Human development is a process of enlarging people’s choices. The most critical of these … are to live a long and healthy life, to be educated and to have access to resources needed for a decent standard of living. Additional choices include political freedom, guaranteed human rights and personal self-respect.

UN Human Development Report 1990


Aid can play an important role in helping developing nations out of poverty and alleviating crises such as natural disasters. But aid has often failed to reach those most in need, being funnelled for example to western-based corporations or funding ‘prestige’ developments such as mega-dams that have brought mixed benefits to those most affected.

In 1970 the world’s rich countries agreed to allocate 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) annually to international aid. Although this goal has often been reaffirmed, in 2014 only a handful of countries – Denmark, Luxembourg,  Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom– had met or exceeded this agreement.

Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest countries however, per capita, its aid budget has fallen to its lowest level in Australian history (0.22% of GNI in 2017-18) – one-eighth of what the country spends on defence.

See also Disaster relief, Debt and Trade.