Reality of Aid 2018: Full Report

The changing faces of development aid and cooperation: Encouraging global justice or buttressing inequalities?

On September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Member states agreed to a unique Agenda for people, planet and prosperity, one that recognizes “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.” The question is whether the international community has provided sufficient and quality resources to realize the Agenda’s vision and promises.

This 2018 Reality of Aid Global Report examines recent changes in the direction and prospect for international aid in the context of Agenda 2030, as well as the persistence of poverty and growing inequalities within and between countries. What role can and should Official Development Assistance (ODA) play in meeting the financing needs of Agenda 2030? Is ODA fit for this purpose?

Agenda 2030’s comprehensive and transformative vision aims for “a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity.” It is a universal Agenda for a world in which all forms of inequalities between and within nations are reduced. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are given priority. New paradigms for the stewardship of the planet would, ” address decisively the [global] threat posed by climate change and environmental degradation.”

Achieving Agenda 2030 requires a focused commitment by all the world’s countries, including the transformation of development cooperation as a dedicated source of finance. While not the largest international resource, ODA is a unique and crucial public resource for the SDGs, as it can be deliberately programmed as a catalyst for reducing poverty and inequalities. Other resource flows may be important for the SDGs, but by their nature, they are often driven by other purposes. The credibility for increased ODA is not its ability to mobilize other flows, but its coherence with efforts to transform the living conditions of people affected by poverty, marginalization and discrimination. 

What are the accomplishments to date? Are the current directions in ODA helping or hindering the realization of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs? These questions are the reference point for the Report’s thematic chapters and case studies contributed by civil society activists in the North and the South. Unfortunately, they provide overwhelming evidence that aid resources are woefully insufficient and often misdirected. They are increasingly being deployed in ways that exacerbate rather than eradicate poverty. Instead of following the dictate to ‘leave no one behind,’ aid may be contributing to the increase, rather than the reduction of inequalities.

Read an abridged summary of the report.