Absurdity of Focusing on Outputs- Does Aid Matter?

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City of Sydney discusses MDG

Injustice and oppression is at the heart of poverty. Ultimately, collective action and social activism is key to making a difference rather than billions of dollars of money.

This would be a summary that I would make from attending the City of Sydney event last night focusing on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Three excellent speakers presented thoughtful and engaging addresses followed by a short time of question and answer.

The speakers were:


  • Prof. Stuart Rees, Director Sydney Peace Foundation
  • Steve Killelea, Founder Global Peace Index
  • Mark McPeak, Director Childfund Australia

There was a general consensus of the reality that the MDG won’t be met by 2015. These were aspirational goals from the outset in 2000. Nobody really expected success, and progress that has been achieved should be celebrated.

Good points were made:

  • MDG have proved a good tool for cooperation and focus
  • Success in the MDG is influenced by the bias in figures resulting in progress in India and China

One concern is the degree to which money that has been pledged hasn’t been received. Of the US$25 billion pledged to Africa from the G8 Countries, only 40% has been received. Who then do we blame for lack of progress in Africa, for the best of death that extended across sub-Saharan Africa? I don’t think it is as easy as to say: “It is the fault of the rich countries. They all should have given more.” Would that really have solved the problem?

The problem in this respect really is the grand statements that are made by political leaderships of such countries followed by no delivery of the money to back it up.

Consider this figure cited: that the fiscal stimulus over the last 18 months given to banks exceeds the total amount of aid given to Africa ever. Fair? Reasonable? Complex.

Mark McPeak raised an interesting point about the absurdity of focusing on outputs. Using the example of solving hunger, he argued that if on 1 January 2015 every food vender made sandwiches on that day and we then distributed them globally, we would have ‘solved’ hunger…. Yes, but for how long.

Hunger. There are other needs we all need than just the next meal. The next meal is important, but there is more needs to life than are measured by such outcomes.

Stuart Rees made a good point that when organisations had little money from grants and aid, people would cooperate like mad. Now with so much competition for funding, brand and messaging have become all important. Time to step back from the commodification of ‘doing good’.

The evening ended on a positive note. This is a contested space. It is up to us to fix it. There will be more problems and challenges to face in the future. Let’s start by developing a better understanding the ‘other’ which is an essential step of making the world a better place for all.

Please support this through sponsoring the 10 City Bridge Run for $24.




One thought on “Absurdity of Focusing on Outputs- Does Aid Matter?

    autoversicherung vergleich said:
    October 24, 2010 at 4:31 am

    last week our group held a similar discussion on this subject and you point out something we haven’t covered yet, appreciate that.

    – Kris

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