Information and stories on foreign aid.

Top 10 Countries Contributing to Foreign AidIn February, the U.N. declared that 109 million people were in critical circumstances. In other words, international assistance is more important than ever. Countries around the world are fighting to alleviate global poverty, but some are doing a better job than others. Read further to find out which nations make the list for the top 10 countries contributing to foreign aid.

Top 10 Countries Contributing to Foreign Aid

  1. Luxembourg – Even though it is one of the smallest countries in the world, Luxembourg is a world leader in foreign aid. In 1970, the U.N. urged wealthy nations to contribute 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) to foreign aid. Luxembourg was the second country to achieve this goal. Today, the government invests 1.07 percent of its GNI to foreign aid.
  2. Sweden – Contributing 1.04 percent of its GNI to international development, Sweden landed itself at the top of this list in 1974. In 2018, it was still considered the largest donor when taking into account the size of its economy. The Swedish government expects to spend nearly $6 billion on foreign aid by the end of 2019. Primary concerns regarding foreign aid include agriculture, education, global health and nutrition.
  3. United Kingdom – In 2017, the U.K. spent more than 14 billion pounds on international assistance. The largest recipient of this aid was Pakistan followed by Ethiopia and Nigeria. The majority of funding is donated to humanitarian projects. Approximately 64 percent of aid is sent directly via bilateral organizations. The remaining percentage is distributed indirectly via organizations like the U.N.
  4. Norway – In 2018, Norway revised its foreign aid policies. In the new outline, the government mandates that at least 1 percent of its GNI is spent on international assistance. The proposal also focuses on health and education as its chief concerns.
  5. Ireland – In July 2018, Ireland relaunched a new foreign aid policy aptly named A Better World. One of the primary goals of this policy is to ensure that 0.7 percent of the GNI is spent on international development. It is estimated that this target will be met by 2030. Furthermore, the policy emphasizes climate action, gender equality and strengthened governance. For female education alone, the country has committed to spending 250 euros within the next five years.
  6. Japan – Japan is the largest contributor to foreign aid in Asia. In 2018, the country donated $14.2 billion. Japan has publicly committed to using the official development assistance (ODA) for guidance in future development.
  7. Canada – Unlike other countries, Canada has taken a unique feminist approach. Its foreign aid policy uses feminism as its core value. By promoting the success of women around the world, Canada hopes to create a more equal balance in power. The country believes that an increase in women’s rights would lead to other areas of progression, such as a more inclusive government and representation for minorities.
  8. France – Within the past year, France has committed to enhancing its foreign aid policy. Currently, the country donates 0.43 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. However, by the year 2022, the French government aims to increase this level to 0.55 percent. The primary objective of this increase is to aid in international stability.
  9. Finland – In just the first part of 2019, Finland has already administered 68.35 million euros in foreign assistance. The government distributes its finances through a process that includes evaluating the extent of a crisis, assessing how many deaths and illnesses have occurred and recording the percentage of the population affected by the issue. Finland also prioritizes its aid to countries that have formally submitted a request to the U.N.
  10. United States of America – Last but not least on the list for the top 10 countries contributing to foreign aid is the U.S. The current American aid system was created in 1961. However, disputes surrounding U.S. investment have increased in recent years. President Trump has repeatedly fought for cuts in the budget while others advocate for the amount to be raised. In 2016, the U.S. contributed approximately $49 billion in foreign assistance.

Ultimately, there is still a lot of work to be done. With millions of people in crisis, it is important that the wealthiest nations help combat the issues that plague the poorest. If not for humanitarian reasons, foreign aid can help elite nations by increasing the global economy and infrastructure. When looking at success stories like China (which once was a U.S. aid recipient but now a financial leader), one can understand the impact of international assistance.

– Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders, a Senator from Vermont and a 2016 democratic presidential nominee, announced his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election on Feb 19, 2019. This popular candidate spoke to the younger generation with his ideas about healthcare, raising the minimum wage and free college education for students. However, Sanders’ stance on global poverty issues has not been as much in the forefront. Here are some facts about Bernie Sanders’ stance on foreign aid and global poverty.

Foreign Aid

In the past, Sanders has both supported and rejected bills relating to foreign aid. An example of Bernie Sander’s support is with the HR 5501 bill that involves providing funding to eliminate tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria. As a result of this bill, $48 billion was sent to the Global Fund to help developing countries eradicate HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Another bill that Sanders has supported, in fact, co-sponsored, is the Harvest for Hunger bill, which provided relief to sub-Saharan Africa for famine victims. Overall, based on his voting history, Sanders supports foreign aid to developing countries in order to reduce conflict around the world. He has acknowledged that efficient foreign aid can be an effective national security defense.

In regards to his rejection of bills involving foreign aid, Sanders rejected the S Amdt 5077 bill, which would have reduced the HR 5501 bill to $35 billion. Sanders also rejected the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, which would have provided emergency foreign aid to countries in need. This act ended up providing $82.04 billion in emergency support to the Defense Department and tsunami relief.

Clean Water and Air

Sanders has consistently supported bills and other initiatives to protect the environment and ensure that clean water and air is available for all. One example of this would be the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. This act ensured increased research for health management and the sustainability of oceans around the world. In the past, Sanders has also spoken out against drilling in seas such as the Chukchi Sea, which could result in oil spills.

Overall, Sanders has supported several bills and initiatives that would help eradicate global poverty and other associated issues. He mostly addresses poverty in the United States by his policies on taxing the wealthiest 1 percent, raising the minimum wage and decreasing college debt for students. Sanders also advocates for foreign aid bills as an effective national security defense as this can help reduce conflict in developing countries.

Bernie Sanders’ stances on foreign aid and issues that impact global poverty prove that he could continue to be a powerful ally for the world’s poor if elected president in 2020. Only time will tell if Bernie Sanders is elected president, but his commitment to foreign aid will continue.

– Maddison Hines
Photo: Flickr

Top Five Facts About U.K. Foreign AidAs one of the most economically developed countries in the world, the U.K. plays a tremendous role in global prosperity. In 2017, the United Kingdom’s gross domestic product per capita was $39,953.60. Here are the top five facts about U.K. foreign aid.

Top 5 Facts About UK Foreign Aid

  1. How much is being spent?
    Since the 1970s, the United Nations has been urging all developing nations to invest 0.7 percent of their gross national income in overseas aid. This is in collaboration with the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to improve international welfare. The U.K. agreed and reached this target in 2013, along with five other countries. Shortly after, the U.K. included this goal in its legislation. By 2015, the U.K. legally required 0.7 percent of its G.N.I. goes toward foreign development. By 2016, the U.K. spent £13.3 billion ($16.9 billion) on international aid. As the U.K. economy continues to grow, the amount the U.K. spends each year does, too.
  2. What are the goals?
    On top of legislation, the U.K. created an aid strategy. The four primary goals of this strategy include promoting global peace, strengthening crises response, aiding in international development and helping the world’s most impoverished people. The government aims to do so by implementing several tactics. For example, 50 percent of all the Department for International Development’s (DFID) spending goes toward aid in developing nations. Moreover, it funds a £1 billion commitment to global health.
  3. How is funding being spent?
    The DFID spends approximately 74 percent of government spending. Smaller departments within the government spend the remaining 26 percent. Most funding (63 percent) goes toward bilateral aid, sent directly to countries in need. Organizations, such as the U.N., distribute the remaining funds. The top recipients of aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria. In 2015, humanitarian projects received the most amount of support. In order to ensure success and public awareness, the DFID site collects data to track foreign aid spending.
  4. What does the government think?
    Conservative parties within the U.K. have argued to reduce foreign aid. Accordingly, these parties believe the money could be better spent domestically. After the 2016 Brexit referendum, concern surrounding foreign aid increased. However, in 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May publically supported the 0.7 percent target goal. Bill Gates has also been a large advocate in support of U.K. foreign aid. In several interviews, Gates has expressed the U.K. should be proud of its contributions toward international poverty reduction.
  5. How does U.K. foreign aid compare?
    Since 2013, the nation has become a global leader in humanitarian aid. It is known as one of the first nations to offer assistance during crises. The U.K. provided relief during Hurrican Irma and the Ebola outbreak in Syria. In 2016, the U.K. ranked fifth in international aid, behind Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark. Norway gives more than 1 percent of its GNI to foreign aid, making it a model for other countries.

Overall, the U.K. should be proud of its contributions. These top five facts about U.K. foreign aid demonstrate the nation has contributed billions of pounds to reducing global poverty. For the future of society, may the U.K. continue to grow and prosper, deepening its stance against global poverty.

Anna Melnik
Photo: Google Images

Aid to the Palestinians
A school abandoned and torn down. A sewage system shut off and covered in asphalt. These are just two of the projects that the U.S. is in the process of shutting down as it cuts almost all foreign aid to the Palestinians. Previously, the U.S. was a top donor to the Palestinians, giving $5 billion since 1993. However, the government announced an intention to cut off aid last year, 2018, in order to put pressure on Palestinian leaders to accept the administration’s peace plan, which it is set to announce after Ramadan ends in early June. USAID has laid off all but 14 of its employees in the Palestinian territories, an 85 percent reduction in staff. Aid that funded anti-terrorism programs has also been cut.

Concerns Over Aid Cuts

Many people in the Israeli government supported these aid programs, both for humanitarian reasons and for the benefits they provided to Israeli national security. Dana Stroul, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Daniel Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, wrote in an article for NPR that “Israeli authorities understood that a breakdown in security, an economic collapse or a humanitarian crisis in the West Bank would place an enormous burden on Israel…The Israeli national security establishment remains painfully aware that it will face the burden – financial, security, and otherwise – of addressing a full-scale collapse in the West Bank or Gaza if the U.S. steps away or loses all influence and credibility with the Palestinians.”

The Israeli government opposes cutting aid, calling on the U.S. government to amend the law that resulted in the cuts. One Israeli security official said that “[i]f the law doesn’t change and no solution is found…[t]his will harm a top priority Israeli national security interest.”

Others Provide Aid

In the U.S.’s absence, others have stepped up. A week ago, the European Union announced that it would be giving an additional 22 million euro ($24.6 million) in aid to the Palestinians. The new aid package will focus on health care, food security and safety for vulnerable families.

In addition, the government of Qatar pledged to give $480 million in aid to the Palestinians. While the U.S. and Qatar have allied historically, these countries have had a strained relationship recently, with Qatar defying U.S. sanctions to provide aid to Turkey. The Qatari government has frequently come under fire for human rights abuses.

The good news is that there are ways to restore these programs. In addition to following the Israeli government’s recommendation to amend the law cutting aid, Stroul and Shapiro have several more solutions. The U.S. could specifically allocate money to complete currently unfinished aid projects, such as the school and sewage system mentioned above. Congress could also pass current bills aiming to improve aid to the Palestinians. One of these is the Palestinian Partnership Fund Act, which aims to connect Palestinian entrepreneurs with potential business partners in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Moreover, the U.S. is considering renewing aid. Last month, six senators proposed a bill to restore aid to the Palestinians. “[R]efusal to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people is a strategic mistake,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), one of the bill’s sponsors. “Denying funding for clean water, health care and schools in the West Bank and Gaza won’t make us safer. Instead it only emboldens extremist groups like Hamas and pushes peace further out of reach.”

– Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Aid to SyriaSyria faces a great deal of poverty, in part because of the violent conflict taking place there. The U.S. is deeply involved in Syria, both militarily and through foreign aid. The U.S. uses aid to address Syrian poverty in a variety of ways. Although this aid has helped the U.S. successfully achieve some of its goals, the aid has recently been reduced. These 10 facts explore the impact of U.S. aid to Syria, methods used to provide that aid and the potential consequences of cuts in aid.

10 Facts about U.S. Aid to Syria

  1. Currently, 13.1 million Syrians require assistance. 6.6 million Syrians require housing, and 2.98 million Syrians live in areas affected by violence or that cannot be easily accessed by relief agencies. Millions of Syrians are forced to live in exile. They escape the violence of their home country only to find more poverty in Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian refugee camps.
  2. Since 2011, U.S. aid has reached the amount of $7.7 billion. This aid funds the provision of food, water, healthcare and other necessities. It also funds “stabilization assistance,” allowing Syrian communities themselves to rebuild infrastructure and continue agricultural practices.
  3. In 2014, more than 40% of food-related emergency relief in Syria came from the U.S. This aid was sent throughout the 14 regional districts of Syria. At the time, 300 medical facilities in Syria were backed by the U.S., with more than 280,000 surgeries taking place at these locations.
  4. In 2016, U.S. aid to Syria amounted to $601 million. The aid was used to send food to impoverished areas. It also funded polio vaccinations for Syrian children.
  5. In 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill requiring the U.S. to prevent violence against the Syrian people perpetrated by the Assad regime. Known as the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017, the bill sanctioned supporters of the Assad regime. The bill also sanctioned groups and individuals known to prevent Syrian access to humanitarian aid.
  6. In the spring of 2019, the U.S. restored power to 500,000 citizens of Raqqa. The Syrian Recovery Trust Fund, funded by USAID, provided food security to 256,051 Syrians. The same program also funded waste removal for 53,645 families.
  7. USAID is currently implementing a program to improve damaged infrastructure in Raqqa. The program gives authority to the community leaders of Raqqa. USAID plans to cooperate with local leaders and NGOs to restore power lines and increase regional access to electricity.
  8. In 2018, U.S. aid to Syria was cut by $230 million. The U.S. called for $300 million in aid from other Arab nations. The new reduced amount of U.S. aid was redirected primarily toward the reconstruction of the city of Raqqa, the former center of ISIS operations in Syria.
  9. After making significant cuts to the amount of proposed aid to Syria, the U.S. planned to allow that money to be used for other purposes. The administration emphasized the $300 million being sent to Syria by other nations. $100 million was sent by Saudi Arabia alone.
  10. The expanded role of other nations in Syria is used as a justification for the U.S. taking a less prominent role. As U.S. aid to Syria decreases, U.S. military involvement in the country is decreasing as well. Many Syrians are still in need of U.S. aid, even if U.S. policy
    seems to be moving away from providing that aid.

Thanks to U.S. aid, thousands of Syrians have access to better infrastructure, electricity, food and healthcare. U.S. aid facilitates stability in Syria. Further cuts to U.S. aid would be detrimental to Syrian stability. To help protect U.S. aid to Syria, U.S. voters can contact Congress in favor of protecting the International Affairs budget using this link.

— Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

female democratic policyThe Democratic 2020 Presidential candidate race is well and truly underway. The Democratic Party recently announced that the Democratic National Convention will be held in July 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently, the number of declared candidacies for the Democratic Party stands at more than 200 with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar being some of the critical players in this field. Here are brief summaries of what has defined these female democratic presidential candidates’ foreign policy agendas so far in their career, and what they have identified as key parts of their presidential campaigns.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren has been a long time supporter of foreign aid with a platform on trade that focuses primarily on re-investing power in the American Middle Class. Subsequently, she is an advocate for anti-corruption measures and cracking down on multinational corporations that prioritize profits over workers.

Furthermore, she has expressed caution about the U.S.’ trade position with China due to the alleged human rights abuses, contending that China upholds no pretense of democracy regardless of its seemingly capitalist motives. She argues that the domestic agenda should not be considered “as separate from our foreign policy” and that creating strong alliances will help ordinary Americans. Foreign policy must be used to address humanitarian crises and boost democracies worldwide.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris’ foreign policy approach has been shaped by her career as a federal prosecutor. She has identified ending human trafficking, fighting climate change and reducing terrorism among her key foreign policy stances. She is a supporter of ‘smart diplomacy,’ which includes the cracking down on international criminal organizations.

She favors creating a multilateral approach to address global climate change and, subsequently, opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership on account of it ‘invalidating’ California’s landmark environmental laws. Although she holds a similar stance to Warren on many issues, she has does not support tariffs on China due to the impact on California’s technology industry. She has not joined her colleagues Gillibrand and Warren in condemning cuts to Palestinian; however, she did join them in condemning the funding cuts to refugee programs.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand is a longtime fighter for both women in developing countries and women in the U.S., which has become a key part of her presidential platform. She co-sponsored the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2013, supporting the integration of gender into U.S. Foreign Policy.

She initially co-sponsored the Anti-Israel Boycott Act but withdrew her support several months later in 2017. Similar to Warren, she has supported using U.S. trade authority to discipline nations over the use of military force and, subsequently, she opposes U.S. collaboration with Saudi Arabia due to its role in the Yemen Humanitarian Crisis.

Gillibrand’s foreign policy statements outside of gender have focused on the protection of U.S. industries against unfair competition. Specifically, she has led the fight for U.S. steel manufacturers and fought back against cheap imports that harm U.S. producers of both primary and secondary products.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar has identified a long list of campaign issues on foreign policy centered around advancing American National Security. She is a supporter of foreign aid and the tradition of the U.S. in providing humanitarian assistance, helping to “address refugee crises, preventing radicalization, and promoting stability around the world.”

She has supported sanctions against Iran and North Korea and voted in favor of the Anti-Israel Boycott Bill, which is against the U.N. resolution requesting that states refuse to do business with contractors that engage in business with Israel. She has specifically outlined support for strengthening trade links within North America and with Cuba as part of her foreign policy outlook with the aim of advancing regional interests and investment and strengthening the U.S. position in the global economy. She has favored maintaining a strong military presence more so than several of her female democratic contenders.

Although these candidates, the leading four female Democrats in the race, hold largely similar positions on foreign policy and global trade, there are subtle differences demonstrated by the range of issues they have vocally discussed and highlighted. They are all supporters of foreign aid and all sit largely within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. However, it is likely that as the race gets further underway, these female democratic presidential candidates’ foreign policy agendas will become more distinct.

Holly Barsham

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Helps Ethiopia

Though Ethiopia is still one of the world’s poorest countries, its poverty rate has been cut in half. Initially, more than 50 percent of the population living below the poverty line. This has since been reduced to about 25 percent. In the last 20 years, Ethiopia’s gross domestic product has risen from $8 billion to $80 billion. How did the once third-poorest country in the world do this?

Highly dependent on foreign aid, Ethiopia has received $3.5 billion in assistance in recent years from countries like Germany and the United Kingdom. The United States recently launched a 5-year, $40 million program, the Health Financing Improvement Program. This U.S. launched this program to invest in increasing Ethiopia’s ability to provide quality and affordable health care to its citizens. And it’s a prime example of how foreign aid helps Ethiopia. This investment will improve efforts to support maternal health, AIDS prevention and care, malaria treatment, nutrition and WASH. Programs like this have helped Ethiopia’s poverty rate fall from 44 percent to 30 percent in just over 10 years.

Below are some ways investment and foreign aid helps Ethiopia reduce extreme poverty.

Fast-Growing Economy

Many people think of Ethiopia as a country riddled with poverty. However, Ethiopia possesses one of the fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa as of 2018. In the last decade alone, Ethiopia witnessed an average economic growth of 10 percent. This growth is due to public investments in infrastructure, agriculture and education, combined with foreign aid.

Agriculture

Forty-three percent of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product comes from agriculture. Foreign aid helps Ethiopia and its agriculture sector through different programs. Feed the Future is one such program, focusing on food security and connecting vulnerable peoples to markets. Other ways foreign aid helps Ethiopia is through strengthening sustainable natural resources and watershed management, adapting to climate change and improving food and nutrition security.

Health

Foreign aid also improves health Ethiopia, which struggles with nutrition and disease. Improvements in the health sector include slashing the mortality rate of children under five by two-thirds. Similarly, between 2004 and 2017, AIDS-related deaths have dropped from 83,000 to 15,000. This focus on health reduced the fertility rate from 7.0 to 4.6 children per woman between the years 1995 and 2011. This is crucial because high fertility rates contribute to stillbirth and mortality rates. While nutrition and food security are still problems in Ethiopia, malnourishment fell from 75 percent to 35 percent from the 1990s to 2012.

Education

According to the World Bank, Ethiopia was one of the most educationally disadvantaged countries in the 20th century. This was mostly due to low access to schooling. But with the help of foreign aid, Ethiopia’s primary school enrollment rates have doubled over 10 years. Foreign aid has improved curriculum, teaching, school inspections and teaching methods. Additionally, Ethiopia has seen an improvement in the number of textbooks and other materials available.

During the creation of the United States Agency for International Development, former President John F. Kennedy said, “There is no escaping our obligations: our moral obligations as a wise leader and good neighbor in the interdependent community of free nations – our economic obligations as the wealthiest people in a world of largely poor people, as a nation no longer dependent upon the loans from abroad that once helped us develop our own economy – and our political obligations as the single largest counter to the adversaries of freedom.”

And this statement still holds true today. Powerful countries like the U.S. and China prosper, but countries like Ethiopia are still disadvantaged. Foreign aid helps Ethiopia, improving many lives, but there is always room for improvement.

Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Idai
Nearly a month after Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, officials and civilians are working to clean up the disaster zone. The Category 2 storm first hit near the city of Beira, an important port in Southern Africa, on March 14th and 15th. Winds during this period exceeded 105 miles per hour. The northern provinces of Mozambique are now beginning the reconstruction process.

The deadly storm left 603 people dead, though officials suspect many more unidentified victims washed out to sea. Additionally, Cyclone Idai destroyed 110,000 homes, wiped away entire towns and left rich farmland waterlogged. The people of the northern provinces depend on food from this farmland for both survival and business.

An Uphill Battle Against Poor Infrastructure

Mozambique struggles with a lack of access to quality healthcare, education and infrastructure. As a result, the nation is ranked 218 out of 223 countries with an average life expectancy of 51.4 years. Their impoverished status makes it difficult for them to recover from natural disasters.

The country requires aid from outside sources to rebuild in the north where Cyclone Idai first met the coastline. The United Nations’ fundraising appeal to cover the initial costs totaled $282 million USD. Hospitals-in-boxes are being transported by boat, food is being dropped from planes and 900,000 cholera vaccines have recently arrived in Beira. The vaccines are being distributed in the north as part of an effort led by Doctors Without Borders.

The Added Challenge of Cholera

Despite vaccination efforts, the cholera outbreak is continuing to spread because people still do not have access to clean water in the wake of Cyclone Idai. Residents of Biera are facing the brunt of the outbreak due to poor water infrastructure and overcrowding. Many of these residents have been moved to displacement camps with equally poor conditions.

There are 3100 confirmed cases of cholera as of March 27th, with six deaths. Health volunteers and officials in Beira are hoping that cholera cases will fall in response to the restoration of running water. However, this running water can only reach 60 percent of the city’s residents.

Dr. Katrin Duget from the Pioneros Centre explains that the use of antiretroviral drugs is a good solution for the time being. Well-equipped health facilities are heading distribution efforts.

A Nation Moving Forward

Many civilians will struggle to move forward, as they have to work to rebuild entire communities and homes. For now, it is important to focus on longer-term solutions such as an investment in vaccines. Cholera can also be treated by simple rehydration, but it must come quickly because the disease can kill within hours. The water filters being installed by the UN are helping communities gain access to clean water to hydrate properly.

In the months after disasters such as Cyclone Idai, it is important to look at proactive measures that can be taken before another crisis strikes. These include food education programs as well as vaccinations which can help civilians survive during a lack of widespread resources.

Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr

Department of State
The Department of State (DOS) is an executive office that is responsible for international relations. It serves as an advisory role to the President and represents the United States at the United Nations. But, there’s much more to it than just negotiating foreign treaties and running embassies. Here are 10 cool facts about the State Department.

10 Cool Facts About the State Department

  1. The Department of State is the keeper of the Great Seal of the United States. The seal is kept securely under lock and key in a glass enclosure in the Department’s Exhibit Hall. It can be used only with the permission of the Secretary of State. Over the years, the DOS has placed the Great Seal on display for the public, the first time being in 1955.
  2. The DOS has its own Diplomatic Motor Vehicle Office for foreign missions. This office works under the 1978 Diplomatic Relations Act and can issue registrations for foreign diplomats who have immunity in the United States. It also issues license plates, insurance and driver’s licenses.
  3. The State Department sponsors the Fulbright Program. Fulbright was established in 1946 and has had more than 250,000 participants since. The program’s mission is to create opportunities for better interactions and understanding between Americans and people of other nations. This is achieved by providing scholarships to American scholars who are seeking to study, teach or conduct research abroad and to foreign scholars who want to do the same in the United States.
  4. The Department of State as a top entry-level employer. With 1,000 job openings in 2019, the Department of State also offers remote internships called eInternships through the Virtual Student Federal Service program. The positions are open to part-time and full-time undergraduate and graduate students. All majors and backgrounds are encouraged to apply. In 2019, there have already been more than 125 internships offered through many different departments of the DOS, bringing new projects each year for students to participate in. The jobs vary from data visualization and infographic design to English-Spanish translations for the National Archives. The eInternships run from September through May; they are unpaid, part-time and some offer college credit as well as a variety of other benefits.
  5. The Department of State gives Linguist of the Year awards. The recipient of this award is an employee of the Foreign or Civil Service who has achieved a high level of knowledge of one or more foreign languages and who has demonstrated the ability to use that language to further U.S. diplomacy. The award comes with a $10,000 cash prize.
  6. The Department of State houses the Diplomatic Reception Rooms in Washington, D.C. In those rooms, the Secretary of State receives important guests. One historically important and cool fact is that the John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room is home to the desk upon which the Treaty of Paris 1783 was signed, ending the Revolutionary War. The rooms also contain one of the United States’ most rare collections of fine and decorative arts, which have a value of more than $100 million.
  7. The State Department collaborates with USAID. Even though USAID is not part of the government, the DOS has provided USAID with guidance on foreign policy since 1961. The DOS makes sure that foreign aid is distributed according to U.S. policy standards.
  8. The Department of State employs diplomatic couriers. This job requires nearly constant travel in order to escort and deliver diplomatic pouches with classified material between the Department of State and its foreign missions. Diplomatic couriers are covered under the Vienna Convention as they work under international treaties. They spend more than 75 percent of their work time in international or domestic travel. Peter Parker was the first man to be commissioned as a diplomatic courier in 1776. However, it wasn’t until World War I that the DOS started hiring couriers regularly. Today it employs approximately 100 diplomatic couriers.
  9. The Department of State is leading the Global Connect Initiative. Announced at the United Nations in 2015, the initiative aims to provide 1.5 billion people with internet access by 2020. Global Connect stresses the importance of internet access in economic development because it facilitates investment and creates jobs.
  10. The Department of State provides travel advisories with the possibility to sign up for travel alerts. The Bureau of Consular Affairs monitors safety around the world and issues warnings about security levels. Upon registration, people can receive notifications via e-mail or on an app on their phones. The website offers travel advice for people from all walks of life to ensure safety and well-being.

The State Department is responsible for the United States’ foreign policy and international relations. It operates in the United States and in its missions based in other countries. Despite its serious and global role, the State Department does some cool things. These 10 cool facts about the State Department show that it is about more than just policies; it offers adventurous careers, scholarships and awards and even lessons on the United State’s art history.

– Ewa Devaux
Photo: Google

U.S. Benefits From Foreign Aid to Gabon
As the United States faces potential cuts to its foreign aid budget, it is important to recognize that the relationship between the United States and any country receiving aid is not a one-way transaction. The benefits reaped by both countries outweigh any costs. The many ways the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Gabon is one such example. With a diplomatic friendship stretching back 58 years, the U.S. assists Gabon with funds that power humanitarian programs. These programs fight poverty, human trafficking and disease in Gabon. In return, the U.S. has gained a stable trading partner and international ally.   

The Partnership Between the U.S. and Gabon

When Gabon gained independence from France in 1960, U.S.-Gabon relations grew quickly. During the cold war era, Gabon was an ally of the West and has always sought to remain close with U.S. leaders, no matter who occupies the Oval Office. Gabon’s large oil reserves have received investments from U.S. presidential administrations, starting with Nixon and going all the way to the Obama administration. Gabon’s oil industry has been key to the development of strong trade partnerships with the U.S.

As reported in 2018, the U.S. had been importing about 30,000 barrels of crude oil from Gabon daily.  However, it isn’t all about oil; Gabon is ranked 134 as the U.S.’ largest goods trading partner. In 2016, there was a total of $192 million in goods traded. The U.S. exported a total of $89 million in goods to Gabon, and in return, imported $199 million in Gabonese products, clearly showing that the trading benefits alone outweigh any foreign aid costs.

The main products being imported from Gabon include mineral fuels, wood products and rubber while the U.S. mainly exports poultry products, beef products, cotton and sweeteners. While there is a certain amount of trade occurring between both nations, the number of goods being exchanged could be improved substantially by an increase in the amount of aid that Gabon is receiving from America. As more trading occurs as a result of Gabon’s ongoing development, the more the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Gabon.    

The Rainforest

The two countries also cooperate to spearhead conservation efforts that seek to protect the country’s rainforest from deforestation and poaching. As a central African nation, Gabon part of the second largest rainforest in the world: the Congo Basin. The Congo Basin’s many natural resources provide food and shelter to more than 60 million of its inhabitants. Land in this area creates many viable, renewable products that have long reinforced a strong trading partnership with the U.S.

The United States Agency for International Development, (USAID), has employed an initiative called the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) in Gabon and six other nations in the Congo Basin: the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of the Congo.

The program seeks to bolster conservation efforts in these six countries as they battle poaching and deforestation while, at the same time, trying to improve responsible land management in the Congo Basin. CARPE works with communities and governments and nonprofits in these central African nations to speed up the transition from developing states to financially and politically secure democracies. It provides funding to ensure that the region’s rich, biodiverse habitat is preserved and that the transition from developing nation to developed nation is accompanied by low emissions and environmentally conscious economic strategies.  

Looking Ahead

Looking to the future, it is clear that the relationship between the U.S. and Gabon is beneficial for both countries. The ways that the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Gabon will only be strengthened as Gabon continues to develop, bolstered by USAID through programs such as CARPE. The 58-year relationship between the two countries serves as an example of the mutually beneficial results of foreign aid. 

Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr