21st Century Aid

Recognizing success and tackling failure

Aid plays a role in saving millions of lives, and yet despite its achievements poverty continues to cast a shadow over the lives of some 1.4 billion people worldwide. This has opened up questions over the effectiveness of aid and lately, unleashed a barrage of criticism, with critics using individual examples of failed aid to argue that all aid is bad and should be reduced or phased out altogether. This is both incorrect and irresponsible.

Aid that does not work to alleviate poverty and inequality – aid that is driven by geopolitical interests, which is too often squandered on expensive consultants or which spawns parallel government structures accountable to donors and not citizens – is unlikely to succeed.

This report examines the evidence, and finds that while there is much room for improvement, good quality 21st century aid not only saves lives, but is indispensable in unlocking poor countries’ and people’s ability to work their own way out of poverty.

Aid alone – even 21st century aid – is not enough to ensure that all people living in poverty can lead full and decent lives. But together with the right systemic reforms, aid can and will extricate millions of people from poverty and deprivation.

Key recommendations:

  • Ensure aid is channelled to help support active citizens, build effective states as a pathway to reducing poverty and inequality, and support diverse forms of financing to contribute to development.
  • Deliver aid through a mix of models, including increasing budget support wherever possible, and ensure that a percentage of aid flows are channelled to civil society organizations, to enable people to better hold their governments to account.
  • Dramatically improve the predictability of aid, by increasing the proportion of aid that is general budget support where possible and by sector support where general budget support is not an option, and limit conditions attached to aid to mutually agreed poverty indicators.
  • Rich countries give at least 0.7 per cent of their national income in aid, and set out how this target will be reached, with legally binding timetables.
  • Reject a culture of corruption, uphold human rights standards, and act in ways which are transparent and open to scrutiny.
  • Provide legal environments in which civil society organizations monitoring government activities can flourish and respect the independence of non-government bodies like audit offices and the judiciary.

Download the report below, or watch these clever, short animations:

Does aid work?

Good aid