Monday, October 11, 2010

The Global Fund: Austerity and Aid

International development and aid work is not something we talk about a lot on this blog, despite the editors personal connections to some great friends doing great things all over the world. (Example) But I thought it would be worthwhile to consider how the global financial crisis and the calls for austerity, particularly in Western Europe, is impacting aid work.

The Global Fund, a major multilateral aid group working intently on health issues, fell $1.3 billion from its targeted pledge of the $13 billion they needed just to meet existing commitments. They received pledges for $11.7 billion, but had hoped to increase donations to $20 billion. According to The Economist, "this would have allowed [The Global Fund],...to triple the number of antiretroviral treatments for HIV from 2.5m at the end of 2009 to 7.5m."

The article pointed to a couple bright spots, including a commitment from the US to donate $4 billion over 3 years (if I'm reading the article correctly). This gives The Global Fund a longer timeline.

But a separate article at Baobob mentions something else that has larger geopolitical implications, namely the emergence of China as an aid donor to the African continent. While Chinese donations have been more about industrial development, rather than health-related projects, it shouldn't be lost on anyone how this could lead to a degree of patronage on the continent.

What does it all mean? I think it means as the Western world is constrained by demands of austerity two things are going to happen in Africa:
1) Essential health aid isn't going to be coming.
2) China's continued patronage and rising prestige with particular governments could give rise to the kind of client-state relationships that defined the Cold War and hobbled Africa's "post-colonial" development.

Of course altruism and a commitment to humanity should be enough of a reason for Western governments to continue pledging aid, but if it isn't (and oft times it isn't), perhaps we should consider the strategic reasons.

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