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Public Opinion and the Fight against Poverty

Public Opinion and the Fight against Poverty by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
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Sustaining the fight against global poverty will be possible only if the "wider civil society", i.e. citizens in richer countries, actively and critically support international development co-operation efforts. The willingness undoubtedly exists: McDonnell, Solignac Lecomte and Wegimont (2003) found that public support in OECD DAC member countries for helping poor countries has remained consistently high for almost two decades. There is no aid fatigue. One indication is that donations from the public to development and emergency NGOs have been steadily increasing, although mostly in reaction to emergencies and natural disasters in developing countries. There is concern among the public about aid effectiveness, but it exists alongside continued high support for aid.

However, people’s understanding of poverty and development issues remains very shallow. Similarly, public awareness about official development assistance (ODA) and development co-operation policies is low. Awareness does increase significantly as a result of global education, awareness raising campaigns and public debate, but the media remain a primary source of information about developing countries. However, there is some evidence of scepticism about the nature of the information. Against this background, official expenditure on global education and on information about national aid programmes, although it has been increasing in some OECD countries, remains very low. In particular, the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals so far largely remains an untapped opportunity to peg more vigorous efforts to inform and engage the public. The global anti-poverty consensus they are spearheading has hardly trickled down to national public debates, which remain (with a few noticeable exceptions) rather rare and unsophisticated.

Still available evidence shows that citizens in OECD DAC member countries want more solidarity and justice in the world. They support international development co-operation, and if they were more and better informed, if their capacity to critically engage in the policy debate was stronger, they could be a precious constituency for its reform and improvement. There lies an opportunity for governments, especially those that have pledged to increase their ODA, to kick-start a virtuous circle of transparency and reform, and effectively rise to the challenge of global poverty reduction.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; January 2003
239 pages; ISBN 9789264199996
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Title: Public Opinion and the Fight against Poverty
Author: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development