Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

By Hilary Jeune, Oxfam’s EU policy advisor

In the world of overseas development, money answers many questions.

If we’re interested in finding out how far we have come in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or in what direction we should go for a post-2015 agenda, having the right numbers in place is key to moving forward.

For the very first time we can answer how much money is being spent on development, who it’s coming from and where it is going.

Tomorrow, at the European Development Days, we will be looking into this important issue by analyzing newly collected data on MDG spending. Together with our partners at Development Finance International and a panel consisting of the Tanzanian Ambassador to the EU, H.E. Dr Diodorus Buberwa Kamala, and the Founder of the Organization for the Right to Health & Development, Burkinabe Patrice Sanon, we aim to share the highlights and concerns we have with spending on achieving the MDG goals in the Global South.

The data, compiled by Development Finance International and supported by Oxfam GB, shows how much 52 low- and lower-middle-income countries are spending on MDG-related initiatives. With only 22 months to go until the Millennium Development Goals are due to be met, this is the first chance for ordinary citizens in countries from Armenia to Zambia to see whether their governments are keeping their promises and spending the amounts needed to fight poverty and reach the MDGs.

The good news is that many developing countries are investing more in real terms than ever before, but this trend is slowly reversing. The vast majority of developing countries are spending much less than they have committed to, or much less than international organizations have estimated are needed to change lives. Only a third of countries are meeting education or health goals and less than 30 per cent are hitting targets for agriculture, putting any existing progress at risk.

Of course there are gaps in this data, and it doesn’t tell us everything. We are yet to collect a fair portion of data and we must remember that whilst the quantity is a significant factor in development, the quality of investments are equally important.

One interesting part of developing GSW is how important a tool it will be in bringing governments back on track with their MDG spending. In Sierra Leone for example, a comprehensive budget tracking study was undertaken to analyse the quality and quantity of health and sanitation expenditure from national to local level.

The study, and lobbying work with the Ministry of Finance, ensured that health was an issue high on the agenda in the run-up to the budget allocation for 2013. The successes of the campaign became clear with an announcement by the Government of Sierra Leone that 10.5% of the 2013 budget would be allocated to health and sanitation, a massive increase from the 7.4% allocated in 2012.

Government Spending Watch project will improve the availability of data and analysis on spending and budget-managed aid for all stakeholders. It will also increase the transparency of data on spending related to the global development goals at national level, by institutionalizing demand for, and supply of, this data, facilitating analysis by all stakeholders.

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