Should Rich Nations Help the Poor?

17 June 2016

GDI Executive Director, Professor David Hulme, has written a short and accessible analysis of why and how rich nations should help poor people and poorer countries.

The growing global threats of climate change and economic inequality need to be urgently addressed if world’s richest nations are serious about helping the developing world. 

That is according to leading global poverty researcher, Professor David Hulme, Executive Director of the Global Development Institute (GDI) at The University of Manchester. His new book, ‘Should Rich Nations Help the Poor?’ is published on Friday 17th June.

Professor Hulme said: ‘Why should rich nations help the poor? The answer is simple. They should help because, morally, it is the right thing to do. Despite recent progress, 800 million people went to bed hungry last night and 19,000 children will die today of easily preventable causes.’

He also explains why beyond moral responsibility, helping the world’s poor is also in the interests of rich nations due to global issues such as migration, terrorism and climate change.

Yet, helping the poor isn’t simply a case of spending more on overseas aid. Professor Hulme cautions that aid is not sufficient to end poverty and calls for a radical rethink in the policies and priorities of rich nations, which have a far greater impact on developing economies than aid.  This includes making progress on fairer universal trade agreements, reforming global finance and a moving away from carbon-profligate models of economic growth.

He added: ‘If rich nations are serious about helping the poor, they need to go beyond aid. We live in an affluent world and produce enough food to feed the entire planet. Indeed, countries that are ‘better-off’ would be stupid not to help the poor if we want a decent world for our children and grandchildren to grow up in.’

In the past decade, the world’s developed economies have spent almost US$2 trillion on foreign aid. The United Nations (UN) has also set a target for all major economies to spend 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income on foreign aid every year. Despite this investment, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty around the world and nearly three billion people do not have access to basic human needs such as food, water and basic health care.

Professor Hulme added: ‘When it’s spent effectively, international aid can help - but the idea that development can be achieved largely through foreign aid alone has been discredited. While things have been getting better for most of humanity over the last 25 years the rate of progress is too slow: there is an unacceptable amount of preventable human deprivation and suffering given our aggregate levels of wealth.’

Professor Hulme says rich countries need to reform international trade policies so that poor countries and poor people can gain a greater share of the benefits derived from trade; recognise international migration as a highly effective means of reducing poverty; take action against climate change; reform global finance to stop the siphoning off of income and assets from poor countries by corporations and national elites; limit the arms trade to fragile countries and regions and carefully consider support for military action in specific cases.

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