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Continuing aid support for African countries following the example of Ghana

“We know how difficult the situation is in much of the world in terms of environment and poverty, and [world leaders] did not show the leadership we needed.” This was the assessment of the chief executive of Oxfam UK, who was speaking to the BBC about the perceived failure of the Rio+20 summit.

Despite plans to draw up sustainable development goals over the next three years for each country, representatives of charities and environmental groups were aggrieved that no progress was made on the right of poor people to have clean water, adequate food and energy, or on moves to eliminate subsidies on fossil fuels.

Developing countries were also asking for greater financial assistance to help them switch over to green development, but there were no new promises of financial support for this purpose. Politicians in the USA are too focused on election year and governments in Europe on the economic downturn and Euro crisis. A new report released by the aid watchdog Data reveals the first significant reduction in Europe-wide aid budgets in a decade, with the largest cuts made by Spain and Greece. Overall, European aid in 2010/11 was reduced by 1.5% and already cuts were having an impact “on life-saving aid programmes”.

European Union leaders will shortly begin negotiating the next seven-year budget and aid agencies are concerned African countries in particular could be hard hit by any prolonged cuts in aid. To those who argue that aid is wasteful and does not encourage countries to accept their own responsibilities, one of the authors of the Data report points to Ghana as an example of how well-targeted aid and good leadership at a national level can lift a country out of poverty. Soon the country is expected to be able to end its dependence on development aid.

According to Human Development Index ratings, Ghana is one of nine African countries in its medium performing category because of improvements in health, education and income/poverty. For example on health, Ghana has expanded insurance mechanisms which by 2008 covered 45% of households. In terms of improving incomes, the country looks set to be the first in the region to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of halving poverty by 2015. This progress has largely been made by supporting agriculture and rural farming. Here, cocoa production has been expanded and rice yields have been improved with the collaboration of international partners. Ghana has also introduced a number of nutrition initiatives and adopted plans to strengthen food security and protect people in extreme poverty. For example, under its Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty programme, poor households are given a small cash grant to help them build or protect their earnings. Seeing how Ghana is successfully developing, aid agencies now want to ensure that crucial financial support continues for other countries, so they too can follow the path taken by Ghana.

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