13 April 2010

Putting 0.7 into law

Yesterday the UK's Labour Party released its election manifesto, and today the Conservative Party did the same. These manifestos represent commitments about what each party will do, if elected, in the next parliament.

I will do an international development comparison of the 3 manifestos after the Liberal Democrat one comes out tomorrow, but I was interested to see a commitment by the Conservatives to embed the 0.7% aid-to-gross national income target in law. The Government has already committed to this. For the major Opposition party to also make this pledge--this is new.

As I said in a February blog, a 0.7% commitment in law is neither sufficient or necessary for development to occur, but it is helpful. It is helpful because (a) aid has supported development and can be even more effective in doing so (see my article in the Atlantic Community website) and (b) because legislation for 0.7% can help everyone hold the government to this aid commitment.

But, caution is in order. Manifesto pledges are not always met. The bill may not happen. And if it does happen, the draft version of the bill gives the Secretary of State some rather easy outs if progress to the target is not being met. And with a bill in place to incentivise the ramp up of spending there needs to be a stronger set of safeguards as to what kind of overseas development assistance the 0.7% bucket can be filled up with.

The Conservative manifesto pledge will make the 0.7% less of wedge issue between the two main parties. It also probably increases the likelihood of 0.7% being written into law in the next parliament--whoever wins--and that is a good thing.


Glen Tarman said...

And Liberal Democrats now make it all three parties supporting legislation on 0.7% GNI...

For the most comprehensive policy comparison documents and excerpts from the manifesto international development content for all the main parties, see 'Where the Parties Stand' on the Vote Global website:

Anonymous said...

Finally an honorable mentioning of sorts by Bill Easterly's aidwatch! They need to work on spelling, but maybe IDS is now on its way to the aid blogosphere olymp ;)!


Lawrence said...

Dear anonymous,

The Clemens and Moss 2005 paper is interesting but ultimately not that useful (see abstract below).

I am all in favour of outcome indicators such as some of the MDGs, but te problem with these is that it is hard to hold governments to account (e.g. its impossible to say whether a failure to meet MDG1 in SSA has anything to dio with UK goverment performance).

But the 0.7 is oe of the very small number of indicators that the public understand and which governments can be held to account on.

I think our US friends have 0.7 envy.

The international goal for rich countries to devote 0.7% of their national income to development assistance has become a cause célèbre for aid activists and has been accepted in many official quarters as the legitimate target for aid budgets. The origins of the target, however, raise serious questions about its relevance. First, the 0.7% target was calculated using a series of assumptions that are no longer true, and justified by a model that is no longer considered credible. When we use essentially the same method used to arrive at 0.7% in the early 1960s and apply today's conditions, it yields an aid goal of just 0.01% of rich-country GDP for the poorest countries and negative aid flows to the developing world as a whole. We do not claim in any way that this is the right amount of aid, but only that this exercise lays bare the folly of the initial method and the subsequent unreflective commitment to the 0.7% aid goal. Second, we document the fact that, despite frequent misinterpretation of UN documents, no government ever agreed in a UN forum to actually reach 0.7% - though many pledged to move toward it. Third, we argue that aid as a fraction of rich country income does not constitute a meaningful metric for the adequacy of aid flows. It would be far better to estimate aid needs by starting on the recipient side with a meaningful model of how aid affects development. Although aid certainly has positive impacts in many circumstances, our quantitative understanding of this relationship is too poor to accurately conduct such a tally. The 0.7% target began life as a lobbying tool, and stretching it to become a functional target for real aid budgets across all donors is to exalt it beyond reason. That no longer makes any sense, if it ever did.