Who pays for international aid?
The majority of aid to developing countries comes from the governments of wealthy countries. The internationally agreed target for how much a government should give in aid is 0.7% of gross national income – although only a few countries have reached this level.
Governments direct their aid in a number of different ways – from spending it through multilateral institutions like the World Bank or EU, to giving it directly to the government of a developing country, or channelling it through NGOs such as ActionAid.
The way donor governments decide to spend their aid has huge implications for how effective it is at tackling poverty and promoting development. At present, too much aid is designed to primarily benefit rich countries, rather than to promote development.
Does more aid mean less poverty?
While giving aid to poor communities or countries undoubtedly improves the lives of millions of people around the world every year, simply giving more aid money is not enough to break the cycle of poverty.
The aid which governments do provide at the moment must be much better quality – so that it focuses on tackling the root causes of poverty.
Developing countries need to have a much bigger say in the international decisions which affect them directly. At the moment, international institutions like the WTO or IMF (which are controlled by rich countries) are able to force developing countries to adopt risky and unsuitable policies – such as rapid trade liberalisation – which hurt the poorest.
Doesn’t most aid go to corrupt politicians?
While political and economic corruption is a major problem in many developing countries, it is important to remember that corruption is a symptom of poverty – not its main cause.
Poor and excluded people around the world are already demanding an end to corruption, and it is vital that we support them in this struggle.
Corruption isn’t just down to politicians in developing countries – many rich countries and multinational corporations also engage in corrupt practices – which fuels the problem in the first place.
Should all international aid go to charities, rather than governments?
While the work of international development charities such as ActionAid can improve the lives of millions of people, money from charities alone is not enough to solve all the problems within developing countries.
To improve the lives of whole countries or regions, and to sustain this in the long term, governments must play a key role in providing health and education services - creating their own path out of poverty.
What does better aid mean?
Better quality aid means aid that is truly targeted at improving the situation of the poorest and most excluded within societies. At present, too much aid fails to reduce poverty because it never leaves the donor country, damaging strings are attached to it, and rich countries don’t properly coordinate the aid they give.
Good quality aid supports the development priorities that poor countries identify for themselves. It is provided on a stable basis over a number of years so that countries can plan for the long term. Developing counties can spend it on achieving their development priorities in the way they decide is most useful – free from political interference from donor governments.
More aid can lift millions out of poverty – but only when it is good quality.