Gordon Brown’s first speech is a good reminder that change still needs to happen

Gordon Brown spoke in Kampala yesterday after three months of a silence so pronounced that Guido Fawke’s has a specific tag, for mentions of him, called “Where’s Gordon?“. This latest speaking occasion, therefore, has made an impression in the papers and brings to the forefront the reminder that development has still got some way to go around the world. His focus was on Africa and he offered his wishes that the continent would achieve its potential. He suggested an increase to internet access from the current less than 1 per cent and suggested that “the job of aid is to kick-start business-led growth and not to replace it”.

His speech came a month after the release of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) report on June 23. In the year 2000, world leaders pledged to work towards goals such as ending poverty and hunger, providing universal education, and developing a global partnership for development. There are five years before the MDGs are due to be achieved and world leaders will attend a summit in New York on 20-22 September 2010 to evaluate current progress.

Goal number eight has as its focus the aim to develop a global partnership for development. When Gordon Brown talks about aid to developing countries he is talking about the $119.6 billion which in 2009 made up the net disbursements of official development assistance (ODA). To put it in context this amount of money represents 0.31 per cent of the combined national income of developed countries. It includes net debt forgiveness grants, humanitarian aid, multilateral ODA, bilateral development projects and programmes and technical cooperation.

The United Nations suggests a target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income for most donors and the UK almost meets that with a provision of 0.6 per cent. There were some countries who exceeded the UN target and in 2009, they were Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The UK was however among the largest donors by volume in 2009 along with the United States, France, Germany and Japan.

In 2005, members of the G-8 countries committed to increasing their aid and this increase was projected that their commitments would double ODA to Africa by 2010. The slowdown in economic growth since 2008, however, means that the estimated aid that Africa receives will be only about $11 billion out of the $25 billion increase envisaged at Gleneagles.

Gordon Brown’s visit is a reminder that there is still more to be done in Africa and for this MDG. There is some hope that it may augur a focus for the ex-Prime Minister who may see it as his next mission.

Note: this post has also been submitted to the TH!NK3 Development site.

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