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Why Development Aid is Not Enough

OSLO – Poverty is not only about not having enough money. It is also about exploitation and oppression, and about armed conflicts and wars that make it impossible to run a business, visit the doctor, or send children to school. In short, poverty is about politics, and the need to devise political solutions to its underlying causes, which involves more than providing money.

The world has changed greatly since 2000, when the international community adopted the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There has been a major shift in geopolitical power, with countries previously regarded as poor enough to receive aid transformed into emerging-market drivers of the world economy. Power has also shifted in the global political arena, with the global financial crisis catalysing the emergence of the G-20.

If the fight against poverty is to be based on our traditional carbon-heavy growth path, the climate consequences will be devastating, even if the richer parts of the world were to get rid of all emissions today. The result would be floods, drought, dramatically reduced food production, and a great loss of our precious biodiversity. All of this would obviously lead to a dramatic increase in poverty around the world, but, as always, the poorer countries would be the hardest hit.

Yet not to fight poverty is perhaps a worse option still. Not providing proper access to energy would mean not only denying a billion people their basic needs and rights, but also that more wood will be chopped down for firewood, resulting in deforestation and desertification.