Rethinking Foreign Aid

Aid is in desperate need, and distribution could be more efficient to produce sustainable results. Writing for Foreign Affairs, Paul Farmer, professor at Harvard University, points out that “80 percent of aid from major bilateral and multilateral donors to fragile countries still bypasses the systems of local public institutions” but improving lives depends on long-term improvements to public systems of health, education and infrastructure. Critics worry about corruption, but one analysis of top national donors points out that only a fraction of a percent is lost to fraud. Farmer describes stopping cholera without public water supplies as unimaginable and urges five ways to improve aid: reward institutions and staff who localize aid dollars, prioritize implementation with national counterparts, reassess how risk is evaluated and avoid stereotypes, go beyond assumptions and identify what methods are sustainable and cost effective, and prioritize transfer of aid functions to local authorities. Public infrastructure run by locals are the most sustainable programs over the long run. – YaleGlobal

Rethinking Foreign Aid

Foreign aid that contributes to building public infrastructure and networks, transferring responsibility to locals, is most sustainable
Paul Farmer
Wednesday, December 25, 2013

PAUL FARMER is Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard University, Chair of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Co-founder of Partners In Health, and Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General. This article is adapted from a 2013 keynote address delivered at the Central European University in Budapest.

Copyright © 2002-2013 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.

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