Information and stories on foreign aid.

Foreign Aid to Yemen
Yemen is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the U.N. The civil war has been going on since 2014 and the country is not facing another challenge due to the Russia-Ukraine War.

The Civil War and its Impact on the Yemeni People

Two main groups are controlling different parts of Yemen. The internationally recognized government (IRG) is controlling the south and east of the country, and the Houthi group is controlling the west of the country and its capital, Sana’a. The IRG is also supporting the Southern Transitional Council (STC). The situation caused around 377,000 casualties between 2015 and 2021. Although casualties slowed down in 2022 due to the ceasefire which took place between April and October 2022, Yemeni people are in need of humanitarian assistance. According to a U.N. report, more than 23.5 million people of Yemen’s 31.2 million population need humanitarian assistance.

Food insecurity, disruption of education, scarcity of health care facilities, severe drought and intense flooding are among many issues people are facing in Yemen. The issues require humanitarian assistance in relation to the problems.

Education

The U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that primary and secondary school attendance has fallen sharply since the beginning of the conflict, from 100% to 75% and from 50% to 28% in 2021, respectively. Girls often endure the most challenges due to a lack of education.

Health Care

In February 2021, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees stated that “Yemen cannot even afford to worry about the coronavirus” because of famine risk and other infectious diseases such as diphtheria and measles. The outbreak of cholera in Yemen in 2016 was also one of the worst in recent history. Moreover, only half of Yemen’s sanitary facilities were fully operating in 2021.

Food Security

Even before the current war, food insecurity was a problem. For the period from October to December 2022, the World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that 54% of the population of Yemen suffered from extreme food insecurity while 2.2 million children and 1.3 million pregnant and nursing women experienced acute malnutrition.

The WFP is also facing underfunding as it stood around $1 billion short of its $1.98 billion requirements for 2022. As a result, in both December 2021 and June 2022, the organization expressed that it has had to reduce the rations it provides.

The Russia-Ukraine War also deeply impacted Yemen’s food security, as the country used to import 40% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

Main Donors of Foreign Aid to Yemen

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a report on March 16, 2022, stating the countries’ foreign aid to Yemen pledges. The U.S. and the European Commission were the first two potential donors of foreign aid to Yemen in the previous year.

The U.S. pledged around $500,000 and donated more than $1 billion. Also, the European Commission pledged $173 million USD and donated €170 million.

The U.N. is appealing for large amounts for Yemen. The March 2022 appeal was the largest amount for Yemen since the conflict began, which was $4.3 billion. However, the U.N. could receive only 54% of the required funds at $2.3 billion.

In addition to the efforts on brokering for peace, the international community should also increase the amount of foreign aid to Yemen to respond to the world’s humanitarian crisis.

– Murathan Arslancan
Photo: Flickr

Social Media’s Effects on Foreign Aid Nowadays, most people seek their news from various social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok). The rise of news media in the 1980s brought a new age where audiences access real-time global news constantly. One of these newer platforms is TikTok, the first major non-U. S. social media competitor, originating in China from the company ByteDance. Currently, TikTok’s platform highlights social media’s effects on foreign aid as global crises like the war in Ukraine unfold in real time from Ukrainian influencers who urge action. Digital platforms like TikTok can influence popular opinion on foreign policy. Social media’s effects on foreign aid and how a country allocates this aid stem from these platforms’ ability to determine what information and ideas are shared.

A closer look at how news content influences American opinions on foreign aid and relations comes from recent Pew Research Center surveys. These surveys found that compared to other countries, Americans view foreign policy very differently depending on where they receive their news. The survey found that those who received their political news from right-leaning media sources were less open to international cooperation than those who viewed their news from various news sources. Similarly, those that rely on left-leaning sources were more open to foreign intervention. These surveys demonstrate how important news and social media are to informing U.S. citizens about foreign affairs and policy and how they direct their audiences to act.

The CNN Effect

The term “CNN effect,” created in the 1980s around the new media boom, underlines communication technology’s ability to potentially spur responses from domestic audiences and political leaders regarding global events covered in real-time, according to Piers Robinson’s study.

One example of the CNN effect is the West’s intervention in Northern Iraq and Somalia, which sparked a debate about social media’s impact on foreign aid and policy. During this time, as citizens learned about news in Northern Iraq and Somalia, they increased pressure on politicians to respond to these crises. According to Robinson’s study, the debate sparked because citizens often worked with incomplete information without context or wrong information. Therefore, they influenced their public leaders and how they responded to the conflict too hastily. This demonstrates the importance of fighting misinformation on social media platforms, as the news people digest through social media directly impacts the pressure they put on their political leaders to respond to foreign issues.

The War in Ukraine: A Case Study

On Feb. 24, 2022, a TikTok video documented the beginning of the Ukraine war depicting missiles falling over Kyiv, providing early, decontextualized and direct access to images and videos of the Russian Invasion. Many have named the war in Ukraine “the first TikTok war,” although other conflicts, such as the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring uprisings, have been covered by social media. However, the platforms used for organizing protests and broadcasting footage were mainly Facebook and Twitter.

Access to direct photos and footage of the war in Ukraine from Ukrainian accounts raises Western sympathies as foreign news floods media feeds. Ukrainians are much less distant than war victims in the past as people recognize the same references, music and social networks as those in Ukraine. Ukrainian photojournalism on social media creates a new intimacy, especially as traditional news organizations pull their journalists out of the war in Ukraine for safety reasons.

The White House Briefing Session

The current war in Ukraine is an example of social media’s effects on foreign aid and how foreign leaders, specifically the U.S., approach news regarding the war in Ukraine. In March 2022, the White House reached out to Ukrainian TikTokers to hold a briefing session regarding the war in Ukraine. Thirty influencers attended the Zoom call alongside the special adviser for communications at the White House National Security Council, Matt Miller and former White House press secretary Jen Psaki. They covered the United States’ goals to distribute aid and information about the United States’ reaction should a nuclear attack.

Since most of Generation Z receive their news via TikTok and use the platform to research news topics and learn about the larger world, the White House decided to hold the briefing to ensure the information on TikTok comes from an authoritative, reputable source. The guests, Gen-Z creators with 500,000+ followers, noted the importance of knowing the correct information regarding the war in Ukraine because they “set the tone” for information their audiences receive and how they assess it.

Human Rights at the Forefront

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, social media companies and messaging services have aimed to block disinformation and state-sponsored media to respect human rights in wartime. As crises worldwide are viewed daily, companies are called to fulfill human rights responsibilities on their platforms. This includes avoiding infringement on human rights and addressing adverse impacts on human rights that stem from media and messaging companies’ practices. The Human Rights Watch documents social media companies’ underinvestment in human rights challenges worldwide, despite these platforms’ roles in spreading misinformation. Moving forward, monitoring the incitement of violence, hate speech and disinformation is crucial for social media platforms and responding adequately to conflicts.

News and Social Media In Review

The War in Ukraine and the long list of other global crises covered by social media are examples of social media’s effects on foreign aid. The ability of global citizens to view intimate, real-time footage and news about the crisis in Ukraine elicits sympathy for foreign affairs. This direct access to human rights violations encourages media consumers to act and call their leaders to respond to foreign crises.

– Arden Schraff
Photo: Unsplash

Foreign Aid to South Sudan
The need for foreign aid to South Sudan is quickly growing. Not only is South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis worsening but extreme flooding, mass famine, economic troubles and aid cuts combine to exacerbate poverty and instability. As the Russia-Ukraine war continues, South Sudan struggles as donors scale back their donations and redirect their foreign assistance budgets to aid Ukraine.

Violence and Political Unrest

The political situation in South Sudan is shaky and has led to violence and insecurity among the South Sudanese people. For context, South Sudan voted to secede from Sudan and became an independent state in 2011. However, shortly after, in 2013, civil war broke out due to a conflict between South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir, Sudan People’s Liberation Army in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) and “other armed groups and affiliated militias.” The warring parties reached a peace agreement in 2015, but that quickly fell apart in 2016. In 2018, Kiir and Riek Machar, former leaders of the SPLA-IO, signed a peace accord in hopes of resolution.

The peace accord led to the division of power in a unity government officially inaugurated in February 2020, with Kiir as president and Machar as the first vice president. In August 2022, the unity government decided to extend by two years the post-civil war “transitional period,” which the government previously agreed would end in 2022. “Due to the lack of progress on many provisions of the peace agreement,” the transitional period will end in 2023, Africanews reports.

The need for foreign aid in South Sudan is critical because the general violence may have lessened, but the prevalence of other atrocities has risen. For example, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) found a “218[%] increase in conflict-related sexual violence” at the end of the second quarter of 2022.

In 2021, UNMISS documented 440 civilian murders and 64 rapes in Western Equatoria committed by the SPLA-IO and the military. South Sudan has held no perpetrators accountable and some senior officials in the government are advocating against accountability for various crimes, including ones committed by rebel groups and government authorities.

Flooding and Extreme Famine

The need for foreign aid to South Sudan is also high due to recurring mass flooding and extreme famine. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2022, the flooding impacted around 1 million people. Bearing in mind that South Sudan has a population of about 12.4 million people, this statistic means flooding has affected around 8% of the country’s total population.

A World Food Programme (WFP) report published in July 2022 reveals the extent of the extreme famine within South Sudan. Of the population of 12.4 million, around 7.7 million people are enduring severe food insecurity. This equates to more than 60% of the population struggling to meet their food needs. The report also reveals that more than “one-third of the counties in South Sudan have Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates that exceed the emergency threshold of 15[%].”

Economic Woes and Aid Cuts

In areas such as Warrap, locals say the price of basic goods has risen by 50% due to the “war in Ukraine as well as local currency depreciation and other supply chain disruptions.” In an October 2022 interview with The New Humanitarian, Agany Monychol, a doctor who runs a hospital in Tonj, said malnutrition cases are now twice as prevalent due to the rising prices of food.

The New Humanitarian also notes that aid cuts are not just a result of donor reallocations to Ukraine but also stem from a distrust of the South Sudanese government due to corrupt spending.

In June 2022, the WFP suspended aid to 1.7 million South Sudanese people due to “critical funding shortages.” Donor funding for Monychol’s hospital had also been reduced by 30%, leading to staff cuts and patients struggling without medicine.

Action to Assist South Sudan

The humanitarian crisis and growing poverty rates stem from a combination of factors, which is why foreign aid to South Sudan is crucial. According to the latest official World Bank estimates from 2016, 82% of South Sudanese people live under the national poverty line, giving South Sudan a first-place ranking for the highest poverty rates out of the World Bank’s recorded list of country-specific poverty estimates.

Despite funding shortfalls, the WFP provided 4 million people in South Sudan with food aid between January 2022 and June 2022. The U.S. is also committed to providing aid to South Sudan. According to the Department of State’s website, the U.S. is the top-ranking provider of foreign aid to South Sudan. From January 2022 to August 2022, the U.S. supplied South Sudan with more than $371 million worth of humanitarian aid.

As the youngest nation in the world, it will take time for the government of South Sudan to address issues relating to poverty while focusing on establishing political stability to maintain peace. Until then, it is important to continue to provide foreign aid to South Sudan in order to address the humanitarian crisis.

– Matthew Wikfors
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Palestine
There is no escaping the fact that the West Bank has significant indicators of improved living conditions and infrastructure. Roads that were once rough dirt trails have been smoothed out over the past three decades. Standard childhood vaccination rates have reached nearly 100%. Boys and girls are attending school and reading at record levels.

Since the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s, a treaty that was meant to deliver peace and a Palestinian state, significant sums of foreign aid to Palestine made possible many of these changes: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that between 1994 and 2020, funding to the Palestinians totaled more than $40 billion. 

Poverty-Affected Citizens

Due to the embargo on the Gaza Strip since 2007, which has caused a resurgence of hostilities and political divides, the Palestinian economy has suffered. A total of 2.1 million Palestinians—out of a total population of 5.3 million—need humanitarian aid. Parallelly, 80% of Gaza’s populace is aid-dependent.

A cycle of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity has mired people, which the rise in food and gasoline prices as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated. In the West Bank, where more than 60% of the land is under Israeli control and home to East Jerusalem, Area C and H2, 800,000 Palestinians require greater access to basic amenities like electricity, water and health care yet there is still little prospect for education or economic opportunity.

Individual States

Between 1994 and 2020, Germany, France, Norway, the U.K. and Japan provided more than 20% of all foreign aid to Palestine. Along with their contributions to UNRWA, Germany and other European nations were anticipated to invest up to €80 million ($70 million) in water projects in Gaza in 2021.

The European Union

In 2021, the European Commission rapidly redirected €100,000 from current World Health Organization (WHO) initiatives to address the first emergency health requirements in reaction to the violence raging throughout Palestine and the high number of civilian deaths. The Palestinian Authority launched the COVID-19 immunization program on March 21, 2021, following the receipt of vaccinations from the COVAX facility.

With more than €2.2 billion, the EU and its member states are one of the largest funders of COVAX. Since 2000, the European Union has contributed more than €818 million in humanitarian aid to support the Palestinian people with their most basic needs.

The United Nations

U.N. organizations spent nearly $4.5 billion, including $600 million in 2020 alone, in Gaza between 2014 and 2020. Three-quarters of Gaza’s population are Palestinian refugees, who receive more than 80% of that funding through the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA, which also offers food assistance and health services, runs schools for some 280,000 students in Gaza.

The World Bank

The World Bank granted a $30 million Development Policy Grant for the Palestinian Territories to assist reforms in the areas of inclusiveness, transparency and the green economy on July 7, 2022. Additionally, the World Bank will give $7 million to Gaza’s most vulnerable populations.

While the Gaza Emergency Support for Social Services Project offers access to a variety of social services, short-term funding for services, and online work possibilities, 80% of recipients of a comparable intervention under the Gaza Emergency Cash for Work and Self-Employment Support fund contracts worth more than $500,000, demonstrating the effectiveness of this modality in fostering employment prospects for adolescents and women in particular.

The Arab Nations

Between 1994 and 2020, five Arab nations gave the Palestinians the majority of the $8.5 billion in Arab funding. Their abundance in oil and gas plays a crucial role in maintaining the welfare of Palestinians, which also increases their capacity to have an influence on the Palestinian cause. Saudi Arabia received $4 billion in donations during this time, followed by the UAE ($2.1 billion), Algeria ($908 million), Qatar ($766 million) and Kuwait ($758 million) as the top five donors.

Since 2012, Qatar has given Gaza $1.3 billion in aid for infrastructure, health care and agriculture. This includes the $360 million allocated in January for 2021 and the additional $500 million pledged in May for post-war rehabilitation. The money from Qatar also helps pay the wages of the Hamas leadership and supports needy families. According to the Palestinian Authority, $1.7 billion will go to Gaza, with it primarily going toward pay for the tens of thousands of government officials who had to leave their jobs in 2007 when Hamas assumed power.

Conclusion

Foreign aid to Palestinians came in a variety of forms and sizes, for a variety of reasons. These included crisis relief, development projects, budget support, donations to grassroots groups, loans and technical help. Regardless of the aims or types of help that Palestinians have received over the past 20 years, this aid has had a substantial impact on the country’s political, social and economic landscape.

Although there have been substantial socioeconomic improvements, more foreign aid in Palestine is necessary to promote the establishment of institutions necessary for a two-state solution and to fulfill Palestinian aspirations for their economy to be on the road to sustainable growth.

– Karisma Maran
Photo: Flickr

how-norways-foreign-aid-is-fighting-global-poverty
Norway is a country in Europe with more than 5 million residents. Although possessing little hard power on the global stage, Norway has made its influence known through its foreign aid program, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). Norway’s contribution of $4.7 billion to its foreign aid program in 2021 constituted 0.93% of its Gross National Income (GNI), making it the second largest contributor among OECD countries as a percentage of GNI to foreign aid. Norway’s foreign aid acts as a major player in global development programs and given its relatively small size serves as a testament to how any country can play a role in promoting global development to reduce poverty. In fact, Norway has made significant investments in major fields to reduce poverty and unleash opportunities for a more prosperous and stable world.

A Leader in Promoting Universal Education

Norwegian foreign aid has played a critical role in promoting global access to quality education in recent years. From 2013-2016, Norway met its pledge to nearly double its annual education aid from $210 million to $400 million by 2016. This increase resulted in several achievements in promoting quality education opportunities for children in developing countries.

During this three-year period, 3.1 million children obtained support each year, 1.6 million were in conflict-affected countries, 11 million students received school supplies along with 8.5 million textbooks, 140,000 teachers underwent training and 5,400 schools either underwent construction or received repair in several developing countries, according to Their World.

These concrete gains for education access from Norwegian foreign aid could help reduce poverty by promoting access to education and the socioeconomic opportunities it creates to achieve higher living standards for future workers. Countries receiving the bulk of aid are also recovering from or are currently enduring civil war and negative impacts on education. Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Palestinean territories and Lebanon are the biggest recipients of Norad aid, according to OECD.

This means Norwegian foreign aid is working to promote education in countries where the effects of war have impacted education access most acutely through the destruction of infrastructure and threat of violence inhibiting the experience of quality education.

The U.N. lauded Norway for its commitment to promoting global education through its Norad increases, as it represented an increase from 2% to 9% of humanitarian funding for one country going to education, more than twice the U.N. goal of 4%, according to Their World.

The country has also taken action to rally other countries behind promoting education access. It hosted the 2015 Oslo Education Summit to provide a global platform for forging a strategy to promote universal education in participating countries. At this Summit, the World Bank pledged to commit $5 billion over five years to global education.
Norwegian foreign aid has played a critical role in both contributing more than a fair share of its aid to education, but also as a small country nonetheless played an important role in galvanizing the international community to promote global education in its aid programs to reduce poverty.

Promotion of Global Health

Norway’s foreign aid has also played an important role in promoting global health and recently combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 2000-2016, Norway spent roughly 53 billion Norwegian Krone (NOK) ($5.7 billion) on global health care programs through Norad. As with education, Norwegian foreign aid has worked to promote global cooperation to promote human health through collective action.

From its NOK 4.7 billion ($494 million) Norad spent on health care in 2016, 80% of it underwent distribution through multilateral organizations, demonstrating Norway recognizes the importance of galvanizing other countries to work together in reducing poverty through the promotion of quality health care access to have a healthy workforce capable of contributing to national development and achieving higher living standards for themselves.

Norwegian foreign aid for health care like education has also seen greater contributions than other developed countries. In 2020, Norway spent NOK $6.6 billion (roughly $665 million) on healthcare-related foreign aid.

Norad aims its investments in health care at four main goals. Reduction of deaths from preventable diseases through promotion of food security, clean water, sanitation and the delivery of vaccines. Also, equality of access to and distribution of quality health care services and combating corruption to ensure the former is accomplished.

Combating COVID-19

Norway’s foreign aid has also contributed to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2020, Norway has increased its health-related foreign aid expenditures by 8.4% in direct response to combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Norway has also along with South Africa co-chaired the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, a global initiative to promote equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, raising $18 billion in the process.

Through such spending and global leadership, Norway has proved itself an important factor not just by itself but also by supporting the global response to a global health crisis to combat poverty through better human health.
Norway for its small size plays a major role in the fight against global poverty. The fact Norway can contribute as much to reducing global poverty can serve as inspiration that both anyone or any country can play a role in fighting global poverty in the interest of a more prosperous and stable world. Norway’s efforts can also serve as an example that more powerful countries could do more, as the combination of Norwegian commitment and great power capacity to execute such commitment could achieve immense gains in the fight against global poverty through international aid.

John Zak
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in Times of Crisis
The world seems to be dwindling under a series of historic shocks. Beginning with a global pandemic in 2020 and moving to a new war in Europe as well as significant changes in abortion legislation in the U.S., many parts of the world are moving into an energy crisis. With wealthy nations having their hands full with domestic issues and geopolitical antagonism, developing countries are on their own. Here is why foreign aid in times of crisis is a critical issue and what some are doing about it.

Partnership and Security

When globalization is on the decline, poorer countries often end up on their own. That puts the countries in a position where they have to find countries and organizations that are still willing to provide foreign aid in times of crisis to them after wealthier western countries have disregarded their needs. Instead wealthier western countries defaulted on their promises to raise living standards and increase national security. With the world becoming increasingly fragmented with a lack of genuine cooperation, global welfare and security are at a large risk. Further, global issues, such as the climate crisis, that require a joint effort from as many nations as possible, will be even harder to address.

Changing Weather Patterns

Whilst changing weather patterns are a hurdle that every country needs to face and adapt to, it is the low-income countries that carry the brunt of it. Especially, the sub-Saharan regions in Africa that such weather phenomena affect leading those regions to be reliant on long-term investment. A study that the IMF conducted has shown that one draught can decrease an African country’s medium-term economic growth potential by one percentage point. Meanwhile, savings from long-term investments that go towards improving resilience and coping mechanisms have proven to be of great significance. Some of the coping mechanisms include improved seed varieties, durable health systems and refined access to finance and telecommunications.

In Ethiopia alone, farmers’ yield increased by 40% as a result of improved seed varieties that proved resistant to rust, a fungus. Unfortunately, countries that face challenges of adaption most often do not possess the means to do so. The farmers lack funding and institutional capacity, hence why it is down to the international community to prevent changing weather patterns from threatening development and stability in low-income countries.

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost 15 million lives and pushed 100 million people into poverty in 2020 alone. The pandemic demanded a unified response across nations, constituting large amounts of foreign aid in times of crisis, to prevent a setback in human development and human rights. Yet, that did not happen. Instead, developed countries injected trillions of dollars into their own recovery, leaving poorer countries to mend themselves. It does not come as any surprise that in May 2022, 72% of people in high-income countries received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, contrary to 17% in low-income countries.

With developing countries entering the pandemic with lower fiscal buffers than they had in 2008-09, in the aftermath they are now faced with unequal recovery, effects of the climate crisis and economic shocks to food, fuel and financial markets. Arguably, the neglect of the global responsibility that wealthy countries cause this. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ stressed to the Economic and Social Council segment on operational activities for development, in New York, in May that “In a world of crisis, rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is more important than ever.”

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

More encouraging is the 2030 Agenda that the United Nations developed which constitutes a reformed development system to provide foreign aid in times of crisis that matches countries’ needs and priorities. No poverty, no hunger, good health, quality education and gender equality are only some examples of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to accelerate progress in low-income countries.

To promote substantial change, funding is necessary. With less than 10 years left, world leaders at the SDG Summit in 2019 promoted “A decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”. This represents the kind of innovative, cooperative model the world needs to rekindle relationships, strengthen organizations and expand financing in times of crisis.

The World Bank Suspends Debt

In an attempt to ease the burden COVID-19 and other shocks have put on low-income countries, the world has introduced the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). The initiative suspended $12.9 billion in debt-service payments for 48 participating countries, allowing them to focus their financial capacities on protecting the lives and livelihoods of their citizens.

Looking Ahead

The multitude of crises and complexity of domestic and global issues that the world is facing has led to a demand for stronger leadership and cooperation at all levels. Moreover, the bar is rising higher for the wealthier nations to live up to their responsibility to lower-income nations by providing enough funding to prevent setbacks in human development and promote sustainable progress.

Pauline Lützenkirchen
Photo: Flickr

Poland's Foreign Aid
In a matter of decades, Poland has gone from being a recipient of foreign aid to a strong presence within the international donor community. Poland is not the only country to do this. China, India, Japan, Korea and Thailand have all undergone a similar recipient-to-donor transition. Just how did Poland and other former aid recipients transform into emerging or full-fledged aid donors? This article will provide a short history of Poland’s foreign aid in the hopes of shedding some light on the answer.

 The 1950s-1970s: A Soviet Donor Under Comecon

One of Poland’s earliest exercises in providing international aid was through the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, popularly known as Comecon. Founded in 1949, Comecon’s purpose was to strengthen economic cooperation and development among Eastern European countries. Alongside Poland, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania made up Comecon’s membership.

As far as general principles were concerned, Comecon’s preamble emphasized the idea of mutual economic assistance in favor of maintaining the stronghold of communism and socialism in the Eastern bloc. It was through Comecon that Poland first assumed its role as a donor and Poland’s foreign aid began.

The 1980s: Economic Crises and the Fall of the USSR

During the 1980s, an unprecedented economic and political crisis struck Poland. The causes of the country’s crisis had deep roots in its system of a planned economy and policy of forced industrialization.

By the end of 1981, Poland had accumulated a foreign debt of $27 billion. Polish standards of living continued to fall rapidly as the country’s economic struggles worsened until 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The few years after the fall of the USSR between 1990 and 1994 was when Poland could be said to have fully made the switch from Soviet donor to the beneficiary of the West. During this time, the G-24 and international financial institutions sent $36 billion in aid to Poland. The United States separately committed another $719 million in grant assistance.

The 1990s-2000s: Poland’s Recovery and Accession to the EU and OECD

Poland used its foreign assistance to restabilize and restructure its economy. Over the decades, it has even become one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe. Poland’s process of accession to the European Union, which officially occurred in 2004, marked the beginning of its transition from that of a recipient to a donor.

Polish NGOs began to enter other parts of Eastern Europe to help their Western counterparts communicate with the local communities, according to a University of Cambridge Summary Paper. Polish NGOs then shifted from doing this to starting their own initiatives and establishing the national ODA (Official Development Assistance) structures.

Decades Later, Poland Gives Back

Poland has since become an active participant in global development cooperation.“Polish Aid” is one of Poland’s most prominent development and humanitarian assistance programs today. Directed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Polish Aid’s mission is to contribute to building a more sustainable world for present and future generations by providing humanitarian aid, development aid and global education.

 The program underwent implementation in forms specified in Article 4 of the Development Cooperation Act of September 16, 2011. In 2019, the grant equivalent of Poland’s ODA was nearly PLN 3 billion.

Over the years, Poland has prioritized post-Soviet countries in their aid allocation. Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey, Tanzania, India, Mongolia, China, Kenya, Iraq, Georgia, Moldova and Lebanon were key recipients of Polish bilateral assistance in 2019.

Poland’s bilateral assistance has gone primarily to helping former Communist countries transition to democracy, improve the economy and support civil society.

In effect, Poland’s aid allocation has raised levels of economic, social and political freedom in states that previously struggled to offer these liberties. Ukraine is one such state that has developed rapidly under the auspices of Poland, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Since gaining its independence in 1991, Ukraine now boasts a strong civil society, well-organized political parties and a diverse and pluralistic polity with multiple centers of power.

Poland is just one of a plethora of countries that have evolved from beneficiary to donor in a few short decades. The history of Poland’s foreign aid should serve as an important reminder of the reasons for how effective and worthwhile providing aid to a struggling country is. It might be that the initial leg-up is all a country needs to get a position where they too can help others.

– Lauren Hyomin Kim
Photo: Flickr

Switzerland’s Foreign Aid
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) provides the basis of Switzerland’s foreign aid strategy. The country’s Foreign Policy Strategy 2020-23 focuses on building “peace and security, prosperity, sustainability and digitalization.”

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Switzerland’s foreign aid to Ukraine will double by the end of 2023 to $104 million. Switzerland’s support of Ukraine coincides with its foreign aid strategy to build peace and security for people around the world.

Peace and Security

According to a press release from January 2020, the FDFA approved Switzerland’s foreign aid strategy to construct a world safe for everyone to live in and prosper. “In the spirit of cooperation with other countries, Switzerland is committed to working towards a safe and peaceful world where everyone can live free from want and fear, have their human rights protected and enjoy economic prosperity,” FDFA stated on its website.

Accordingly, Switzerland’s candidacy on the U.N. Security Council in 2023-24 will advance Switzerland’s foreign aid globally but especially to Ukraine. Switzerland’s temporary seat will begin in January 2023 through December 2024 and during those two years, Switzerland will “intensify their work towards a peaceful international order,” according to the FDFA.

Foreign Aid to Ukraine

In July 2022, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis announced that Switzerland’s foreign aid will double in Ukraine. He pledged approximately $104 million to Ukraine for reconstruction. According to Cassis, “Ukraine has to lead its reconstruction, but we have to support it,” Swissinfo reported.

Cassis also announced that Switzerland will continue to support organizations operating in Ukraine. He said that “Multilateral efforts are ‘an antidote to the use of force’.” However, Switzerland remains open to peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

Protection for Ukrainian Refugees

In March 2022, the Swiss government decided to grant protection to Ukrainian refugees. Protection will extend to any Ukrainian citizen or resident of Ukraine. It also includes people whom the Ukrainian government granted protection before February 2022.

This protection, or Permit S, is a temporary measure “to persons in need of protection as long as they are exposed to a serious general danger, in particular during a war or civil war as well as in situations of general violence” (Asylum Act §§ 4, 66, para. 2.). Permit S is valid for one year. However, it may extend to five years, depending on the length of the ongoing war.

The Bid to Seize Russian Assets

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the Swiss government to freeze their Russian oligarch’s assets. The U.S. House of Representatives urged President Joe Biden to use the funds from the Russian assets to support military and humanitarian aid.

Switzerland froze the Russian oligarch’s assets. However, it has yet to announce any intention to take control of the funds and use them for Switzerland’s foreign aid in Ukraine. Cassis said, “This is a global question and Switzerland will announce its position at the appropriate time.”

Switzerland has always valued peace and it strives to create a peaceful world. Its temporary seat on the U.N. Council could further implement its foreign aid policy to create a secure and safe world for all people to live in. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, Switzerland’s foreign aid strategy to support Ukraine provides hope for the Ukrainian citizens and the world that Switzerland’s value for peace will be one of their top priorities.

– Chris Karenbauer
Photo: Flickr

U.K.'s Foreign Aid
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been facing significant challenges in helping Afghans struggling with poverty and food insecurity. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) said that “nearly 20 million people are facing food insecurity” in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the IPC said that 6.6 million of them are struggling with “acute hunger.” The key factors exacerbating food insecurity in Afghanistan are sharp economic decline, drought and high prices for food. However, the U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP alleviates that burden which allows the organization to help the Afghans.

The Importance of Foreign Aid

The financial assistance from the U.K. and even other countries, allowed the WFP to provide nutritional support and emergency food to 17 million Afghans, according to the WFP’s website. This highlights the importance of foreign aid spending in saving the lives of those living in poverty or below the poverty line.

There was a feeling of hopelessness amongst international affairs observers regarding Afghanistan after the Taliban came back to power and the economy deteriorated sharply. Nevertheless, the financial assistance the WFP has received from countries willing to help gives people hope that Afghanistan can be rebuilt one Afghan at a time. The proof is in the accounts of the Afghans the WFP is helping.

The Success Story of Alia and Her Husband

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the pandemic has caused many Afghans, especially women, to lose their jobs and livelihoods. Alia used to own a beauty parlor in Afghanistan and her husband worked as a mechanic and both provided for their “four sons and three daughters,” the WFP reported.

However, after the economy collapsed and the Taliban took over, Alia lost her job because the Taliban would not allow women to work and her husband stopped working “because of health problems.” Nevertheless, the U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP gave Alia, her husband and her children income and food. Furthermore, their children were also able to go to school afterward. However, they are not the only Afghans who received foreign aid that stabilized their lives.

The Story of Asefullah and His Family

Asefullah is a 13-year-old kid living in the Khost Province of Afghanistan with his “family of seven.” The family is living in poverty and their only source of income is the oldest sibling who “makes enough to buy bread and nothing else,” according to the WFP. However, after the U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP, Asefullah and his family “no longer face many problems” because the food they have received kept them “alive for the past nine months.”

The story of Alia, Asefullah and their families shows the necessity of preserving or even increasing, foreign aid to developing and war-torn countries. Foreign aid not only reduces poverty but also saves families struggling to make a living.

How Much the UK and Other Countries Spend on Foreign Aid

The foreign aid budget is the most important tool in the international effort to tackle poverty. As of May 16, 2022, the U.K. is spending “about £11.5 billion” every year on foreign aid and international development. Forty percent of the aid budget goes to international organizations such as the U.N. and the World Bank. Liz Truss, the U.K.’s Foreign Secretary, stated on May 16 2022 that the aim of the U.K.’s foreign aid budget is “improving economic security worldwide and increasing jobs and growth at home,” according to BBC.

Furthermore, on May 16, 2022, the U.K.’s foreign office pledged to spend £3 billion on humanitarian aid “over the next three years,” considering it “a priority,” BBC reported. In fact, the U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP in 2021 was £376.260.054 making it the fourth-largest donor in 2021. In other words, the lives of people struggling with poverty and food insecurity depend on the foreign aid budget of countries, specifically powerful ones such as the U.S. and the U.K.

Looking Ahead

Unfortunately, many countries had to reduce their foreign aid spending due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, it was reasonable to conclude that countries would not be able to tackle poverty and food insecurity in developing countries. Nevertheless, U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP managed to stabilize the lives of families in Afghanistan. Therefore, this proves that the recent trend of reducing the foreign aid budget has not impacted the determination of powerful countries to help the vulnerable in developing countries globally.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Syria
Syria, a country once a destination known for its breathtaking scenery and rich culture, remains devastated by a decade-plus long civil war. The Syrian civil war, which began as a peaceful uprising in 2011, has led to about half a million deaths as of 2022. The conflict occurs between the Syrian government, rebel groups, the Islamic State (IS) and foreign countries —  some that side with the government and others that side with the rebel groups. Unfortunately, more than 11 years of intense fighting have taken its toll on the approximately 17.5 million people who live in Syria today. Many international organizations have committed to giving foreign aid to Syria as the vast majority of Syrians require foreign aid for their survival. Crucially, violence and destruction within the country affect the impoverished most severely.

The Need for Aid

According to a March 2022 report provided by the United Nations (U.N.) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), today, about 90% of Syrians live in poverty and more than 80% endure food insecurity. Access to food security, sanitation and health care has become a major issue as a consequence of the civil war. Foreign aid to Syria seeks to combat many of these issues.

According to USAID, roughly 75% of Syrians today are specifically in need of humanitarian foreign aid. Aid can come in the form of food, health care supplies or other basic commodities. The U.N. suggests that cross-border aid, which includes helping people cross the border and transporting aid directly into the country, must remain active. In late May of 2022, the U.N. Syria Commission called on the Security Council to ensure that the border remains open so that organizations can provide the necessary aid.

Currently, there is only one authorized border crossing into Syria, known as Bab al-Hawa, between Northwest Syria and Turkey. Foreign aid requires this crossing to be open so that goods and services can reach the country. Moreover, the U.N. estimates that nearly 15 million people across the country rely on foreign aid. In certain parts of the country, the number of people receiving aid can be even higher, particularly in more conflict-riddled regions.

Of the many forms in which aid can come, food and health care are the most typical and most vital. Food prices are rising while food availability diminishes. Foreign aid can be partially helpful in bringing food supplies to people who either do not have adequate access to food or cannot afford it.

Suppliers of Aid

The largest suppliers of foreign aid to Syria are the European Commission, part of the European Union (EU), which has supplied more than $140 million so far in 2022, and the United States, which gave nearly $15 billion from 2012 to 2022. In addition, the United Nations plays a large role in the delivery of aid to Syria. The U.N.’s food-assistance branch, the World Food Programme (WFP), estimates that 5.6 million Syrians receive aid from the WFP monthly. The process of bringing foreign aid to Syria is a worldwide effort, yet challenges remain severe.

Challenges

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations stated that civilian attacks and attacks on hospitals thwart international aid efforts. Limited access to the country combined with precarious and violent conditions once inside present challenges in transporting aid. The widespread and persistent issues that the Syrian people face, including recurring displacement, make foreign aid even more difficult to circulate. Another challenge is that violence and disturbances in other parts of the world, such as in Ukraine at the moment, place Syria in a somewhat less visible role on the international stage. In particular, a shortage of products, such as oil and wheat from Ukraine, has caused disruptions in Syrian aid programs.

Moving Forward

The current exception, which allows aid to cross the Bab al-Hawa border in Northwest Syria, the last open border into Syria, is set to expire on July 10, 2022. That border opening is a result of a rare policy exception that the U.N. Security Council issued in 2014, which contradicted the Syrian government’s wish to not have foreign interference in Syria. The Security Council resolution required the border at Bab al-Hawa to remain open, which has brought necessary aid to Syria for the past eight years.

Many international organizations, including the U.N. and the EU, believe that this channel is necessary for aid to make its way into Syria. The U.N. Security Council needs to vote to extend the exception before the July deadline to ensure that aid can reach the Syrians in need. Those tracking foreign aid to Syria are hopeful that, if the resolution is extended, the border will continue operating at the status quo and aid will continue to cross the northwest border.

– Lara Drinan
Photo: Flickr