United Arab Emirates $8.8 billion in foreign aid

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Chairwomen of International Humanitarian City in Dubai, called for establishing a data bank to allow governments to document their humanitarian work. 

The Humanitarian Logistic Data Bank will depend on of the use of technology in charitable aid for a quick response to those in need, said Princess Haya, wife of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, during the second day of the World Government Summit.

“We have to move away from conventional ways of providing aid. Innovation is necessary for humanitarian aid,” she said to a crowd of delegates, as she highlighted the role of smartphones in changing forms of aid in developing countries such as limiting the spread of Ebola in west Africa and targeting those in need in a quick manner. Drones and satellites were among the technologies that helped in providing aid.

Princess Haya noted that the United Arab Emirates has topped the list of donors to foreign aid, reporting a 34 per cent increase in 2015, reaching $8.8 billion.

She praised the UAE food bank initiative, recently launched by Shaikh Mohammed for the Year of Giving. “While reports show that current food waste is worth $2.6 trillion, which can feed three times of world’s population including the 800 million hungry people.”

[Khaleej Times]

Determining if developing aid to poor countries really works

It seems like a no-brainer. Before you spend big bucks on a massive effort to improve life for the world’s poorest — say, distributing millions of free bed nets against malarial mosquitoes, or offering thousands of women microloans as small as $200 to start small businesses — you should run a smaller scale test to make sure the idea actually works. After all, just because a project sounds good in theory doesn’t mean it’s going to pan out in practice.

Or maybe some totally different method wouldn’t achieve better results for less money? For instance, maybe the key to lifting women’s incomes isn’t helping them start a small business but helping them land a salaried job?

Yet for decades, questions like this have been left unanswered.

Instead  health and development aid for the world’s poorest has largely been designed based on what seems reasonable, rather than what can be proved with hard evidence.

However, in the early 2000s a growing movement of social science researchers have been pushing policy-makers to do “impact evaluations” of their programs.

[NPR]

Britain investigating ‘superficial’ foreign aid projects

British taxpayers’ money is being wasted on “superficial” foreign aid projects by some of the world’s biggest international bodies, Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel has warned.

Ms Patel told The Telegraph that her department will in the coming weeks “call out” foreign aid organizations using British money in “completely the wrong way”. And she disclosed that in future Union flags should be displayed on all British foreign aid packages, in a major show of “soft power” in the wake of Brexit.

Her department’s Multilateral Aid Review will be published in the middle of next month and will lay bare the way large aid agencies fail to get good value for money on British taxpayer-funded aid projects.

The last review in 2011 assessed 42 international bodies, judging them against performance indicators. Eighteen were judged to offer “adequate” or “poor” value for money. That review found there was “not enough evidence of multilaterals consistently delivering results on the ground, particularly in fragile states”.

“These organizations are there for their beneficiaries – not for their own self-serving interests.

[The Telegraph]

Some Israelis see $38 Billion in US aid as a failure

It was billed by President Obama as “the single largest pledge of military assistance in U.S. history,” a gift from the American taxpayer to the Israeli taxpayer, totaling $38 billion over 10 years, complete with squadrons of F-35 fighter jets.

But in Israel, the deal inked in Washington last week between the closest of allies has been met not with big love, but with mostly a collective “So what?”

Leaders in the Israeli defense establishment said the deal should have ushered in a new era of cooperation, but did not. They said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his mutual antagonism with Obama, blew it. Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak called the pact for the most advanced weaponry ever a failure and a sign of the withering relationship between the United States and Israel.

Several defense analysts pointed out that, after factoring in inflation and previous supplemental bumps in funding for Israel by Congress, the new assistance package represents less money than the past 10-year deal. Yair Lapid, a leader of an Israeli centrist party, warned that the White House demand in the pact that Israel buy military hardware from U.S. contractors–and not the Israeli defense industry–would backfire. Lapid said last month, “The only thing Israelis will remember from the deal is the unemployment line” in the nation’s economically hard-pressed cities.

Yet there are other views. David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel, published a column headlined, “Ungrateful Israel owes the US a simple thank you.”

[Washington Post]

Zuckerberg Chan fund pledges $3 Billion to banish disease

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla on Wednesday pledged $3 billion over the next decade from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative established by the couple, toward helping banish or manage all disease.

“We plan to invest billions of dollars over decades,” Zuckerberg said. Late last year, they had pledged to donate 99 percent of their Facebook holdings or some $45 billion to “advance human potential and promote equality.”

“This is a big goal,” Zuckerberg said, “But we spent the last few years speaking with experts who think it is possible, so we dug in.”

The first investment being made as part of what the Zuckerbergs hoped would become a “collective” effort will be $600 million for the creation of a Biohub in San Francisco. The Biohub will bring together engineers and scientists from three prestigious California universities to help the effort.

“Mark and Priscilla are inspiring a whole new generation of philanthropists who will do amazing things,” said Microsoft billionaire turned global philanthropist Bill Gates, who has made improving health around the world a top goal at the foundation he created with his wife.

[AFP]

Imagine how $5,000,000,000,000 could change the world

The U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost taxpayers nearly $5 trillion and counting, according to a new report released to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the attacks.

Dr. Neta Crawford, professor of political science at Brown University, released the figures in an independent analysis of U.S. Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Veteran Affairs spending. Crawford’s estimate includes budget requests for the 2017 operations in Afghanistan–which are poised to continue despite President Barack Obama’s vow to withdraw troops from the country by then–as well as in Iraq and Syria.

Separate reporting late last month by the U.K.-based watchdog Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found that the Pentagon could only account for 48 percent of small arms shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11–meaning more than half of the approximately 700,000 guns it sent overseas in the past 15 years are missing.

What’s more, a recent Inspector General audit report found a “jaw-dropping” $6.5 trillion could not be accounted for in Defense spending.

Crawford’s report continues: “Interest costs for overseas contingency operations spending alone are projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023. By 2053, interest costs will be at least $7.9 trillion unless the U.S. changes the way it pays for the war.”

And, Crawford notes, that’s a conservative estimate. “No set of numbers can convey the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how they have spilled into the neighboring states of Syria and Pakistan, and come home to the U.S. and its allies in the form of wounded veterans and contractors,” the report states. “Yet, the expenditures noted on government ledgers are necessary to apprehend, even as they are so large as to be almost incomprehensible.”

[Common Dreams]

A joint humanitarian and longer-term response to refugee crisis

The ongoing refugee crisis is unprecedented in scale and affecting people and places far from the scene of civil war and conflict. For years, most of the response to this crisis was entirely shouldered by a handful of countries and by humanitarian workers who risked their lives every day to confront an emergency that shows no sign of abating, and could last a generation or more.

And with the number of people fleeing their homes growing, it underscores the great need to find new solutions to help refugees and people in countries torn apart by conflict. For far too long, humanitarian and development groups have not worked together, but the situation today demands that we do so — immediately.

In particular, development organizations such as the World Bank Group can bring much greater levels of financing as well as experts who know how to put children in school and create jobs for refugees as well as people living in the host countries. Working with humanitarian actors and with countries hosting refugees, [World Bank is] developing financing with long-term, extremely low-interest loans that can support development projects at the appropriate scale.

The World Bank Group and six other multilateral development banks have agreed to collaborate more closely on creating jobs, increasing financing, analyzing the root causes of fragility and violence, and helping the Middle East and North Africa region recover once conflict ends.

Last year, the Bank Group developed a financing facility for the Middle East and North Africa, the goal in the next five years is to raise $1 billion in funding and turn that into $3 to $4 billion in long-term, very low-interest financing. Recently, the European Union joined eight nations pledging more than $1 billion in grants, loans, and guarantees to this fund supporting Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as recovery and reconstruction across the region.

[The plan is] to provide resources to low- and middle-income countries hosting refugees across the world, to be launched in September at the UN General Assembly.

[Huffington Post]

Somali Diaspora mobilizing in wake of World Humanitarian Summit

8 years ago Abdulkadir Ga’al fled the horrors of civil war in Somalia and ended up in Denmark. Since then, he has built a career as an employment advisor at the Copenhagen Municipality and he has been elected three times to the advisory board of the Danish Refugee Council’s Diaspora Program.

“Somalia is in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, health care, food security, water and sanitation,” Ga’al told CPH Post Weekly. “In March, the drought exacerbated by El-Nino hit Somalia with force and Somali Diaspora mobilized in order to organize fundraising events and send money and remittances to the people affected in those areas.”

According to the World Bank, in 2015 remittances were estimated to reach a total of 9.25 billion kroner (US$ 137,634,022) in Somalia and support 23 percent of the nation’s GDP. These numbers give a clear glimpse of the massive aid and effectiveness provided by Somali Diaspora.

Ga’al’s commitment towards his home country has recently been facilitated by the DEMAC project, which he represented at the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul, Turkey. Ga’al had the opportunity to interact with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, conveying conveyed his concern about the Kenyan government’s plan to close the Dadaab refugee camp, which hosts around 350,000 people. Ga’al stressed that Somalia doesn’t have the capacity to receive refugees back home as the country doesn’t have the resources to relocate the people.

“Ban Ki-moon understood the issue, while he highlighted the Kenyan government’s security concern. Being such a populated camp, it could be infiltrated by the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab,” said Ga’al. Ki-moon pledged to speak with the president of Somalia and the deputy president of Kenya about Ga’al’s concerns.

Moreover, while speaking with Peter de Clercq, the deputy head of the UN’s Assistance Mission in Somalia, Ga’al underlined the need for international humanitarian actors to recognize the Diaspora’s engagements in humanitarian aid as complementary actors, not as competitors. “We have geographical knowledge, we speak the local language, we have access to local community partners, we have relevant and timely information and we are able to provide direct support.” said Ga’al.

[CPH Post]

Nepal’s recovery only just beginning a year after earthquake

Many people here in Nepal pin their hopes on promises of foreign aid: After the disaster, images of collapsed temples and stoic villagers in a sea of rubble were beamed around the world, and donors came forward with pledges of $4.1 billion in foreign grants and soft loans.

But those promises, so far, have not done much to speed the progress of Nepal’s reconstruction effort. Outside Kathmandu, the capital, many towns and villages remain choked with rubble, as if the earthquake had happened yesterday. The government, hampered by red tape and political turmoil, has only begun to approve projects. Nearly all of the pledged funds remain in the hands of the donors, unused.

The delay is misery for the 770,000 households awaiting a promised subsidy to rebuild their homes. Because a yearly stretch of bad weather begins in June, large-scale rebuilding is unlikely to begin before early 2017, consigning families to a second monsoon season and a second winter in leaky shelters made of zinc sheeting.

Visitors who came here to assess the reconstruction expressed shock at how little had been done. In March, a German lawmaker, Dagmar Wöhrl, publicly warned Nepal’s leaders that private donations to foundations and nongovernmental organizations would no longer be available if Nepal did not use the aid soon. She said it was the first time in her seven years as the head of Parliament’s economic development committee that she had given such a warning.

“I had the feeling that someone has to raise a voice and give an input from outside, because time is running out,” Ms. Wöhrl said in an interview. “It does not help a single Nepalese if there are millions of dollars of donation money on charity accounts. The money has to be invested now.”

The Nepali authorities say they must maintain control over the actions of nongovernmental organizations and foreign donors. Bhishma K. Bhusal, an under secretary of the reconstruction authority, said, “We didn’t want to make Nepal like Haiti, where more than $14 billion has been spent, but still people are living in tents.”  Mr. Bhusal acknowledged that the reconstruction agency remained weak, with more than half of its 208 positions unfilled, because civil servants were refusing to accept transfers to an overloaded, much-criticized division.

[New York Times]

Refugee Camps are anything but temporary

More than 600,000 refugees have flooded into Europe this year. However, more than 58 million displaced people remain, mostly in the developing world. Millions are stuck in refugee camps, housed in row after row of tents, enduring the cold and blistering heat and dust that blows in from every direction.

There is a spirit of technological optimism in the humanitarian community that sees refugees’ problems as logistical issues amenable to high-tech solutions. In Turkey refugees use debit cards provided by the World Food Program to shop in stores rather than waiting for food packages. In Jordan, refugees get texts from UNHCR when aid money is deposited and then use an iris scanner to withdraw cash at an ATM. Facebook just announced it will bring the Internet to camps around the world.

Refugee camps are meant for short-term emergencies. They are supposed to be temporary way stations where displaced people can get medical care, food supplies, and shelter until they can either return home or be resettled elsewhere.

But although camps are designed to be temporary, the average length of stay is now more than 17 years. More than half of the world’s displaced people are in what UNHCR calls “protracted displacement.” In Nepal’s Beldangi Camp, refugees have waited 18 years to resettle or return to Bhutan. In the Republic of Georgia, people displaced from Abkhazia 23 years ago are still crammed into decaying Soviet hotels that have become vertical refugee camps. Many Palestinian camps, some almost 70 years old, are now outright slums.

In order to pursue the explicit goal of keeping displaced people from being stuck in poverty and violence or to achieve the implicit goal of preventing an even more massive influx of migration into Europe, donor countries must find a way to turn camps into places where people can rebuild their lives.

[Slate]

Funding the global humanitarian crisis

As the UN asks for a staggering $20bn in humanitarian funding, some of the leading donor states share their thoughts on the future of the sector:

United Kingdom (Desmond Swayne, minister of State and lead for Department for International Development) – The UK is leading the way as the third-largest donor in the world to emergency appeals. But we need other donors to step up – the UN appeal for Syria, for instance, is only 49% funded…. The international community as a whole needs to address the growing gap between humanitarian need and resources. … Unfortunately, humanitarian need is increasing, fueled in part by the consequences of conflict. The number of people affected by crises around the world has almost doubled over the past decade, and over 90% of people in extreme poverty are living in countries that are politically fragile, environmentally vulnerable or both. To meet these challenges head on, we have refocused half of DfID’s budget on supporting fragile and broken states and regions to tackle many of these issues at the source.

Norway (Børge Brende, minister for foreign affairs) – I’m very concerned about the widening gap between humanitarian need and funding. Norway is one of the world’s largest humanitarian donors, per capita. We increased the humanitarian budget this year and will further increase the budget substantially for next year to respond to the increasing needs. A major part of this funding goes through UN appeals. … However, we cannot depend on a continuous increase in funds. We need to develop better ways to use our set of resources more effectively. We must also be able to think long-term in humanitarian efforts, and focus on resilience to shocks in development assistance. Prevention of conflict and crisis through mediation, human rights, democracy and good governance is essential and also more cost-effective than emergency assistance.

United States (Spokesperson for USAid, the US government’s development agency) – The US is the world’s single largest humanitarian donor. In the fiscal year 2015, the US Agency for International Develepment (USAID) and the Department of State provided more than $6bn in life-saving humanitarian assistance. … Given the rising needs in long-term protracted humanitarian emergencies such as Syria and South Sudan, new humanitarian emergencies in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, and the anticipated preparation for and response to El Nino-related disasters, the United States expects its humanitarian resources to be stretched in the coming year.

Sweden (Isabella Lövin, minister for international development cooperation) – We are the fifth biggest bilateral donor in the world and we expect to give at least as much as we gave last year, and probably more. Our concern is that so many other countries don’t live up to the aim of giving 0.7% of GPI to development aid. Also, it’s not just about how much you give, it’s about how much you give that’s un-earmarked. Sweden is a big donor of un-earmarked funding, and that means that it’s much more easily available for humanitarian organizations like the UNHCR, and can be used immediately to respond to a crisis. That makes it much more valuable funding, and we’d like to see other countries giving more that’s un-earmarked.

+  +  +  +  +   +  +  +  +  +  +

Unparalleled challenges require new and innovative solutions. Next year, the UN will be holding its first-ever World Humanitarian Summit. The hope is that this will serve as a forum for change, where countries can come together with solutions to improve the humanitarian system to meet the challenges of today and the future.

[The Guardian]

British aid to India ends this month

After decades of giving millions of pounds to India for various projects, Britain’s traditional aid program to India will end this month and move to a new relationship that focuses on pro-poor private sector projects and technical assistance.

Ending aid to India in 2015 was announced by the secretary for International Development in November 2012 amidst growing demands that an economically-challenged Britain should stop giving aid to a country that had its own space and nuclear programs.

Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) has stopped approving new financial grant aid to India. All new programs will be either technical assistance or private sector initiatives financed using returnable capital; and working together on global development issues.

After 2015, DFID said its technical assistance and returnable capital program will focus on three thematic areas: urbanization, economic development and empowering women and girls, which reflect the Government of India’s priorities.

Britain spends 0.7% of its gross national income on international aid.

[Hindustan Times]

Less than 2% of all humanitarian funds go directly to NGOs

The humanitarian sector took a hard look at itself in Geneva last week, and the picture was not quite the heroic, saintly image it would prefer to see. Less than 2% of all humanitarian funding goes directly to local NGOs, despite them taking the lion’s share of the risk and often being better placed to deliver, according to aid insiders.

Stephen O’Brien, the head of United Nations humanitarian affairs, told a conference in Switzerland that aid delivered by local agencies was often faster, cheaper and more “culturally appropriate”. O’Brien said, “In Syria, the Arab Red Crescent risked their lives every day to help. In west Africa during the Ebola outbreak, community leaders succeeded where international actors had failed.”

But despite years of discussion about the issue, almost all aid funding continues to flow to the large international agencies; a situation that is increasingly embarrassing for the sector.

One campaigner from the global south said: “Please don’t keep telling us that we need to build capacity; it’s insulting and patronizing. It’s an old-fashioned, colonial viewpoint. These organizations are run by people with two PhDs, they are not stupid. Just assume that the capacity is there and fund us properly.”

Sean Lowrie, of the Start Network, which brings together international and national NGOs for humanitarian response, said the current model was not working. “We’re still working in an old-fashioned, centralized, top-down system, which believes in the fallacy of control. We’re stuck and we’re not talking about the real issue, which are incentives, behavior and governance. What we need is a whole new eco-system of smart humanitarianism, which responds to what is needed, which is flexible and diversified, and which is financed in new, smart ways.”

[Read full Guardian article]

Nobel winner Angus Deaton and the impact of foreign aid

Earlier this month, Princeton’s Angus Deaton was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences—an award richly deserved for Deaton’s path-breaking work on consumption, poverty, and welfare.

Much attention has also been given to Deaton’s much more controversial opinions on foreign aid, and his arguments that aid does not work, and that it can accelerate corruption and keep bad leaders in power. Of course, the evidence on aid is not definitive. Partly that is because aid for different purposes has different impacts in different country contexts. Still, a growing body of recent evidence tends to show a net positive impact of aid on development.

The United States has led the way in supporting efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, and deaths have fallen by more than one-third in just seven years. Malaria deaths have dropped in half since 2000, again in large part due to the President’s Malaria Initiative. Tuberculosis infections have fallen by 25 percent just since 2002, and the world is on the brink of eradicating polio once and for all. Donor-financed programs helped increase the number of children receiving basic vaccinations from 20 million in 1980 to 200 million today, and in reducing deaths from diarrhea from 5 million to less than 800,000 children a year. Remarkably, the rate of child death has fallen in every single country in the world since 1980—there are no exceptions. Leadership and hard work in developing countries deserve much of the credit, but these gains would not have happened without foreign assistance.

Aid has also supported progress in education, especially girls’ education. In Afghanistan, less than 1 million children attended schools in 2002, and almost all of them were boys. Girls and women were excluded. But since then, the Afghan government, USAID, and other donors have built more than 13,000 schools, recruited and trained more than 186,000 teachers, and increased net enrollment rates to 56 percent. Just one decade later in 2012, there were 8 million children in school—more than eight times more than in 2002—including 2.5 million girls.

More contentious are the debates about aid and economic growth. But even here the pendulum has swung, with more evidence that aid has a modest positive impact on growth.

[Excerpts of Brookings Opinion by Steve Radelet]

Going Above Two Percent Giving

Charitable giving has been stuck at 2 percent of U.S. GDP for 40 years, ever since we started measuring it. And in a world of increasing demands and ongoing fiscal belt-tightening — a world where government looks unlikely to step back in to support needed social programs — the nonprofit sector fundamentally has to contend with this fact: two percent just isn’t enough.

So what can we do in response? Basically, we have to do three things: 1) work to increase the amount people give, 2) make the most of every penny we get, and — crucially — 3) go beyond giving entirely.

Number 1 is the work of expert fundraisers, though it’s also the work of everyone else in the social sector. For one thing, we can encourage more giving by being better storytellers. We need to learn to express more clearly and creatively the problems we seek to address and the successes we are having. Too often nonprofit appeals and reports are wonky, overly complex, and just plain boring. Boring doesn’t inspire giving — great storytelling does.

Number 2 is the core work of most of us with jobs in the nonprofit sector, from the folks doing their best to deliver impact to the funders who support them. Rewarding organizations for under-investing in people, technology, effective management, and infrastructure is dumb.

And that brings us to number 3: getting beyond giving. At the end of the day, we are unlikely to get where we need to go merely by getting people to give more. While traditional donor-supported activities are critical to having large-scale impact, alone they probably won’t get us where we need to be. Many of our biggest challenges will require financially self-sustaining solutions. And we can find those solutions in at least two areas.

First, a growing pool of nonprofits employs business-like practices to sustain themselves. Second, as a century of American philanthropy has demonstrated, much of our best work is done when it’s in our economic self-interest. Whether by supporting socially-driven start-ups through impact investments or encouraging socially-driven innovation at major corporations through our purchasing power, we can move forward farther with the business community alongside us.

[Huffington Post]

Countries with booming economies still need foreign aid

Excerpts from Bill Gates:  When world leaders recently gathered in Ethiopia] one important issue that didn’t draw much attention … is how we treat countries that have built strong enough economies to lift themselves out of extreme poverty, but which still have a lot of people who are barely getting by.

The system of development finance currently used by many donor governments and international financial institutions allocates funding to countries based in significant part on their average income per person. As economic growth moves countries like India and Nigeria into the “middle-income tier,” they become ineligible for many of the grants and low-interest loans used to fund basic infrastructure and essential services. The problem with this is that huge pockets of poverty still exist in many of the countries facing a cutoff of funds. In fact, more than 70% of the world’s poorest people live in countries defined as “middle income” by the World Bank.

Clearly, a nation’s access to the most favorable financing for development should taper off as the level of personal income grows. But if we make countries with high levels of inequality and poverty ineligible for aid too soon, it will become increasingly difficult for them to continue on a path of economic growth.

Based on current trends, our foundation estimates that countries such as India, Ghana, Nigeria, and Vietnam could lose between 18% and 40% of their funding from donor countries and multilateral aid programs. Cuts of this magnitude would have a severe impact on basic health and social programs that rely on donor funding to operate.

If we are intent on helping the world’s poorest lift themselves out of poverty, we need to ensure that development assistance reaches people in need, regardless of where they live. The classification of countries based mainly on average income should be updated to incorporate other measures centered on improving the human condition such as better access to health services and education. And we need to think about the right incentives and approach for a thoughtful and smooth transition for each country to reach self-sufficiency. Read more  

Indian billionaire has given 39% of his company stake to charity

Wipro chairman Azim Premji, who is India’s top giver, has given away an additional 18% of his stake in India’s third largest IT services company to his foundation.

“Over these years, I have irrevocably transferred a significant part of the shareholding in Wipro, amounting to 39% of the shares of Wipro…” said Premji in a letter to the shareholders.

Premji had previously given away 21% of his stake, worth $4.3 billion, to the eponymous foundation. He has allocated an additional 18%, taking his total contribution so far to 39%, according to the company’s 2015 annual report.

Premji set up the Azim Premji Foundation in 2001 to focus on philanthropy and improve the country’s school system, signed a giving pledge in 2013 along with philanthropists such as Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates among others.

The 69-year-old has been gradually transferring his shares to the foundation over the last five years—in 2010, he transferred 9% of his shares worth $2 billion, and followed it up with a 12% share transfer in 2013 worth $2.3 billion.

The foundation works in eight states which together have more than 350,000 schools.

[Hindustan Times]

International aid agencies gain unexpected help from corporate sector

With more refugees in the world today than any point since the Second World War and as Western governments like Canada slash spending on foreign aid, aid agencies are increasingly looking for help from an unlikely quarter: the corporate sector.

And sometimes solutions are developed directly at the request of aid agencies. That’s what happened when Télécoms San Frontières approached the Vodafone Foundation four years ago to build a “network in a box” for deployment following natural disasters such as the recent cyclone in Vanuatu and earthquake in Nepal.

That invention, a complete mobile network that comes in three simple boxes, has led to changes for the refugee community as well.

“As a humanitarian program, we are trying to reach the most vulnerable people,” said Oisin Walton, the instant network roll-out manager for the Vodafone Foundation. “After discussions with UNHCR on how we could better support them, we found that education was a key area we could contribute in.”

The result is the Instant Network School Program, tablet-based classrooms in refugee camps where students and teachers can spend a few hours every day for an interactive education.

The program debuted at the Yeda refugee camp in South Sudan in 2013 and 16 classrooms are now up and running in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya.

Over the next two years, UNHCR and the Vodafone Foundation hope to expand the program to 33 schools in these countries plus Tanzania, serving an estimated 60,000 refugee students.

[CBC]

The derailing of the U.S. Agency for International Development

USAID’s capacity is on the cusp of crisis: Its staff is divided between veterans who are aging out and greenhorns, with too few in the middle. From the standpoint of national capacity, America has a development donut. And it’s a problem that so far has gone all but unnoticed by policymakers or the public.

Since 2009, USAID has witnessed about a 16 percent real drop in funding while its partner across the Potomac, the Pentagon, fought a successful campaign to limit decreases.

Over the last two decades, about one-third of USAID’s professional staff, according to the U.S Global Leadership Coalition, has gone away, leaving it more or less a contracting office for NGOs, who are fortunately doing much better aid work than before. But there’s only so much even they can do, given their likewise limited economies of scale — which is one reason a leading global power has an international development ministry to begin with.

At a briefing delivered at the National Defense University in April, USAID’s human capital and talent management staff reported that its agency has about 10,000 personnel total worldwide. Just fewer than 4,000 of these, however, are Foreign Service officers or civil servants — the professional core of the agency. The remainder consists of non-American subject matter experts making up approximately 80 percent of overseas staffing, in addition to contractors.

What really limits America’s capacity, however, to foster its long-term international standing and national security is a cavity of human capacity right in the middle of the organization. Over 50 percent of the agency’s professional workforce — its institutional memory — is now past retirement age. Over 70 percent of the remainder has less than five years of experience. That means a serious shortage of seasoned staff in a middle management mode — and a dearth of future, seasoned senior leaders.

USAID has made significant strides in effectiveness, and doing a better job of demonstrating return on investment, as its annual performance reports have shown since 2007. There are still improvements to be made, but despite those made so far, Uncle Sam’s development arm is still atrophying. Not that anyone seems to care.

[Excerpts of Foreign Policy article]

How $168 billion in development money flows around the world

You’d think that most foreign aid would be reserved for the world’s poorest countries, but that’s not actually true.

For example, according to the advocacy group ONE, the U.S. only gives one-third of its foreign aid to the least developed countries in the world.

This is the kind of information you can unearth with a new tool, called D-Portal, run by a U.K. nonprofit called Development Initiatives. The site tracks development aid flows around the world, showing which countries are donating and receiving money and how it’s being spent. It shows the U.S. gives the most aid every year ($27 billion in 2013 or about 16% of the global total), followed by Japan ($24 billion) and the European Union ($16 billion).

The site uses data from the International Aid Transparency Index and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and gives a sense of whether inbound resources are leading to positive results. It’s a useful tool: You can create country profiles showing income and spending and see how countries are performing on several development metrics (e.g. the number of residents who still live in poverty).

In a recent report, Development Initiatives said many social programs are severely under-funded in developing countries. Across all least developed countries, only 20% of costs are financed.

[Excerpts of Co.Exist article by Ben Schiller]