The Future of ODA |

Internationally, the ambitious vision set out by the sustainable development goals (SDGs) has created new horizons for aid and international cooperation. However, these new possibilities are in tension with the political turmoil and financial pressure currently found in many donor countries and a context of shifting global wealth and power between countries. The world’s challenges are immense and interconnected. What could be a new and powerful narrative for the 21st century is struggling to emerge, and aid continues to be perceived and discussed much as it has been for decades.

The narrative of aid as charity – giving from the haves to the have-nots – is no longer adequate. The economic theory of aid has been to support poorer countries. Many donors are pulling out when countries graduate from low-income countries (LICs) to middle-income countries (MICs). Within official development assistance (ODA) for health it is evident that, where donors pull out of MICs, the gap is not always filled with increased domestic funding, leaving vulnerable and marginalized populations without adequate healthcare.

It is time to rethink development narratives in order to argue for international health priorities and funding. It is time for a narrative shift from “aid” and “assistance” and to explore alternative concepts such as “international public investments”: a term that conveys a sense of a return for the investor, that goods are collective and that it is a permanent part (long-term) of the development finance mix. It is also time to move away from the traditional focus on poverty alleviation and explore the usefulness of a more comprehensive (and SDG-inspired) approach that focuses on “inequality”.

The Global Fund is one of those institutions that needs to reinvent its narrative within its resource mobilization mandate – and it is has the position to become a leader in this conceptual shift in thinking. With competitive and stagnant or declining ODA financing for health, it will have to engage in a broader discussion of the future of aid, beyond its immediate health-focused concerns, if it is to safeguard and enhance the allocation of resources and its own ability to effectively distribute its funds.

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The Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN) wants to advocate a more proactive aid debate at the highest levels of governmental and multilateral institutions in the SDG era that grapple with the double challenge of current political and financial pressure on ODA, alongside conceptual constraints keeping the aid community (including donors, advocates, foundations, civil society and the media) stuck in old understandings of and responses to global problems.

The GFAN Secretariat (ICSS) commissioned a scoping paper by Jonathan Glennie entitled International Public Investment and the future of the Global Fund, which responds to the Global Fund’s Sustainability, Co-financing and Transitioning (STC) policy paper. This paper was delivered to a GFAN audience at its strategy meeting in February 2017 and shared by ICSS with a number of key stakeholders.

In the coming months, the GFAN Secretariat will be commissioning additional papers and running discussions with leading thinkers and influencers in global health – international NGOs, academia, think tanks, governments and multilateral institutions – and GFAN members. This will help us to build a transformative approach to aid thinking and further refine the evolving theory on the future of aid as well as the communications strategy to make the case that we need to change the narrative on aid if we are to respond to the global problems set out by Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.

On this page we will be sharing with you the papers and reports and related materials when they are available. On a series of blog posts, we will be encouraging wider discussion from advocates on these think pieces. We encourage you to be active and to share your opinion!


Pre Reading Pack – Thought Leaders Retreat

Future of Aid Summary Report_Equal 27 Feb 2018 Pre Reading Pack – Thought Leaders Retreat

Opinion: Reducing inequality, not just poverty, should be the central aim of aid (Devex, 24 Aug 2017)

Aid – an evolution of a theory by Jonathan Glennie (19 Jun 2017)

International Public Investment and the Future of the Global Fund by Jonathan Glennie

Discussion paper: Where next for aid? The post-2015 opportunity by Jonathan Glennie (ODI) and Gail Hurley (UNDP) (Jun 2014)



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