We've written before about making disaster and humanitarian relief efforts more effective. Here's a new tool to aid such efforts: the Humanitarian Response Index, created by a Madrid-based nonprofit called Dara. Per Foreign Policy's blog, the index "ranks 22 developed countries plus the European Commission in five categories: response to humanitarian needs; integration of relief with development; work with NGOs; implementation of international law; and promotion of accountability."
FP highlights findings related to aid given by the United States: in absolute terms, the US ranks high in money given for aid, thanks to the size of the US economy. But it falls well down on the list's rating overall, because just 0.22 percent of our gross national income (GNI) is spent on aid (based on 2005 numbers), adding up to $27.6 billion.
The funny thing is, most Americans seem to think their country is opening the spigots when it comes to foreign aid. According to statistics compiled by Columbia University professor and FP contributor Jeffrey Sachs, the typical American believes that 25 percent of the gross national income (GNI) is spent on foreign aid. In actuality, the OECD reports that the U.S. provided just 0.22 percent of its GNI in direct foreign aid in 2005, or $27.6 billion.
Sachs claims that poverty could be wiped off the map if the developed world spent 0.7 percent of its total GNI on official foreign aid, yet only five countries do so: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. If the United States followed their example, American taxpayers would shell out approximately $93.8 billion each year in foreign aid...it's astonishing what could be accomplished if the United States were more like Sweden—in other words, if it increased the U.S. foreign aid budget to 0.7 percent of GNI. For a mere $93.8 billion, the United States could keep all of its current funding commitments and also:
Before increasing the amount of aid to poor countries, make sure you have a direct way of getting aid to the poor. Otherwise you will end up with what I call the 'Mobutu effect', a situation where aid dollars are redistributed, skimmed or outright stolen by the powerful and their cronies. This has happened time and time again and actually exacerbates the poverty in many target countries.
For the beginnings of the alternative argument of creating wealth in poor countries, listen to Andrew Mwenda of Uganda's speech given at the 2007 TedGlobal conference in Tanzania.