Who's Guarding the Money for MDGs?

For every dollar in official development assistance received by poor nations, USD10 flows out illegally, according to a research. Photo by: Thinkpanama / CC BY-NC 2.0 ThinkpanamaCC BY-NC 2.0

Funding commitments to drive the Millennium Development Goals forward have so far been fairly modest at this week’s high-level summit, given the extraordinary needs for official development assistance.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria received pledges of USD1.4 billion from France and USD540 million from Canada. CARE promised to invest USD1.8 billion in maternal and child health efforts, while the World Bank announced it would spend USD750 million to help improve primary education.

>> Nonprofits Pledge Funding for Maternal, Child Health

>> France Pledges USD1.4B to Global Fund

>> World Bank Scales Up Support for MDGs

More pledges and policies to put them to potentially better use are likely to roll out today (Sept. 22), when U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in the General Assembly and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon unveils his global strategy for women and children’s health, a plan that is likely to go down as a hallmark of this summit.

Yet even if billions of dollars suddenly pour in through this week’s New York gathering, this would only partially address the challenge of funding programs that boost health systems, education and agriculture, among other sectors.

Each year, the developing world loses as much as USD1 trillion due to government corruption, criminal activity, commercial tax evasion and mispriced commercial transactions, according to Tom Cardamone, managing director of Global Financial Integrity, a research and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

In simpler terms, for every USD1 poor nations receive in official development assistance, an estimated USD10 flows illicitly abroad. It’s a striking figure that quickly wipes out the many “yes, we can” speeches that abound at the MDG summit.

Cardamone presented his findings yesterday at a side event on corruption co-hosted by Transparency International, the Millennium Campaign and the United Nations Development Program.

The meeting coincided with a forum on innovative financing, which offered many technical, concrete suggestions on how to generate the funds that donor countries have largely failed to fully deliver on. International development and environmental commitments will be short by USD324 billion to USD336 billion from 2012 to 2017.

The discussion looked at two forms of tax as innovative financing sources: a global currency transaction tax, or a charge on foreign exchange transactions in all major currency markets, and a financial activities tax, which will be levied on profits of financial institutions.

But how would these larger sums of money be handled, and would they eventually serve their purpose of reaching the poorest and most vulnerable populations, which need it most?

Creating another monitoring mechanism isn’t necessary, said Richard Boucher, deputy secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It can be done with the current global structure and a re-energized political will for greater transparency.

That may be so, but another anti-corruption and monitoring task force, of sorts, may still emerge from this summit, for better or for worse.

Devex News – live breaking news coverage of the Millennium Development Goals and the Sept. 20-22 U.N. MDG summit in New York.

About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. Her coverage on politics, social justice issues, development and climate change has appeared in a variety of international news outlets, including The Guardian, Slate and The Atlantic. She has reported from the U.N. Headquarters, in addition to nine countries outside of the U.S. Amy received her master of arts degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2014. Last year she completed a yearlong fellowship on the oil industry and climate change and co-published her findings with a team in the Los Angeles Times.