Redistribution via Development Aid

These global development goals not only provide important guidance on how to address inequalities and set normative standards but are also linked to global social redistribution in the form of official development assistance provided by richer to poorer countries.

Regarding the question of how to generate additional funding to reach the SDGs, a number of funds are currently debated. A general one is the ‘SDG Fund’ under the aegis of the UNDP. Initial contributions for this fund came from Spain, and the idea behind it is to facilitate the transition process from the MDGs to the SDGs (UNDP 2016). Questions address whether funds for specific goals are needed. Jeffrey Sachs has suggested a new global fund for health that could address the problems of underdeveloped health systems and would combine some of the existing ones, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (SIDA 2015). Sachs made a similar proposal for a fund for the field of education (Sachs 2015). Karen Mundy (Global Partnership for Education), though, argues: ‘What the education sector needs is not a new global fund for education. Such an entity already exists: it is the Global Partnership for Education. It’s time to reinforce and strengthen this existing partnership.’ (Mundy 2015) Such reform could, of course, also be recommended in other global social policy fields.

At the same time, the current state of official development assistance is complex and contradictory. On the one hand, according to OECD Director-General Angel Guerria, the volume of development aid has never been higher and is expected to remain stable.[1] On the other hand, looking at OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) data, aid to the poorest countries continues to decline (OECD 2015b). Furthermore, the aim of committing 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) to development is, despite frequent reassertions (most recently, for example, in UN ECOSOC 2016), still only met by very few countries, namely, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the UK (OECD 2015a). As a response, the Social Watch (2015a) reports that

Alliance Sud is ‘calling for at least half the development budgets of donor countries to go towards the poorest countries’. The Third International Conference on Financing for Development (13—16 July 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) ended with a rather vague document (UN 2015a) in this regard. Specifically, reading Sect. 10 of the document, one gets the impression that instead of more cooperation, the expectation is for low- income countries themselves to find ways out of poverty. At the same time, the declaration claims under Sect. 12, ‘Delivering social protection and essential public services for all’, that the international community is committed to a new social compact. Such a prospect is, of course, highly problematic considering inequalities both within and between countries. Even if national societies are getting more unequal, the poorest countries still often have high shares of the world’s poorest people and still are not among the main beneficiaries of development aid. Therefore, while official development assistance is perhaps the most concrete form of a redistributive global social policy, it is not a reliable source of income for those countries with major poor populations. Nor is it necessarily primarily directed at the poorest parts of world society.

Finally, aid in the form of loans from global development institutions (such as the World Bank and other regional development banks) might be more institutional and reliable, as these are institutions collecting money from member states and then allocating that money based on their perception of need in recipient countries. However, these international financial institutions have long been criticized for the conditionalities, including those in the social sector, they attach to loans to developing countries. Even as we see the emergence of regional development banks (particularly in the context of the BRICS), the question arises as to whether aid without any considerations of social development is the way forward (a related discussion can be found in Surender and Urbina-Ferretjans 2015). Simply put, global redistribution might be realized to some extent, but in what way, if at all, it significantly affects global inequalities is rather unclear.

This section has provided an overview of some of the ways in which global structures, ideas and redistributive mechanisms may respond to the problems of global inequality. Measuring concrete impact, however, would require detailed case studies.

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