TIME Aid

Most Foreign Aid Does Not Go to Neediest Countries, Report Finds

Advocacy group ONE urges donor nations to designate 50% of their aid budgets to "least-developed countries"

Amazing strides have been made in reducing poverty worldwide over the last quarter century — the rate has halved since 1990, from 36% of the world’s population to 18% — but rather than clapping themselves on the back, aid organizations are now calling for rich nations to go even further, and help eradicate “extreme poverty” altogether.

Extreme poverty is defined as living on no more than $1.25 a day, a figure that encapsulates not only an absence of cash, but often of clean water, education, and even a meal. The circumstance still applies to more than 1.2 billion people, a disproportionate number of whom live in Africa, where poverty has actually increased. Yet most foreign aid goes to countries that are better off.

“We all find it quite surprising how little—32%—of U.S. aid goes to the poorest countries,” says Tom Hart, North America director of the advocacy group ONE, which on Tuesday released a 127-page report calling for donor nations to designate 50% of their aid budgets to “least-developed countries.”

The 50% goal is at the heart of a new global strategy against poverty, aimed at picking up with the conclusion of the 15-year international campaign known as where the Millennium Development Goals. The new effort, dubbed Sustainable Development Goals, will be articulated at a conference in Ethiopia in July, and adopted in the months beyond by assorted convocations of the international bodies ranging from the G-20 to the Committee on World Food Security.

But the brow-beating has already begun, as advocates struggle both to correct misperceptions about foreign aid among the U.S. public, and lobby Washington and other major donors to direct the roughly $140-billion they give each year to where it is most needed.

The fact is that only about 1% of the U.S. federal budget goes to foreign aid. The average American thinks it’s more like 28%, according to a Kaiser poll from earlier this year. And though that American is likely to shelve reflexive objections to the spending when informed of the reality, polls show that the misperception persists year after year.

Advocates for aid believe it can be more effective with the advent of technology that allows aid dollars to be tracked at every stage, including the stages where some of those dollars have in the past disappeared into the pockets of corrupt foreign officials.

The new global strategy expects more of receiving governments — calling for each to provide a basic package of health and education services, with help from donors as needed. For example, Liberia, which was an epicenter of the Ebola outbreak last year, spends $6 per person on basic services each year; it needs to spend $300, and requires $317 million to make up the difference.

The new strategy also calls for specifically directing aid to women and girls. “Poverty is sexist,” the ONE report states, noting that by almost every measure life is harder for women and girls in the poorest countries than it is for men. But at the same time, helping females serves to lift the whole of the societies in which they are so central.

“When we invest in girls and woman, that has more catalytic results that pulls everybody out of poverty,” says Eloise Todd, global policy director for the ONE campaign. Over time, that investment should be made as directly as possible, not necessarily through governments, adds Gargee Ghosh, director of policy and finance for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “We need to focus more on poor people,” Ghosh says.

But the first message to rich countries is that they need to focus on the poorest. Of 29 donors, only Iceland directed more than 50 percent of its aid to the least developed countries. “Something’s going really wrong in the way a lot of donors are allocating their aid,” says Todd. “Finding the end of extreme poverty is going to be a lot harder than the previous 15 years.”

TIME White House

Obama Pressed on How He Talks to Black Community

Barack Obama
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP President Barack Obama speaks at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University in Washington, Tuesday, May 12, 2015.

Obama responds to critique that his rhetoric is often harsher when he's addressing an all-black audience

President Obama has been known to hold black audiences to a high standard, arguing that they need to do more to keep families together and educate their children. It’s a line that has rankled some in the black community, who note that he does not make the same case for white families in poverty.

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people—and particularly black youth—and another way of addressing everyone else,” wrote Ta-Nehisi Coates in a much-discussed essay in The Atlantic in 2013 . “I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that ‘there’s no longer room for any excuses’—as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of ‘all America,’ but he also is singularly the scold of ‘black America.’”

On Tuesday, President Obama was pressed on the question in person at a Catholic-Evangelical leadership summit on poverty in Washington, and he did not back down, using the same speeches at the historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta and the all-female Barnard College in New York Coates referenced as examples.

“It’s true that if I’m giving a commencement at Morehouse I will have a conversation with young black men about taking responsibility as fathers that I probably will not have with the women of Barnard,” Obama said. “And I make no apologies for that. And this reason is because I am a black man who grew up without a father and I know the cost that I paid for that. And I also know that I have the capacity to break that cycle, and as a consequence, I think my daughters are better off.”

During a panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University, Obama reiterated parts of his argument, which he has also made in recent discussions about unrest in Baltimore and the launch of a My Brother’s Keeper initiative aimed at young minority men, though he also noted the role that institutional racism played.

“In some ways, part of what’s changed is that those biases or those restrictions on who had access to resources that allowed them to climb out of poverty … all those things were foreclosed to a big chunk of the minority population over decades,” he said. “Over time families frayed, men who could not get jobs left, mother’s who are single are not able to read as much to their kids.”

He added, “All that was happening 40 years ago to African Americans and now what we’re seeing is those same trends have accelerated and they’re spreading to the broader community.”

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ Poverty Agenda Draws President Obama

Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on April 22, 2015.
Vandeville Eric—Sipa USA/AP Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 22, 2015

Poverty in the United States is a topic that is often avoided. But on Monday in Washington, a diverse group of 120 political, religious and civic leaders including President Obama will gather at Georgetown University for a three-day Catholic-Evangelical leadership summit on the issue, in large part thanks to Pope Francis.

Organized by Georgetown’s Initiative of Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and the National Association of Evangelicals, the summit is a “direct response” to Pope Francis’ “challenge to place the lives and dignity of the poor at the center of religious and public life,” according to John Carr, who heads the Georgetown Initiative.

The event has two main goals: Making overcoming poverty a national priority and moral imperative and breaking down the walls between people who focus almost entirely on family life and people who focus almost completely on economic life. “Anyone who is poor or works with the poor knows that a child’s prospects are affected both by the choices of her parents and the policies of her government,” Carr says.

The effort is already gaining national attention. Obama will join the summit on Tuesday, notably not by giving a speech about poverty but instead by participating in a discussion about it with Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard University, and Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute. The conversation will be moderated by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.

While Summit organizers did not ask the Pope Francis to participate, his continued emphasis on the poor has helped to shift the national tone on the issue. “We think he already has sent a very clear message,” Carr says. “I think Pope Francis’ first miracle is getting both Democrats and Republicans to talk about poverty in a real way.”

The political and ideological range of the Summit is perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the event. Its bipartisan character is stark: Sen. Cory Booker, a progressive Democrat from New Jersey, and Sen. Tim Scott, a conservative Republican from South Carolina, are participating, as are former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Elizabeth Shuler, the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. The evangelical participation spans from organizations like Focus on the Family to Sojourners, and the Catholic side from a ministry of Opus Dei to the Nuns on the Bus.

The gathering mixes together public and private sessions so that participants can talk openly about more controversial political challenges and issues like immigration, race, family planning, and incarceration. “Ironically there is more consensus, more bipartisan cooperation, in some ways more unity in the religious community about global poverty than poverty in our own country and we are hoping to address that,” Carr says. “The polarization is real, and the religious community has a unique opportunity, particularly Catholics and evangelicals, to challenge people’s conscience and also to bridge some of the ideological and political division.”

Poverty in the United States has long struggled to survive on the national policy scene. President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty more than 50 years ago, and the recent statistics show the extent of the problem today. According to U.S. Census Bureau, one in five children in the U.S. lives in poverty, and nearly 50 million people lived below the poverty line in 2013. The earned income tax credit and the child tax credit during the Clinton and both Bush presidencies raised the conversation in the policy arena, Carr says, “but in terms of a national debate it has been way too long.”

The Georgetown effort is not to build a new organization, but to build greater urgency and new alliances across the ideological and partisan divide to make poverty a national priority. “We think there is a lot of lip service to this issue but very little action,” Carr says. “The Washington mantra is the forgotten middle class, and the middle class are having a tough time, but the moral measure of our society is how we treat the least of these, and those are not the priorities of Washington.”

Summit organizers hope conversations this week are a launch pad for lasting policy change. The Circle of Protection, an alliance of Christian leaders represented at the Summit, is challenging all of the 2016 presidential candidates to create three-minute videos sharing what they would do as president to overcome poverty in the U.S. The clips would be shown both online and in churches and other settings in coming months.

Their timing, and the timing of the Summit more broadly, is strategic. Pope Francis will visit the U.S. in September in the middle of the heated presidential primary contest. His name and presence will almost certainly give poverty a major boost in the national conversation.

TIME Innovation

What’s Behind the Russia-China Cyber Deal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Should we be worried about the new Internet security pact between China and Russia?

By Cyrus Farivar in Ars Technica

2. Here’s a roadmap for building an innovation ecosystem in Africa.

By Jean Claude Bastos de Morais in IT News Africa

3. What if junk food actually kills off the bacteria that keeps us healthy?

By Luke Heighton in the Telegraph

4. We’re about to lose the best way to measure how well we educate poor kids.

By Jill Barshay in the Hechinger Report

5. Want to end the War on Drugs? Don’t talk to Washington. Lobby your local police department.

By Ben Collins in the Daily Beast

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Why Food From Forests Could Help Feed the World

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Education alone won’t end income inequality.

By Maureen Conway in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

2. Here’s why ISIS is so successful at recruiting young people.

By Jesse Singal in the Science of Us

3. Are there moral limits on free speech? (What if it gets someone killed?)

By Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View

4. Could food from forests help feed the world?

By Bhaskar Vira in the Conversation

5. Use data, not nepotism, to deliver aid to Nepal.

By Ravi Kumar in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Nepal

Where Will the Next Big Earthquake Hit?

Search and rescue team work among the debris of houses after a powerful earthquake hits Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015.
Sunil Pradhan—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Search and rescue team work among the debris of houses after a powerful earthquake hits Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015.

Where seismic activity meets poverty, you have disaster waiting to happen

For years, seismic experts predicted that a big earthquake would hit the Himalayan region between India and Nepal.

The Himalayas are being pushed upwards at the rate of about one centimeter a year as the Indian subcontinent smashes against the Eurasian plate— a process that has been ongoing for millions for years. As the plates thrust against each other huge amounts of pressure builds up until it releases as an earthquake.

The region experiences a magnitude-8 earthquake approximately every 75 years, with the last in 1934. It killed about 10,000 people.

Though it’s impossible to predict exactly when or where big earthquakes will happen, areas where seismic activity meet underdevelopment and poverty are prone to the most devastation.

“In several places, the higher seismic risk overlaps with places with poor construction,” Hari Kumar, South Asia regional coordinator for GeoHazards International in Delhi, told TIME. GeoHazards is a non-government organization that helps to reduce earthquake-risk in developing countries.

The consequences of substandard building and a lack of earthquake preparedness were seen in devastating force in Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake near Kathmandu. Scores of structures collapsed and more than 3,600 lives were lost.

Kumar warns that other cities and towns in Nepal, as well as several in India, Pakistan and Bhutan, are at high risk of a similar disaster due to the activity of the tectonic faults underneath them and their lack of preparation.

“It is not as though Nepal didn’t know about the problem, but that it was so huge they didn’t know where to start,” Kumar says, adding that the country lacked the resources and technical expertise to make existing buildings resistant to earthquakes (a process known as seismic retrofitting). “The government was working against time.”

According to Brian Tucker, the president of GeoHazards, the U.S., New Zealand, Japan, Turkey (particularly Istanbul) and Chile are all high-risk countries where tectonic plates are under strain but they have taken steps to prepare buildings and educate the people in order to mitigate the consequences of a big quake.

“Places you would really shudder to think what would happen are Tehran, Iran; Karachi, Pakistan; Padang, Indonesia and Lima, Peru,” he tells TIME. “If you ask me to place a bet on where the next big earthquake would be, the strongest evidence is offshore Sumatra.”

In 2004, a 9.3 magnitude earthquake struck 100 miles off the northwest tip of Sumatra, Indonesia generating a huge tsunami that killed some 230,000 people and cause widespread devastation.

“Padang is much smaller than Kathmandu so it wouldn’t create the same economic or political chaos that one in Tehran, Karachi or Istanbul would cause,” he said, but he stressed that an earthquake there could trigger a tsunami with similar devastating consequences.

Rapid migration from rural areas to cities worldwide has meant buildings in many cities with poor economies have sprung up quickly to accommodate the new influx of people.

“They don’t have resources to rebuild all the schools, hospitals, houses and apartments according to good building practice,” says Tucker.

Assessing the vulnerability of buildings such as schools and hospitals in these places will go a long way in preventing huge human and financial costs when a big quake strikes, he says. But “We need to create mechanisms to reward and incentivize the private sector to adhere to building codes.”

Read next: Here Are Six Ways you Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME poverty

Homelessness Costs Los Angeles $100 Million a Year, Report Finds

Report finds there is a lack of coordination and guidelines among city departments

Los Angeles spends at least $100 million every year to manage the city’s homeless population, according to a new report, which finds that departments diverting a large portion of their resources to related issues may not be using the best approaches.

The 21-page report, dated April 16, takes a deep look at how much the thousands of homeless people and the services to provide for them—from librarians to paramedics to park rangers—cost the city. Many city departments don’t respond to issues with the broad intention of ending the city’s homelessness problem, but instead focus on a certain dilemma.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana recommended changes including more collaboration between city departments, better use of tools to track and manage data related to homelessness and an increase in funding for homelessness response and case management.

Read the full report at the Los Angeles Times.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 2

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. McDonald’s is raising wages for 90,000 employees. That’s a good start, and a strong message to other fast food outlets.

By Shan Li and Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times

2. “It must be right:” The human instinct to trust the authority of machines can be dangerous when life is on the line.

By Bob Wachter in Backchannel

3. As college acceptance letters roll in, women should ask about sexual assault prevention on campus.

By Veena Trehan at Nation of Change

4. When corporate values clash with policy in conservative states, big business has a powerful veto tool.

By Eric Garland in Medium

5. Amazon’s Dash button isn’t a hoax. It’s a step toward a true “Internet of Things.”

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Wall Street Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 1

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Screenings can identify a suicidal person, but the actions taken after the screening to decrease stigma and deliver help have a better chance of averting disaster.

By Christopher and Jennifer Gandin Le at Reuters

2. Only five percent of Americans who study abroad are black. That deepens other cultural divisions.

By Brandon Tensley in the New America Foundation Weekly Wonk

3. Game theory holds that cooperation in nature is essential to survival. But new research asks if the game can be rigged.

By Emily Singer in Quanta

4. Most of us believe we can achieve the American Dream if we just work hard. Today’s equality gap shows we’re dead wrong.

By Nicholas Fitz in Scientific American

5. Learning from the past: A thousand year-old Anglo Saxon remedy was just proven effective against hospital superbug MRSA.

By Clare Wilson in New Scientist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 31

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Is the sharing economy opening the door for big business to abuse contract workers?

By Jon Evans in TechCrunch

2. With fins off many menus, scientists see a glimmer of hope for sharks.

By Ted Williams in Yale Environment 360

3. The Houthi rebels in Yemen are following the ISIS playbook and crowdfunding their revolt online.

By Vladi Vovchuk in Vocativ

4. It might be possible to create a non-meat burger that helps the environment and improves your health. But will it taste good enough to win over the masses?

By Corby Kummer in MIT Technology Review

5. Medicaid may not be a slam dunk for physical health, but it yields huge returns in quality of life.

By the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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