after the corruption has occurred.
The returns from the ownership of natural resources in Africa are over $400bn/year, whereas aid to Africa is less than $50bn/year. So this money represents a huge opportunity for ordinary citizens to secure their own future. That opportunity will be missed if they don't have the ability to hold their leaders to account for how that money is spent.
In October 2011, the European Commission made proposals for updating the EU legislation to require greater transparency by oil, gas and mineral companies.
This legislation would be a crucial step forwards in fighting corruption, but getting this legislation passed is a tough job. The European Parliament alone consists of 736 MEPs from the 27 member countries. There are lobby groups from the extractive industries pushing hard for the legislation to be watered down.
And then there's us.
We, the people they represent, need to use our voices in support of the legislation and to let the MEPs know that we support greater transparency in natural resource industries.
Join us in our campaign for justice by writing to your MEP to find out their position on the proposed legislation and help citizens of these countries to secure their own future.
Today, Bill Gates delivered a report at the G20 Summit in Cannes, with a strong message urging the leaders not to use the current financial turmoil as an excuse to turn their backs on the worlds poor. A message we at the Global Poverty Project strongly stand behind.
The report was delivered at the request of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy and highlights the major progress that has been made in the last decade. If we are to continue this trend of improvement and build on the unprecedented progress in health and development from the last decade, leadership from the G20 countries is critically important.
A good example of the fantastic progress that has been made comes from Tanzania, as can be seen in the latest video from Professor Hans Rosling below.
At the same time as looking at the pivotal role that well designed aid has played in development, Bill also highlights that aid is not the only element for development. He points out, “Ultimately, developing countries’ domestic resources will be the largest source of funds for development.”
One of the roles that the G20 nations can play to ensure that people in developing countries are able to secure own resources and bring themselves out of poverty.
He also highlights an important action that we can take towards this – passing legally binding transparency requirements for mining and oil companies listed on their stock exchanges, to ensure that natural resources are well-managed. This is something that we at the Global Poverty Project have been campaigning on for years as part of the Publish What You Pay coalition and we will be unveiling our new campaign in support of this legislation in the coming week.
A further point of interest in the report is the tax proposals he suggests G20 countries should consider to help them meet their aid commitments and eventually expand them. These include a tobacco tax, a financial transaction tax, and an aviation and bunker fuel tax. It will certainly be interesting to see how these are received and indeed if they are implemented.
This report is an important reminder of why we must not turn our backs on aid programmes and we hope the G20 leaders pay heed to it so that we do not lose the huge opportunities we have to truly drive development forward in the coming years.
With the bribery act now enshrined in British law, we have "sent a strong message that the UK government does not condone bribery and corruption". However, this message is being undermined by a department within our own government.
Previously, we wrote about the UK government’s Export Credits Guarantee Department, a government department that uses taxpayer money to back exports to the developing world by British companies. When things go wrong, the amount that needs to be paid back becomes debt owed by the developing country to the UK.
To date, this department has generated over 95% of developing country debt to the UK and yet refuses to disclose any details on the source of those debts. To further compound this injustice, the department lacks any effective checks and balances to guarantee their deals are corruption-free, nor do they have a policy of debarring companies found guilty of corrupt activities.
In short – there’s no way for us to know that the ECDG aren’t complicit in fuelling human rights abuses, environmental destruction and exacerbating poverty.
As you can see from the video below, produced by our partners at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, for the launch of their new Clean Up Britain’s Exports website, the ECDG has been popularly renamed as the Department for Dodgy Deals for good reason:
We cannot allow this state of affairs to continue unchecked. No one should have to pay a debt when the lender refuses to explain its origin, for projects that entrench poverty or for crimes against them. Debts such as those for the supply of aircraft and tanks to the oppressive Suharto regime or the construction of a hydroelectric dam built on a known earthquake fault, in a region that often suffers drought are unjust. They must be cancelled and restrictions put in place to avoid such debt being created in the future.
That’s why we’re supporting the campaign being run by the Jubilee Debt Campaign calling for a full, public audit of the debts owed to the ECDG.