NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.N. Report Blames Poor Governance for Poverty

April 5, 2000

For years the United Nations has skirted the issue of why some countries stay poor or become poor. Now a new report from the U.N. Development Program -- the world's largest aid agency -- cites the need for good government, particularly local government, to fight poverty.

The report, developed under the program's new administrator, Mark Malloch Brown, has drawn the ire of a number of developing countries which rely on international aid programs.

  • The report states that without good governance, reliance on trickle-down development and a host of other strategies will not work.
  • It found that embracing democracy often is not enough, but having regular elections contributes to accountability -- especially if they are also held at the local level.
  • Historically, foreign aid has gone to central governments to be siphoned off in corruption or misuse of funds -- underlining the need for local governments, which are often neglected or nonexistent in the developing world, to play a crucial role in poverty reduction.
  • When confronted with the reality of corruption within central governments, aid organizations often channel their funds to nongovernmental agencies, rather than to local governments.

A growing number of development experts now believe that this shift bred its own problems as private agencies invented projects to get more money or funneled aid in line with their own priorities -- making national efforts disjointed.

Source: Barbara Crossette, "U.N. Says Bad Government Is Often the Cause of Poverty," New York Times, April 5, 2000.


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