Altered aid rules means funds when lives are in danger

Orient Bay in Saint Martin after Hurricane Irma. ©LIONEL CHAMOISEAU/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Last updated: November 13, 2017 at 19:05 pm

Aid money can now be used to deal with humanitarian crises in wealthy countries after changes to the existing international rules were agreed.

In a historic move last week, donor countries will be able to use money earmarked for development to respond to emergencies regardless of the recipient country’s wealth.

Under the existing rules, crisis-hit countries are unable to receive official development assistance (ODA) if they are deemed too wealthy on the basis of their gross national income.

Under existing rules, some small Caribbean islands, formerly aid recipients, are judged too rich to qualify for aid, which is supposed to focus on poverty reduction.

The British overseas territories of Turks and Caicos, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands all have gross national incomes exceeding $12,235 per capita.

This meant they were ineligible for aid when the hurricane struck.

Mark Brantley, the minister of foreign affairs in St Kitts and Nevis, took to Twitter to express his happiness with the news.

“A triumph for #Caribbean diplomacy over the years,” he wrote.

“Rigid and archaic #ODA rules finally relaxed.”

Under the new system, ratified by the development assistance committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), middle-income countries may now be reinstated as eligible if they suffer a long-term economic decline, providing that no aid is diverted from existing recipients.

While the current system has been criticised, it was designed to prevent donors from bending the rules and ensure that funding reported as aid was genuinely supporting poverty alleviation in poorer countries.

Appetite for reform meant many more organisations participated in this year’s OECD talks, from civil society representatives to UN bodies and foundations, although developing countries are yet to join the table.

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