According to the World Bank’s poverty and equity data, in 2015, 735 million people were living below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day, and according to UNICEF, in 2014, 22,000 children died each day due to poverty and 805 million people worldwide did not have enough food to eat. To alleviate these problems, numerous developed countries provide official development assistance to developing countries. Many international organizations such as World Bank, IMF, World Vision, and Oxfam International are also involved in trying to achieve international development. However, is development assistance actually helpful to developing countries?
In fact, there are many problematic and adverse sides of international development. One of the drawbacks is that corruption can lead to mismanagement of aid funds. Many public officials use development funds as opportunities to accumulate personal wealth. This leads to a vicious cycle where leaders use funds for their own benefit at the expense of others. For example, in Nigeria, a former governor was guilty of £50m fraud and a former dictator had $1.3 billion in London banks. Also, corruption leads to fewer spending on investments which increases poverty. In Nigeria, one million children are out of school, health services debilitated, and 400,000 children are malnourished and starving. Since the aid funds are not getting to people who are actually in need, underdevelopment and economic failure continue in developing countries.
Furthermore, international organizations’ involvement in developing countries can deter economic growth. Social capital and trust between people are essential to the country’s development, but aid provided from outside weakens the trust within the local community. This breaks the social network and weakens social capital because of rent-seeking behavior, less pressure to reform inefficient policies, and thwarted accountability mechanisms. Also, mismanagement of aid funds can cause social unrest and possibly even civil war due to competition for resources. According to the Washington Post, there were violent protests against Haiti’s government not only because of poverty and scarcity, but also corruption and lack of improvement in public services and infrastructure even with millions of dollars of aid. Another problem is that continuous inflow of foreign aid creates temporary growth and a false sense of stability which creates dependency and hurts the country’s long term economic development.
However, we should also look at the beneficial effects that aid and assistance by international organizations render. Aid is central to achieving development goals and actually has resulted in unprecedented improvements in health, education, gender equality, human rights and security. Beyond income, progress in quality of life has risen and happiness increased even in not rapidly growing countries. Health success is especially noteworthy because according to The Guardian, in 1990, around 12 million children under the age of five died, but in 2010, the number decreased to 7.6 million. Also, the number of deaths of pregnant women declined by almost half. Aid has also improved education, especially for girls. In 2002, only 1 million children were enrolled in school in Afghanistan, none of whom were girls. By 2017, this number rose to 9 million, including 3.5 million girls. Therefore, working toward international development can actually have a positive influence in developing countries by making health and education widely available and increasing the quality of life.
International development is a challenging area and there is no definite answer since it is not as easy as black or white. Therefore, it is important for us to always look critically at both sides and try not to be biased towards either side. We should think about both the positive and negative effects of development aid and international development at the same time. In order to truly help developing countries, we have to reflect and look at ourselves critically from time to time when assisting them.