foreign aid

Ottawa has dismantled a key task force aimed at supporting the peace process in Sudan at a time of renewed fighting in Darfur, raising questions about Canada’s commitment to aid and diplomacy in the conflict-torn region.

Despite the Canadian government shutting down CIDA, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made clear that he strongly supports Canada focusing on maternal and child health worldwide. The need is clear: more than 7 million children and mothers die every year from largely preventable or treatable causes. But what is needed to make an actual difference to the world’s poorest citizens?

With the Australian elections over, the development community is now concerned with one question: Which programs will be cut first from the Australian aid budget? Most probably it will be projects that have no signed contracts and agreements yet with AusAID, according to World Vision Australia. The real risk here, however, is the shift of the country’s aid focus, cutting funding due to logistical and administrative reasons rather than development priorities.

In 2012, Australia reported spending $5.4bn (£3.2m) on official development assistance (ODA), making it the eighth-largest aid donor in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group of rich countries, and just ahead of Sweden ($5.2bn). As a percentage of gross national income (GNI), Australia seems far less generous and was closer to reaching the international target to spend 0.7% of GNI on aid in the 1960s and 70s than it is today.

Another day, another parliamentary committee investigating the future of aid, this time the House of Lords select committee on soft power and the UK's influence. Soft power is the concept by Joseph Nye to describe ways in which countries nudge and cajole rather than pay or use force to further their interests. Or, as the committee's chairman put it, it is a way to "promote Britain's reputation, protect its interests and ensure security in a world where the military methods of the last century or two don't always work".

Citizen-led development is key for empowering individuals and creating transparency and accountability. In the case of U.S. foreign assistance, Oxfam America advocates for it to be led and designed by the people who need it most. For too long, U.S. government development efforts have worked at cross-purposes with the very people who are trying to lead lasting change in poor countries.

In mid-July will be the 34th anniversary of Operation USA's inaugural relief airlift to 44,000 Vietnamese refugees huddled on a water-less, tree-less offshore Island in Malaysia. No different than most contemporary start-ups, the germ of an idea for a relief effort to aid some refugees has now grown into a much-lauded international disaster relief and development organization which has worked in 100 countries.