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A first step for the global poor – shatter six myths

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Moral obligation is enough.

Apparently not. Alleviating suffering, the prevailing call-to-action among the G-8, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and celebrities, has not compelled adequate action on the part of developed nations. We need reasons that engage a broader political spectrum. Humanitarian, labor, and environmental goals must be joined with economic and geopolitical priorities, each in service to the other.

The boys of the last billion, fodder for African warlords and Saudi-funded extremist , are prone to carrying chaos across borders. Post-9/11 terrorpolitik makes ending extreme poverty a security priority. The left responds to the promise of a more compassionate world; the right, to the threat of a more violent one. We must enlist both.

If aid is good, more aid is better.

Not really. Since 2001, the Bush administration has tripled foreign assistance worldwide, and quadrupled it in Africa. And NGOs build their identities around raising and giving money. But more funding isn't the most critical issue.

While humanitarian assistance has saved millions, consider this startling conclusion from a recent study by the Center for Global Development: When aid rises to 8 percent of a recipient nation's gross domestic product, it has zero effect on economic growth. Above that, it has a negative effect.

The serious challenge is one of coordination. Chronic shortages of skilled citizens in the very worst-off nations mean that more resources simply can't be deployed effectively. Instead, donors, NGOs, and private philanthropies trip over one another, competing to give money away, rather than coordinating at ground level to get results. More isn't always better; smarter is better.

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