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International Development is crucial. Here’s why…


With its latest global rankings, the UN Office of Sustainable Development’s ‘SDG Report’ has thrown up some interesting questions, and makes for fascinating reading.

Of course no ‘index of development’ like this can be an absolute authority – but their model of measurement is expansive; 17 categories or ‘goals’ are explored with many of them focused on environment and equity; these include hunger and poverty levels, health, education, gender equality, water, energy affordability, infrastructure, climate action and peace & justice institutions.

On one hand the use of these metrics throws up some surprising results; the US, for example, is ‘only’ as high as 39th where it sits just above countries such as Bulgaria (44th), Cuba (46th) and Thailand (43rd) – all broadly considered as developing nations. Other measurements by organisations such as the OECD and the World Bank’s Gini coefficient show the US’s income inequality to have risen markedly over the last 3 decades and as having the biggest wealth gap among the G-7.

On the other hand, however, the results are all too predictable. You need to scroll down as far as number 21 to find a non-European nation (Japan) and only 8 of the top 40 are from other continents.

As one continues to go down the list, there is a slightly grim inevitability to seeing the page filled with African, Asian and Central American or Caribbean nations – and an almost exclusive club of African states towards the bottom of the list.

Diving deeper into the reasons (poverty, war, corruption, infrastructure) is for another blog, but this SDG Index fundamentally enforces the need for the International Development sector to exist.  The transfer of money, expertise and means from the top of this list to the bottom is key.

 ‘_______ First!’  You can fill in the blank (it’s not just ‘America’)

A devotion to ‘exceptionalism’ is widely thought to be a barrier to the US candidly appraising itself and course correcting, but it’s not just a US issue. 

The list of nations graded by the percentage of GNI they devote to international aid almost perfectly mirrors the SDG rankings. What does that tell us? 

Isolationist policies might win votes for popularist politicians, but a lower commitment to helping other nations seems to also affect how effectively you view and solve your own problems.  The two are inextricably linked, and always will be.

- Tariq Siraj

Posted by: Beament Leslie Thomas