International development is in flux. On the one hand, development results since 2000 have been the best ever recorded. Growth in emerging and developing countries has been rapid, averaging 7% per capita according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The number of low-income countries has fallen from 63 in 2000 to 35. Perhaps 800 million people have been pulled out of poverty since the new millennium and 10 million child deaths have been avoided thanks to innovations like vaccines. The number of polio-endemic countries has been reduced from 125 to four. Even the world’s most fragile state, Somalia, was struck from this list in 2003. Over the same period, maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) was eliminated from 19 countries, including some of the poorest in the world. Thanks to biometric technologies and mobile telephony, we can today deliver cash transfers to alleviate poverty, with far less risk of corruption, to many targeted areas and beneficiaries where it would have been impossible to reach before: for example, demobilised soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, herder families in Ethiopia and resettled refugees in Afghanistan.
All this would be reason to celebrate the accomplishments of the development community during the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness that took place in Busan, Republic of Korea on November 29 to December 1, 2011. But the forum instead occurred against a backdrop of impatience with the pace of development and the perceived failures of traditional official development assistance. There are more fragile and conflict-affected countries than ever before, and none of these countries is on track to meet a single Millennium Development Goal. The first major famine of the 21st century in the Horn of Africa and the continued problems with reconstruction in Haiti are grim reminders of the exposure of poor people to natural disasters. Worries over climate change, food security, volatile financial markets and global stagnation suggest a new development paradigm may be needed.