Foreign aid from developed countries of the North to alleviate hunger and assist development in the countries of the South has fallen well short of needs and the UN target of 0.7 of GNP. Few countries even approach this figure. The trend, headed by the US, is to cut back further.
The Plan of Action agreed to by Governments of all countries at the 1996 World Food Summit contained a strongly worded commitment by governments to reduce poverty by 50 per cent in 20 years. But the means of achieving this target is not to provide additional international funding, but to place reliance on creating a more favourable climate for economic growth through increased trade. This would supposedly create economic prosperity that would 'trickle down' to the poor and needy and so solve the poverty problem. The fact that this outcome has never eventuated in the past following periods of economic growth without government intervention, is ignored. But it does provide theoretical justification for phasing out foreign aid.
This view is, of course, not widely accepted as a correct interpretation of the Food Summit Plan of Action by either governments or all NGOs. But careful objective analysis of the Summit documents does lead to such a conclusion.
Within their budget limitations UN agencies involved in poverty alleviation have done their best to meet situations of crisis, while NGOs have been heroic in dealing with emergencies. Even so, the 1997 Human Development Report figures show that at least 1.3 billion people continue to suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition. This figure is 62 per cent higher than the figure of 800 million in the 1996 human development report.
While delegates to the Summit made clear commitments, they failed to indicate how poverty would be alleviated apart from the vague and unrealistic reliance on economic growth. Therefore, with the tendency by governments to cut back on development funding, poverty and under-development are bound to intensify. The present international economic environment is much less favourable for developing countries than was the situation in 1964 when the G77 was formed. Mass unemployment in industrial countries could lead to protectionist pressures. The demise of the Soviet Union has meant that, in the post-Cold War era, industrial countries no longer have to provide competitive aid to keep developing countries in the western camp. Growing unemployment is adding to and spreading the problem.
Relief would be gained by eliminating corruption, known to be rife amongst officials, consultants, contractors and politicians. Illegal diversion of funds is said to be as high as 50 percent. Is it any wonder that many analysts see aid as fulfilling the following purposes: