The ghost of 0.7 per cent: origins and relevance of the international aid target
Michael A. Clemens
Todd J. Moss
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the historical origins of the international goal for rich countries to devote 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) to aid, in order to assess its present relevance. Design/methodology/approach – The paper reviews all the original documents, interviews decision makers of that era, and uses their same essential method to estimate a new goal with today's data. Findings – First, the target was calculated using a model which, applied to today's data, yields ludicrous results. Second, no government ever agreed in a UN forum to actually reach 0.7 per cent – though many pledged to move toward it. Third, ODA/GNI per se does not constitute a meaningful metric for the adequacy of aid flows. Research limitations/implications – Any further work on aid targets must be based on a country-by-country assessment of realistic funding opportunities. Practical implications – The 0.7 per cent goal has no modern academic basis, has failed as a lobbying tool, and should be abandoned. Originality/value – Anyone who studies or works on the ways that rich countries can assist the development process must confront the 0.7 per cent goal sooner or later. The paper shows for the first time that it arose from an economic model with no modern credibility, and that – contrary to conventional wisdom – none of the UN documents contains a promise to meet the goal.
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