Only one-fifth of global aid is actually going to the world's poorest countries, say humanitarian agencies.
It is touch and go whether global poverty goals will be met
Oxfam and ActionAid, in a joint report, accuse the wealthiest nations of failing the poor with a "self-serving and hypocritical" system of aid.
They say up to 40% of aid is "tied", forcing developing countries to buy overpriced goods from donor countries.
The report calls for reforms, as international development ministers meet in Paris to discuss global aid.
"Our report tells a sorry tale of muddle and hypocrisy, dithering and stalling, with the world's poor cast unwittingly in the role of fall guys," says Patrick Watt, ActionAid's policy officer.
"If ministers in Paris fail to take the steps needed to make aid more effective, the UN's anti-poverty targets may end up as museum pieces in the Louvre."
The targets were set in 2000, as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals, to reduce global poverty by 2015.
Ministers meeting in Paris this week for the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conference will discuss progress of the goals.
'Rewarding' with aid
But the report claims that wealthy nations are failing to deliver on their pledges.
It says just one-fifth of aid actually goes to the poorest countries - and only a half of that is spent on basic services such as health and education.
The agencies accuse rich countries of "using aid to reward strategic allies and pet projects at the expense of the neediest countries".
And they say that about 80 official agencies handle distribution of aid, generating a huge administrative burden.
The agencies are calling on ministers meeting in Paris to consider allowing their aid to be monitored by the OECD.
"You hear a lot of talk about the need for 'good governance' and 'accountability' in developing countries - it's time rich countries applied the same strict standards to themselves," said Max Lawson, Oxfam's Policy Adviser.
Do you agree with the findings of the report? Should the international aid system be reformed? Are the UN's anti-poverty targets realistic. Send us your comments using the form below.
What we give in aid with one hand, we take away with the other with protectionist trade barriers. We demand free access to the markets of the developing world but deny access to them to ours. We get to feel good about giving, whilst we slap down the economic development of those we wish to help. If we just levelled the playing field much aid would not be necessary. And as for the idea that we should 'look after our own' - personally, I consider myself part of the human race, so trying to help the world's poor is looking after my own. What goes around comes around - we might regret such selfishness in years to come. Who's to say it will always be us with the cash to splash around?
Katherine, London, UK
A lot of people seem to be confusing the issue here - the report is about international aid, not charitable contributions. A large proportion of the so-called aid provided is squandered on city consultancies and conditionality clauses forcing the poorest countries to open up their economies and public services to international corporations. Don't forget - this aid money is made up of your tax contributions. I don't believe that most people really believe we shouldn't try and help those in greater need than ourselves, but I think they would be shocked to see how much of the announced aid budget is taken by Western companies!
I personally find the report not surprising because it has always been in the interest of the wealthy countries to keep the poor countries poorer. If they truly wanted to help some of the problems the developing world is facing could have been alleviated.
Emmanuel Mwelwa, Lusaka, Zambia.
Poor countries need good governance at home, and access to rich markets abroad. To give aid with one hand, while protecting "our" producers against foreign competition is both hypocritical and wasteful. We should open our markets, and scrap the Common Agricultural Policy. But governance is also essential. I gave with confidence to the tsunami appeal because I had reasonable confidence that my donation would be used properly. I wouldn't have the same confidence about aid to places like Zimbabwe and Sudan. We need to promote good governance and reward it with debt relief and targeted aid.
David, London, UK
There is no doubt international aid does a lot of good in developing countries, particularly in Africa. Equally, there is no doubt that leaders in many African countries need to make a greater effort to better the lives of their citizens. Leadership in many African countries are corrupt, if not altogether destructive. While predictions of Aids infection in Africa are alarming, and causes are varied, what are the affected countries doing to raise awareness and curb promiscuity?
Christine Mar, Hong Kong
It's about time that we held this discussion. The international aid that is provided by nations today is simply a self-serving gesture with the core intention of undermining the government of those nations in need of the aid. It is not uncommon for the donor states to have a huge say in the daily decisions of the countries that they have assisted. That simple truth in itself is what helps keep poor countries poor, and wealthy ones wealthy.
Al Sanchez, Newark, NJ, USA
It's obvious that the giving of international aid is not working to alleviate poverty and too much money is lost to inefficiency and corruption. How about a new approach of stopping the practice altogether? If it's not working, why continue it? It would be better to stop creating cultures of dependence in the poor countries of the world and the disappearance of the political strings attached to the aid would also help to reduce international tension.
Tom Onusaitis, Chicago, USA
I'm not saying that we should cut the aid to poor countries, but surely it would be wise to sort out our own problems: gun crime, the NHS, education etc, before we start piling on more aid for poorer countries.
James, Yeovil, England
Aid is charity, pure and simple. I am fed up with the so-called progressive left dictating to those of us who choose to give. In my personal giving I look around, do some reading, check out the financials of the organization I am considering, and then do it. Keep up this kind of badgering and folks will turn their backs and walk away with their money in their pockets.
Reformed? How about scrapping it all together! Stop wasting taxpayers' money just to appease a collective conscience. As with everything in life you look after your own first. There are many in this country, children included, living below the poverty belt. There are many sick, elderly, education services, the list goes on, that need our money. Forget the moral high ground 'we have a duty to look after the third world'. Start looking after your own!
Karen Smith, London, UK
I would trust organisations like Oxfam and World Vision far more to distribute aid fairly and reasonably than any current world government. Let the aid agencies set up a committee like the Disasters Emergency Committee and then let governments hand the cash to them to distribute. I think it would be a great idea except that it would lead to far less money coming from those governments if they were unable to use so much of it to buy influence and favours in the third world.
Jon G, Huddersfield UK
The whole system of aid is questionable, I believe. If a country requires long term aid it is obvious that the country cannot support its population. People do not stop having children and aid often includes western medicine, reducing mortality rates. Feed ten hungry mouths today without improving infrastructure and self-sufficiency and you will have 1000 mouths to feed tomorrow. Sad but true.
Paul Beckett, London, UK
The idea that aid conditions should be revised is OK, but the problem mostly is with the governments who politicise aid in their respective nations.
Sichalwe, Haggai, Lusaka, Zambia
Look at Swaziland. One of the poorest countries in the world with a male life expectancy of 37 years. What has the king just done? Bought brand new BMW's for all eleven of his wives. A really great use of international aid and a great advert for the benefits of monogamy in a country with a 40% HIV rate.
This is why I didn't donate to the tsunami appeal and why I don't donate to charities in general. You have no idea in whose pocket the money goes to. A little bit of bureaucracy is a good thing if it can provide a bit of accountability and reduce the temptation of corruption. That's why we've got bureaucracy here. I do buy from charity shops - but merely because you can often get very good bargains there. My hard earned money stays with me until I know exactly where my money specifically is being used.
Jeffrey Lake, London, UK
I agree with the findings. Whosoever wants to give aid should give to the local reputed NGO like Arya Samaj RSS RamaKrishan Mission (In India). Let them decide the way the aid should be utilised. All foreign individuals should be out of it. It is local organisations who know the best for their own people.
Ranbir Kumar Ghei, Scarborough, Canada
I agree that much money is wasted on inefficient delivery of aid, but do not think that trying to govern it is the right way to go. Whenever restrictions and rules are added to anything it creates bureaucracy and eventually hurts the program. What is the OECD going to do, tell people they can't donate.....bad idea.
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio
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