Posts or Comments 23 May 2024

Health Rights &Peace/Conflict &Policy Bill Brieger | 22 Mar 2009 08:47 am

Policy reform and aid must go together

Last month the philanthropic community – government, international, corporate, donor, non-governmental and media partners – met in New York to promote “health among the world’s poorest populations.” Global Health Progress explained that this event was held to “discuss ways to strengthen partnerships toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially in areas where progress has been slow and stronger multi-stakeholder participation would be beneficial.”

With the billions of dollars now available annually for health/development aid from multinational, bilateral and philanthropic sources, this group appears to have something to celebrate. But is aid and money the main answer? Paul Collier explains that this is only half of the story:

Poverty in the developing world will decline by about one-half by 2015 if the trends of the 1990s persist. Most of this poverty reduction will occur in Asia, however, while poverty will decline only slightly in Africa. Effective aid could make a contribution to greater poverty reduction in lagging regions. Even more potent would be significant policy reform in these countries. We develop a model of efficient aid in which flows respond to policy improvements that create a better environment for poverty reduction and effective aid. We investigate scenarios of policy reform and efficient aid that point the way to how the world can cut poverty in half in every major region.

In a New York Times review of Paul Collier’s new book, WARS, GUNS, AND VOTES, Kenneth Roth highlights the following:

Collier’s primary conclusion: democracy, in the superficial, election-focused form that tends to prevail in these (pseudo-democracies), “has increased political violence instead of reducing it.” Without rules, traditions, and checks and balances to protect minorities, distribute resources fairly and subject officials to the law, these governments lack the accountability and legitimacy to discourage rebellion. The quest for power becomes a “life-and-death struggle” in which “the contestants are driven to extremes.” Collier’s data show that before an election, warring parties may channel their antagonisms into politics, but that violence tends to flare up once the voting is over. What’s more, when elections are won by threats, bribery, fraud and bloodshed, such so-called democracies tend to promote bad governance, since the policies needed to retain power are quite different from those needed to serve the common good.

The common good of course includes effective and equitable programs against AIDS, malaria, TB and the neglected diseases. In violent environments that often lead to displacement of populations these diseases thrive.

Until the structures of government are geared to the common good and not to helping powerful parties retain power, we may never see the end of malaria and other devastating diseases.  International donors and philanthropists need to ask themselves what they are doing to promote good governance along with their financial aid.


Readers may have noticed that we have not been using many photos in our recent entries.  We could add previously uploaded photos to new stories, but not upload new photos.  This problem relates to storage space and hopefully will be resolved soon.

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