Western nations reevaluate UN poverty solutions

by Isaac Wilson web content manager

With rising financial concerns among Western nations, the United States, along with 16 other United Nations donor nations, began convening last November to develop a strategy to reevaluate the cost-effectiveness of their contributions to U.N. relief programs. The funding, which is split between the four categories of poverty reduction and Millennium Development Goals (MDG) achievement; environment and sustainable; crisis prevention and recovery; and democratic governance, totals over $20 billion a year in anti-poverty assistance, according to an article by Fox News.

Concerned that many of the 37 U.N. organizations are inefficient, disorganized and fiscally abusive in their distribution of funds, the countries involved will reconvene in Berlin this upcoming April to continue discussion on the reform.

The Fox News article reports, “The donor group’s aim is to produce some kind of workable reform agenda for the bloated system that will actually achieve greater efficiency, less duplication and fragmentation of efforts, less corruption and a greater ability to see where their money actually goes.”

One resource provided by the U.N. is the International Aid Transparency Initiative, implemented in part through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). As displayed on the UNDP website, open.undp.org, some of the primary countries receiving aid from the U.S. are Afghanistan, Guatemala, South Sudan, Bangladesh, Somalia and Haiti.

Kesmy St. Louis, junior pastoral studies major and native Haitian, said, “As far as poverty goes, I think what Haiti really needs is the gospel first, but also an organization that will either bring support in a way that helps them with education, or creates an opportunity for jobs so they can work for themselves.”

The UNDP, the largest of the U.N. aid organizations, has an annual budget of close to $6 billion, including over $900 million per year from U.S. funding. However, as reported in an academic paper by William Easterly, professor of economics at New York University, and Claudia Williamson, assistant professor of economics at Mississippi State University, the UNDP is one of the more ineffective channels of aid, as it doesn’t tend to prioritize promoting the interests of the recipient country. “Instead, it is [often] used as a means to increase the donor country’s exports.”

Concerning what effect the donor’s money does have, St. Louis said, “There are more relief organizations in Haiti than anything that the [Haitian] government can offer, but to be honest, I don’t know if they really do any good better than harm.” He added that he hasn’t seen enough to be too critical. “I really haven’t been immersed much [with relief organizations] because I was always in school, coming to school or helping with the orphanage in the village.”

According to the official Stockholm Donor Meeting Report, which documents the decisions made by the collaborating countries in their preliminary meeting, U.N. organizations are lagging behind their similar counterparts in fiscal organization. As such, the involved supporting nations are contemplating solutions, either cutting funding altogether and reallocating it to more efficient organizations or pressing the U.N. to combine some of their organizations to lessen overlaps in funding.

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