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May / June 2003

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OPINION - Confusing Cause and Effect


Founder : Len Abrams
Water Policy International

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Did you think that development funds have been whistled
into the wind over the past 30 years - read this and think again.

I came upon these very interesting figures and statistics recently from an article prepared by USAID as part of the motivation for the continuing finance of USAID by the United States government. I have edited the article slightly in the interests of brevity. All credit should go to USAID for the insights which the article presents. Len Abrams

Making A World of Difference:

Celebrating 30 Years of Development Progress


"The battle to feed all humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines --
hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs
embarked upon now. At this date, nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."

Dr. Paul Ehrlich in "The Population Bomb, " 1968

The International Response

The senior representatives from the foreign assistance programs of 17 different nations met at the Tidewater Inn in Easton, Maryland, in 1968. This gathering marked the beginning of a 30-year collaboration to combat poverty in the developing world. From the Green Revolution, to eradicating smallpox, to providing clean drinking water for a billion more people during the 1980s, international cooperation has produced remarkable successes and avoided the dire predictions of the late 1960s.

This year's meetings are being held June 29-July 1, and are hosted by U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator J. Brian Atwood. In order to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tidewater Meetings, Atwood will chair a one-day public conference on June 29, in Washington, D.C. The focus for that day will be the progress made over the past 30 years in development and lay out the challenges for the future.

30 Years ago in the developing world

Today in the developing world

What Would the World Look Like Today Without Foreign Assistance?

According to the UN, Conditions in the developing world have improved more in the second half of the 20th century than in the previous 500 years. While it is obviously difficult to predict exactly what the world would look like today had there not been foreign assistance programs, a number of speculations can easily be supported:

*There would probably be more than 500 million more people on Earth today, because international family planning programs would have been unavailable to tens of millions of couples.

*500 million additional people would use 4.8 million more barrels of oil annually. The world would need to produce an additional 150 million tons of grain to avoid widespread malnutrition. Producing this food would require an additional 247,000 square miles of land -- an area larger than the combined territory of France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

*Smallpox would still exist as a disease, and up to 80 million lives would have been lost to this killer. Industrialized nations could be spending billions on immunization and surveillance costs. Because the Green Revolution would not have taken place, India would use twice as much land as it currently does to produce the same agricultural yields.

* Hundreds of millions of people would never have had a chance to get a basic education. More than ten million entrepreneurs would never have received microeneterprise loans to help start small businesses. Every year, 5 million more infants would have died.

Goals for the 21st Century

In May 1996, the development assistance ministers of 21 industrialized nations agreed to work together to help improve conditions in the developing world. Donors agreed to work toward the "21st Century Goals." This agreement on specific targets by the donor community is unprecedented and represents a major step in international cooperation.

Challenges for the Future


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