The world is constantly increasing in its global connectivity. Economies, cultures and, most importantly, individual well-beings are interconnected. As such, it is important to acknowledge the ways in which contributing to international aid helps the United States while also benefiting the countries in need. While there are many ways in which this occurs, there are three that I shall be discussing. The first is how global relief efforts help to improve the international image of the United States. The second is how global relief efforts solidify and strengthen ties to other countries. The third is how global relief efforts strengthen the global economy, thus strengthening the United States’s own economy.

There is often an international stigma associated with the United States. Numerous controversies pertaining to international issues, such as the conflicts in Middle East or mass surveillance being performed by U.S. security agencies, have painted the Unites States in a negative light. Recent polling conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014 shows that the U.S. holds an average international favorability rating of 58.88 percent, with the median favorability rating sitting at 65 percent.

While statistical evidence suggests that the U.S. is viewed negatively globally, research published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science suggests that contributing to international aid may be part of the solution. A study researching relief efforts performed in African countries by the United States in response to the HIV/Aids epidemic concludes “that in addition to its potential humanitarian benefits, foreign aid that is targeted, sustained, effective and visible can serve an important strategic goal for those countries that give it: fostering positive perceptions among foreign publics.” These improved perceptions of the country giving international aid were also shown to persist over time. These findings are reinforced by an additional Pew poll, which tracks the public perception of the U.S. by Japanese citizens prior to and following the tsunami and earthquake of 2011 (a disaster to whose relief efforts the United States contributed). The results showed a substantial spike of a nearly 20 percent favorability increase.

While improving global perceptions of the United States is important, it is equally important to strengthen and solidify ties to other countries. Helping to alleviate global poverty through international aid achieves this very goal. One of the most significant examples of this occurring can be found in South Korea. Following the Korean War, the United States contributed significantly to the reconstruction efforts of South Korea. This aid helped to stabilize the economy and greatly aided in establishing South Korea as a strong country. As a result of this aid, it is now one of the greatest allies of the United States and has also become a significant contributor to foreign aid.

By contributing to international aid and reducing global poverty, other countries gain economic independence. This independence strengthens the global economy by adding additional contributors and consumers to it. Likewise, this newfound economic strength opens new markets for the United States. To return to the example of South Korea, one can note that, along with being a major ally to the United States, it is also the United States’ seventh largest trading partner. Just as strengthening South Korea helped the U.S. obtain new venues for trade, contributing to international aid improves the global economy, which in turn strengthens the U.S. economy. The world is connected, and improvements in foreign countries have a ripple effect that causes improvements in the U.S. as well. At the end of the day, fighting global poverty is more than humanitarian charity; it is a strategic investment.

James Miller

Sources: Pew Global, Now Publishers, Pew Global, The Foreign Policy Initiative
Photo: Wikimedia