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Are Aid Agencies Improving?

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Publication Date: October 2007

Publisher(s): Brookings Institution

Author(s): William Easterly

Topic: Government (Foreign relations)
International relations (International relief and humanitarian assistance)
Social conditions (Poverty and homelessness)

Keywords: aid agencies; development; aid; foreign aid

Type: Report


For long-time observers of foreign aid, "make poverty history" in Africa and other poor countries has some disquieting signs. The United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF, and the national aid agencies have signed on to an ambitious project called the "Millennium Development Goals," in which poverty rates, infant mortality, and other key indicators of low development would be dramatically reduced by the year 2015. To achieve this, aid agencies have embraced and advocated a program of large aid increases. There is a long debate about how effective is foreign aid at creating economic development and eliminating poverty, going back to Rostow (1960), Chenery and Strout (1966), Bauer (1972), Cassen (1987), World Bank (1998), the UN Millennium Commission (2005), Sachs (2005), and Easterly (2006). Yet despite sharply contrasting views on the effectiveness of aid, there is a surprising degree of unanimity that the aid system is today deeply flawed and could be much improved.