A Quick-Fix or a Lasting Strategy? Development v. Aid in the Global Arena

In September 2000, the world’s governments convened in the United Nations Headquarters in New York City and set a series of ambitious targets to combat and eradicate the extreme situations that many people in developing countries were living with. At the times these goals seemed fairly tangible, and although impressive, world leaders had high hopes that these targets were going to be achieved. Here we are, 14 years later, less than a year away from the deadline of the goals, with people still struggling with the same challenges of that September day.

The benefits of setting a limited number of ‘Big Aid’ goals like the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) vary depending of what the fundamental goal is. In itself, goals are a great way to incentivize work to achieve set goal, nonetheless when these goals have a date limit, the implementation method might not be the most efficient. The MDG might not be met by 2015, but the United Nations and its agencies are working to draft other goals to be achieved in a later date that would built on the work initiated by the MDG. In order for these ‘Big Aid’ goals to work, they should be implemented by what William Easterly called in his book The White Man’s Burden “planners” and “searchers” alike.

If these two groups implemented the approaches for these goals in their own fields — planners using a top-down approach and searchers using a bottoms-up — then there will be greater chance that these goals will be met more efficiently and ensuring to reach out to as many people as possible. For example, programs like Re-Greening the Sahel, which is a “farmer-led” strategy to invigorate a region of the African continent that has seen an aggressive drought, is an example of a bottoms-up approach that successfully provides a long-term solution to the problem.

Sachs and Easterly both provide a compelling argument to both sides of the argument. Nonetheless, as Easterly state in his article Aid Amnesia there should be a definite difference between aid and development. Aid provides a fairly short-term fix to a solution. Nonetheless development projects are aimed to equip people with the necessary tools to provide long-term solutions to a given problem. International development organization would agree with Jeffrey Sachs in that aid has indeed provided a great relief to many African countries, especially in providing fundamental health services that the state health infrastructure in these countries could not provide for themselves. Development organizations, in the other hand, would side with Easterly on his argument saying that negotiating with countries that have weak institutions is harder and oftentimes lead to a misallocation of aid resources. Sachs argues in his article The Case for Aid that international aid provides much needed help in the area of public health in the African country. Aid would have been good in this sector, nonetheless development organizations might argue that a case for development is needed for many other sectors in which African countries are having trouble with. For example, agriculture requires much more than monetary aid; technics and strategies would also go a long way and would prove useful rather than a quick influx of money.

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