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ODA chart

Chart of the Day: Does International Aid Target the Countries that Need it the Most?

Today’s chart comes from the One Campaign’s new 2014 DATA report. It shows “ODA to LDCs as a percentage of ODA and GNI.” That’s a lot of jargon, but it’s not terribly complicated. ODA stands for “Official Development Assistance” which is the amount of aid that donor governments (through agencies like USAID in the USA) allocate for international development programs.  “LDCs” stands for Least Developed Countries, these are the poorest of the poor countries. There are 48 of them. “GNI” is Gross National Income, which is similar to GDP in that its a measurement of a countries’ overall wealth.

So, in other words this graph shows is how much of donor countries wealth goes to international development assistance, and how targeted that assistance is to the countries that need it the most.  The size of the bubble represents the total amount of the country’s ODA to LDCs.

ODA chart

There are a few international benchmarks against which to measure these figures. The UN calls for 0.7% of a countries GNI to be devoted to development assistance. Also, the UN recommends that donors target at least 0.15% to 0.20% of their GNI to assistance to least developed countries. There is also a movement brewing that calls for donors to target 50% of their official development assistance to the least developed countries.

As you can see from the chart, there are only 7 countries that devote greater than .15% of their gross national income to the poorest of the poor countries. And there is only one country–Ireland — that targets over 50% of its official development assistance to the countries that need it the most.

Why does this matter? There are 48 least developed countries. This is the “bottom billion” of people who are the world’s most vulnerable. These countries depend on foreign aid to supplement tax revenue in order to provide basic services to their citizens and build infrastructure required to grow their economies. Basically, these countries need outside help to get their economies going so that they can graduate from “LCD status.”  The more targeted donor assistance is to those who need it the most, the quicker that these countries can graduate, and the sooner the world can move to eradicating extreme poverty.





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credit: UN Foundation

Ebola Spreads in Europe

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An unfortunate milestone. For the first time, Ebola has spread outside of Africa from one infected person to another. “Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato has confirmed that a nurse who treated two victims of Ebola in Madrid has tested positive for the disease. The nurse is said to be the first person in the current outbreak known to have contracted Ebola outside Africa. The woman was part of the team that treated Spanish priests Manuel Garcia Viejo and Miguel Pajares, who both died of the virus, officials say…The nurse was admitted to hospital in Alcorcon, near Madrid, on Monday morning with a high fever, she said.” (BBC

Meanwhile, the USA will start screening some airline passengers for symptoms of ebola. The president made the announcement after meeting with national security and health staff. (White House

Kenya’s President Relinquishes Power Ahead of ICC Trial…”In an unexpected move, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday surrendered power to Deputy President William Ruto for him to attend court on Wednesday at The Hague. The transfer of power was achieved with high theatre, with Mr Kenyatta arriving at Parliament to a guard of honour and the National Anthem and leaving his office at Harambee House without the usual ceremony of a presidential escort. The decree signed by Mr Kenyatta handing over to Mr Ruto was unprecedented in the country and his willingness to forego, for a while, the public ceremonies of power, was quite unusual.” (Daily Nation

ONE Releases the 2014 DATA Report...The report: provides the latest updates on aid spending globally and in sub-Saharan Africa; examines the composition and targeting of aid and rules for measuring ODA loans; profiles progress by the G7, the European Union and Australia, and; assesses whether African countries are meeting their own budget promises and prioritizing spending on health, agriculture and education. Finally the report offers 11 specific recommendations to improve public finance for development beyond 2015.


Thousands of Nigerians who have fled attacks by Islamist militant group Boko Haram are crowded into Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon’s Far North Region, living in increasingly squalid conditions and at risk of contracting measles and other diseases, according to relief agencies. (IRIN

The Head of World Hope International says Sierra Leone has a shortage of ambulances and isolation centers, making it much more difficult to contain the Ebola outbreak. (VOA

Famine could strike one million people across South Sudan early next year if the civil war escalates, a report said. (TRF

A lengthy postponement of elections in Central African Republic meant to complete a return to democracy following a March 2013 coup would risk further worsening the crisis there, the top U.N. official in the region said. (Reuters

The Press Union of Liberia has urged the Liberian government to concentrate its energy on fighting the deadly Ebola virus outbreak and stop trying to prevent journalists from doing their work. (VOA

Reports of violence are on the rise in camps for displaced people in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Growing frustration with the ongoing conflict in the country is starting to wear on an already stressed and traumatized population. (VOA

The president of the World Bank will appeal directly to President Uhuru Kenyatta to resolve a Kenyan human rights crisis in which thousands of indigenous forest people have been forcibly evicted from a reserve in the name of water conservation. (Guardian

A Ugandan health worker recently died of Marburg, a highly infectious disease that manifests as a viral hemorrhagic fever, Uganda’s Ministry of Health confirmed Monday as health workers moved to quarantine a total of 80 people who had been in contact with the victim. (AP


Nine months of shelling, airstrikes and street battles have taken a heavy toll on Iraq’s “forgotten” province of Anbar, the first to be overrun by Islamic State militants. (IRIN

More than 2,000 Syrian Kurds including women and children are being evacuated from border town of Kobani after Islamic State militants who have besieged the town for nearly three weeks have advanced towards the city center, a translator for the leading Kurdish political group in Syria said. (AP


Thailand’s military has appointed a 250-member advisory group dominated by people close to the traditional ruling elite to help write a new national constitution. (AP

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests have been getting massive coverage overseas. In China, however, state media continue to limit public information about what is happening in the port city, tailoring coverage to fit the government’s narrative and position that the gathering is “illegal,” is “doomed to fail” and is a threat to Hong Kong’s democratic development. (VOA

The World Bank trimmed this year’s growth forecast for developing East Asian economies on Monday and urged governments to improve conditions for investment and exports. (AP

The Americas

In Latin America’s latest challenge to Washington’s ‘war on drugs,’ Ecuador has quietly begun releasing thousands of convicted cocaine smugglers. (GlobalPost

It’s official: Brazil’s presidential vote is headed for a runoff. Preliminary election results from the South American country show President Dilma Rousseff in the lead with Aecio Neves in second place. (CNN


Meet Scott Guggenheim, the most influential international development expert you’ve (probably) never heard of. (Global Dispatches Podcast

Seven things we now know about how the world has handled ebola (The Washington Post

Ebola must never again be allowed to claim lives for want of basic healthcare (Guardian

Planet Racing Towards Catastrophe and Politics Just Looking On (IPS

Looking at Poverty…Through the Eyes of a Child (Africa Can End Poverty

Bundling mHealth Info and Microinsurance to Improve Health Outcomes in Kenya (CFI

More taxes for Africa (Chris Blattman

At the Heart of Ebola — Health Systems That Need Strengthening (USAID Impact

That story about Akon’s “giant Ebola air bubble” (Africa is a Country

USAID Wastes Billions Shipping American Food Abroad: Report (IB Times


Almost 40% of the world’s waste ends up in huge rubbish tips, mostly found near urban populations in poor countries, posing a serious threat to human health and the environment. (Guardian

Governments are failing to meet goals to protect animals and plants set out in a biodiversity plan for 2020 that also aims to increase food supplies and slow climate change, a U.N. report showed. (Reuters


Wealthy countries are still subsidizing their farmers at the expense of developing nations, undermining market access for some of the world’s poorest producers, two farm ministers told a Food and Agriculture Organization meeting. (TRF


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Airokhsh Faiz

This Amazing Afghan Student Won a Photo Contest. Then She Started a Life Changing Charity

Airokhsh Faiz

Airokhsh Faiz, 24, is a student at Juniata College where she studies International Politics and Peace and Conflict Studies. She just returned from her home country of Afghanistan to begin the fall semester of her senior year. But this was no ordinary summer break. She started a charity. And in doing so, Airokhsh is joining a growing number of Afghan social entrepreneurs who are stepping up as foreign aid organizations scale down their presence in the war torn country.

Airokhsh, who is a photographer, used cash awarded to her in a photography contest to start a charity effort in Balkh, an ancient city in Northern Afghanistan. “I wanted the money I use for aid to be our own. I decided not to get funding from non-governmental organizations. This is our country and we need to build it ourselves,” she says.

After receiving the cash award, Airokhsh formed an informal volunteer group of youth in her city of Mazar-e-Sharif to survey the working children of Mazar-e-Sharif. She named the team Eidana – a play off Eid-ul-Fitr, the Muslim celebration after the month of Ramadan which is when Airokhsh was to launch her effort.

To celebrate Eid, families that can afford it buy new clothes for their children. Airokhsh and her team of 10 youth were able to distribute 550 sets of new clothes to working children whose families couldn’t afford much at all. Eidana was able to talk to hundreds of children and identify more than five hundred in need of assistance.

When she ran out of money, Airokhsh and her team campaigned to raise funds among Afghans. The culture of giving Sadaqa, or alms, is not only a part of Islamic traditions but also a long-held practice in Afghanistan where giving to charity is thought to prevent bad things from happening to one.

Airokhsh tapped into this tradition to raise more funds and help more people. She also used social media to ask other Afghans to chip in. This enabled her to do more than distribute clothes to working children. “We visited the family of the child who was killed in a suicide attack in Mazar-e-sharif and talked to them. We raised money to buy food and fruits for the family who had lost their only breadwinner, a young boy,” says Airokhsh.

After assisting that family, Airokhsh found out that there were many more in need of urgent help with nutrition. Her team once again surveyed the area and identified more than a dozen families in need of essential food such as rice, oil and wheat. “I talked to a woman who had five children. She was a widow living with her brother. I offered to buy her children clothes but the mother said, ‘we cannot even afford food right now.’”

Airokhsh’s favorite thing about her summer was seeing the children she assisted smile.

“A smile is worth everything,” she says.

Airokhsh knew that these smiles could come at a price. It wasn’t always safe for her and other Eidana members to travel outside the city to deliver aid. Airokhsh says that the security in Balkh has gotten worse in the past two years. Many international organizations have deserted the province due to insecurity, she says as she recalls traveling to the one rural area.

“When I went to Dawlatabad Central village, the people asked me ‘why are you here?’ When I asked them why they were worried, they said that the Taliban were fighting in the next village.”

Airokhsh, like most Afghans, is troubled by the Taliban taking control of more of the country. This summer, she was not even able to visit her sister who lives in the neighboring province of Faryab because the Taliban control the roads and the villages at night.

She also noticed the radicalization of youth in rural areas. Airokhsh recalls that she spent a portion of her summer break debating other youth.“Some of our youth have closed their minds, rather than thinking about progress. Youth who train in Pakistan have become so pro-Taliban. I couldn’t believe it when I spoke to some of the youth who had been completely brainwashed after going to madrasas in Pakistan. It is so sad,” says Airokhsh.

Even though things seem grim now, Airokhsh has hope. She is hopeful about the work she was able to do over the summer. She is heartened knowing about the volunteers who promised her to continue Eidana’s work despite her leaving temporarily to finish her studies in the U.S.

“I think change is possible. We just have to keep trying,” she says.

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scott guggenheim, screen cap, credit

Episode 35: Scott Guggenheim

Scott Guggenheim is the most influential development expert that you’ve never heard of. The writer Rebecca Hamilton sits in for me today and interviews Guggenheim about his pioneering model of community driven economic development. This model has critics, but it was proven effective — of all places — in Afghanistan in the height of the insurgency. Guggenheim tells Hamilton how this model works, how he came up with it, his friendship with Ashraf Ghani, and his career as a maverick World Banker.

Have a listen. And be sure to check out our archives of excellent interviews with foreign policy thought leaders and luminaries. You can subscribe to Global Dispatches Podcast on iTunes


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Brazil’s Big Elections

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A not exactly unexpected outcome. “Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party, established a convincing lead in the first round of the country’s presidential election Sunday — but it was not enough to elect her outright. With just under 42 percent of the votes, Rousseff will meet Aécio Neves, the candidate from the center-right Brazilian Party for Social Democracy, who rode a growing wave of last-minute support, in a matchup Oct. 26. The late surge by Neves, who won 34 percent of the vote, carried him into the second round past Marina Silva, a “third way” candidate from the Brazilian Socialist Party, who just a few weeks ago was polling even with Rousseff.” (WaPo

Why over $150,000 of protective equipment to fight ebola is stuck at the docks in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Hint: it has to do with politics and bureaucracy. (NYT


The AU has sharply condemned the attack on Niger peacekeepers serving with the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. The attack left nine soldiers dead and others wounded during an ambush Friday in the West African country 15 kilometers east of Indelimane in Mali’s northern Gao region. (VOA

African Union and Somali troops took control on Sunday of the al Shabaab militant stronghold of Barawe on the southern Somali coast, after the al Qaeda-linked militants fled without resistance, a Somali official said. (Reuters

Health officials are looking to those who have recovered from Ebola to treat new cases. The World Health Organization hopes to find antibodies in the blood of people who have fought off the virus. (NPR

In the first days of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, as aid workers and health authorities battled to contain the deadly virus, Mariano Lugli asked himself a simple question: where was the World Health Organization? (Reuters

The stop-start talks between warring factions in South Sudan, which have borne little fruit since they began almost 10 months ago, were once again put on hold on Sunday, the government delegation announced. (AFP


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to ask for $4 billion for Gaza, including for the rebuilding or repair of more than 60,000 homes and 5,000 businesses. (AP

Britain says a teacher held hostage by militants in Libya has been released unharmed and reunited with his family after four months in captivity. (VOA

Turkish hospital gives glimpse of Syria horror as Islamic State advance (AFP


To prevent further violent incidents between protesters occupying sections of the city and angry residents, Hong Kong’s chief executive Saturday ordered pro democracy demonstrators to clear the streets starting today. (VOA

One of Southeast Asia’s strictest Islamic enclaves just got a lot more hostile to same-sex couples. In Aceh, the most orthodox corner of Muslim-majority Indonesia, gay sex is now punishable by 100 lashes. (GlobalPost

The Americas

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has died of a heart attack. (VOA

Police in southern Mexico have found a mass grave, raising concerns that the site may contain the remains of more than 40 students missing since a rash of violence last week. (VOA

More than 142 million Brazilians went to the polls to choose the country’s next president, a federal parliament and state governors, following a dramatic election campaign. (BBC


George Clooney, South Sudan and How the World’s Newest Nation Imploded (Newsweek

The new Washington consensus – time to fight rising inequality (The Guardian

‘In 1976 I discovered Ebola, now I fear an unimaginable tragedy’ (The Observer

View on Disability: Are disabled kids in school after all? (SciDevNet

Focus on Gender: The dire impact of crises on women (SciDevNet

Only a few aid agencies willing to help fight Ebola in Africa (The Globe and Mail

Mobilizing the Household Data Required to Progress Toward the SDGs (ODI

Finding a Cure for Ebola (CGD

Modi in the US: A truly strategic partnership? (The Interpreter

Thoughts on the Power of Civil Resistance (Dart Throwing Chimp

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This is What Sustainable Agriculture Looks Like

Ed note. This op-ed is from Issa Martin Bikienga, an agricultural economist who is the former agriculture minister of Burkina Faso. The article originally appeared in Project Syndicate and is reprinted with permission. 

OUAGADOUGOU – Burkina Faso is located in the heart of the Sahel, which means that it is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change. Its farmers may know little of the physical causes of global warming, but they know about its effects – not least the huge variability in rainfall patterns, from droughts to flooding, which lead to lost harvests, the erosion of pastureland, and food crises.

As a result, the concept of sustainable agriculture has been gaining ground for several years, both internationally and in Burkina Faso. The term features in political discourse and has become a key approach to global agricultural development. Indeed, sustainability is now a driving force in agriculture – and as important as productivity was in previous decades.

The concept of sustainable agriculture is inextricably linked to that of sustainable development, first defined in 1987 as a model of economic growth “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainable agriculture is defined as a type of farming that ensures that internal and external resources are used and conserved as efficiently as possible; is ecologically sound (it improves, rather than damages, the natural environment); and is economically viable, offering reasonable returns on agricultural investments.

Close scrutiny of both definitions leads us to conclude that there can be no sustainable development without sustainable agriculture. Indeed, in Burkina Faso, sustainable agriculture features prominently – as it must – in the country’s development policies and strategies.

In 2012, Burkina Faso adopted the National Policy of Sustainable Development, which has become a key tool for realizing the vision set out in the Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Sustainable Development. That vision describes “a productive economy which accelerates growth, increases living standards, improves and preserves the living environment and living conditions through wise and efficient governance.”

All stakeholders in farming in Burkina Faso broadly share a commitment to sustainable agriculture. The national conference of the General Assembly for Agriculture and Food Security, held in November 2011, embraced the following objective: “By 2025, farming in Burkina Faso will be modern, competitive, sustainable, and driving growth. It will be founded on family-owned farms and efficient agricultural businesses, and will guarantee [that] all citizens have access to the food they need to lead healthy, active lives.” Likewise, the aim of Burkina Faso’s National Program for Rural Areas is to “contribute in a sustainable way to food and nutrition security, to strong economic growth, and to reducing poverty.”

Another tried and tested agricultural practice in Burkina Faso is the integrated management of production. The goal is to improve smallholders’ productivity in a sustainable way, equipping them with the knowledge and understanding needed to operate efficiently while respecting human health and the environment. This policy has prompted behavioral changes regarding the management of natural resources and the use of agricultural inputs like pesticides.

Sustainable agriculture has changed farming in Burkina Faso for the better. Here and elsewhere, it is the key to our ability to confront climate change and build resilience against food and nutritional insecurity, because it respects the land and is far more effective in the long term than industrial farming. Moreover, sustainable practices reassert the value of small, family-run holdings, which, in countries like Burkina Faso, produce nearly all of the domestic food supply.

But countries like Burkina Faso cannot address climate change alone. Nor should they: Drought and flooding here and elsewhere occur largely because of climate imbalances caused by industrial activities that produce greenhouse gases. We are victims of a phenomenon caused mainly by developed countries – a phenomenon that is holding back our own development. If we are to take the definition of sustainable development seriously, those responsible for this outcome must also help, particularly by contributing to the adaptation costs that countries like Burkina Faso now face.


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