30 Years of Development Progress

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

  • 53% of the people were illiterate.

  • The average woman had 6 children.

  • 1 in 8 children died in their first year.

  • Nearly 12 million infants died every year.

  • 4 out of 10 people suffered from malnutrition.

  • 3 out of 4 people did not have access to clean water or sanitation.

  • Life expectancy was just over 50 years.

  • 4 out of 5 developing countries were not democracies.

  • Annual per capita income was about $700.

  • More than half of the people lived on less than a dollar a day.


Today in the developing world

  • Literacy has risen by almost 50%.

  • The average woman now has 3 children.

  • Infant mortality has been cut 50%.

  • 5 million fewer children die every year.

  • The percentage of malnutrition has been cut more than 50%.

  • The percentage of people with clean water tripled, access to sanitation doubled.

  • Life expectancy rose more than a decade.

  • 71 more nations have become `free' or `partly free,' (Freedom House).

  • Per capita income has risen by 60 percent.

  • The percentage of those in absolute poverty has been cut almost in half.

  • 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

  • More than 800 million people still face malnutrition.

  • More than 100 million children are not in school.

  • 180 million children under the age of 14 work as child laborers.

  • About 70 percent of the people living in poverty are women.

  • There are 5,000 new HIV infections daily around the world. An area of rainforest the size of a football field is destroyed every second.

  • The world's population is still increasing by the equivalent of an additional New York City every month.

  • 95 percent of the world's population growth in the coming decades will occur in the cities of the developing world.

  • By 2015, cities with a population of more than 1 million are expected to nearly double in Latin America, triple in Asia and quadruple in Africa.

  • It is estimated that 1 in 8 plant species are threatened with extinction in the next few decades.