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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
UN calls for African aid rethink
By Martin Plaut
Africa editor, BBC News

A mother and child wait for food aid in Malawi
Unctad says aid agencies need to streamline their work
The United Nations has called for the majority of African aid to be channelled through a single UN agency.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) said Africa suffered from chaotic aid delivery, with too many competing organisations.

Unctad was reacting to a decision by the West to double aid to Africa.

It estimates there are around 75 agencies now providing help, and these generate a staggering 200-300 missions to Africa each year.

The UN is highly critical of the way aid is currently being handled.

Each agency demands its own analysis of how the money is spent, and its own systems of accounting.

African governments, many of them with few resources, are groaning under the weight of this scrutiny.

UN challenge

And the UN accuses the West of politicising aid, by insisting on their own priorities before releasing funds.

The answer, says Richard Kozul-Wright, who wrote this report - is to provide a central, United Nations body to handle the money.

"We are looking for a more streamlined system, a more focused system.

"In particular in the case of the commitment to the doubling of aid, we would like to see a lot more of that aid specifically channelled through a fund explicitly focused on African development under the auspices of the UN," he said.

But the idea of establishing a new UN fund to handle Africa's funds is highly controversial.

The Overseas Development Institute, a respected British think-tank, has criticised this approach.

It says the UN must earn its right to administer a larger share of aid.

It must prove it can do a better job than the World Bank, and this is presently not the case.

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