Please steal these killer facts: a crib sheet for advocacy on aid, development, inequality etc

Regular FP2P readers will be heartily sick of used to me banging on about the importance of ‘killer facts‘ in NGO advocacy and general communications. Killer Fact attackRecently, I was asked to work with some of our finest policy wonks to put together some crib sheets for Oxfam’s big cheeses, who are more than happy for me to spread the love to you lot. So here are some highlights from 8 pages of KFs, with sources (full document here: Killer fact collection, June 2014).

Development Success

Income Poverty: Worldwide, the proportion of people living in extreme income poverty (< $1.25) has more than halved, falling from 47% to 22% between 1990 and 2010. (Source: UN Millennium Progress Report 2013)

Health: Globally, the mortality rate for children (under-five deaths) fell by 41 per cent—from 87 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990. (Source: UN). In absolute numbers, Under-five deaths have fallen from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. (Source: UNICEF)

Finance for Development

From 1990-2011, total international resource flows to developing countries grew from US$425 million to US$2.1 trillion. Much of this has been driven by rapid expansion in foreign investment in developing countries, growing remittances, and increases in lending (see graph). (Source: Development Initiatives).

Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) remains the main international resource for countries with government spending of less than PPP$500 per person per year. (Source: Development Initiatives)

Locally generated revenue: Government spending in developing countries is now US$5.9 trillion a year, over 40 times the volume of aid. (Source: Development Initiatives)

FFD flows 1990-2011


Conflict: According to the OECD, half the world’s poor live in conflict-affected or fragile states (Source: OECD DAC); by 2030 it may by two-thirds (Source: Brookings Institution).

In 2014 the world will spend $8 billion on peacekeeping (Source: UN), compared to $1,745 billion total military spending in 2012 (Source: SIPRI) (i.e. peace merits less than half of one percent of war).

‘Natural’ Disasters: The number of weather-related disasters reported has tripled in 30 years (Source: Oxfam).

For all the talk of building long-term resilience, the world spent $532 million to prepare for and prevent disasters in 2011 – and $19.4 billion to respond (so 40 times more spent on cure than on prevention). (Source: Oxfam)

Inequality and taxation

The 85 richest individuals in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. (Source: Oxfam). Update: Forbes using 2014 billionaires list, say it’s now down to 67 richest individuals.

More than 1.5 million lives are lost due to high income inequality in rich countries alone, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

Governments around the world lose around £100bn a year in tax from rich individuals using tax havens. (Source: Oxfam).

Climate Change and Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuel subsidies cost over half a trillion dollars ($500 bn) globally in 2011. Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and Venezuela, spend at least twice as much on fossil fuel subsidies as on public health. (Source: ODI.)

Feel free to add your own favourite Killer Facts, (with sources please) or take issue with these ones, not least because I am probably going to have to update this at regular intervals. And here’s our guide to writing your own.

And here’s another page of KFs on inequality and crises, which Ed Cairns has just sent me: The Inequality of Crisis – 1 page of key facts 25 June 2014

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12 Responses to “Please steal these killer facts: a crib sheet for advocacy on aid, development, inequality etc”
  1. Stephen Maturin

    Excellent list , thanks.

    Re Pakistan public health spend ($8 per cap last I checked) I now read they are about to dump responsibility onto private health insurance: the very worst road to Universal Health Coverage!

    So where is WHO, SCF, Oxfam etc. advocacy for them not to do it, and divert fuel subsidy $$ to delivering better health services?!

  2. Jamie

    The Oxfam numbers on tax havens may underestimate the problem, according to Gabriel Zucam, who the New York Times call a ‘Picketty Protege’:
    “Mr. Zucman estimates — conservatively, in his view — that $7.6 trillion — 8 percent of the world’s personal financial wealth — is stashed in tax havens. If all of this illegally hidden money were properly recorded and taxed, global tax revenues would grow by more than $200 billion a year, he believes.”

  3. Kate Raworth

    Re counting billionaires, Forbes say they are monitoring their wealth in real time. So while they were writing their article updating Oxfam’s estimate, the number of billionaires fell from 67 to 66. Just while they were writing the article. In my mind, *that* is the killer fact!

  4. Graham Gillions

    Thanks for a great selection of stats that demonstrates Oxfam’s breadth – in terms of positive and negative messages, issues, and global locations

    I have one main observation (perhaps bordering on a criticism). All of the ‘killer facts’ given are actually ‘killer stats’. There is certainly a place for killer stats, but that does not cover the whole scope of facts. To my mind, a balanced list of killer facts should also include facts that demonstrate the real and lived experiences of people that are in poverty and excluded from power – an individual’s story is factual regardless of how statistically significant it is.

    As an example, the fact that 99% of a refugee camp has lighted latrines so that women feel more secure in using them does not help the 1% of women that have to use the unlighted latrines. That (according to a recent BBC radio interview) there are 50% of people that experience food poverty in South Africa and only 10% in the UK does not make the individual experience of having enough to eat any better or worse regardless of the statistics. In each example, statistics might suggest that the problem is low – but try being that person dealing with the problem.

    Killer facts should also bring the reality of these people’s lives to the fore – partly because any development agency should have a remit to amplify the voices of the powerless to the powerful, but also perhaps in a more pragmatic sense, when it comes to ‘general communications’ (one of the purposes of these killer facts’), stats will work with some and put off others; we also need to be able to talk to those who are put off by stats.

    • Duncan Green

      Agreed Graham, killer facts are not the only arrow in the advocacy quiver, and we need to get much better at capturing and telling human stories – rather debased form in development, in my experience

  5. Filip

    “More than 1.5 million lives are lost due to high income inequality in rich countries alone, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.”

    IMHO the study that you are citing is flawed – for example one of its assumptions is:

    >>> “highly unequal society implies that a substantial segment of the population is impoverished”



  6. Steve Lewis

    Excellent thanks Duncan.

    Global health research – the world spends ten times more investigating a cure for male baldness than a cure for malaria.

    Or – Ninety % of global health research and development is into diseases that effect 10% of the worlds population

  7. Pallavi

    Thank you for putting this information out in public. Not only is the fact guide useful but even the comments to some of the blog posts that I have been checking that bring out interesting perspectives. At the university where I teach a course in MA Development studies, I will be using some of the fact guides you/ OXFAM have made available – they are written so simply- and with humour that I am sure students will also enjoy !