Information and stories on foreign aid.

Ireland's Foreign AidIreland, with a population of approximately five million, has dedicated time and resources to alleviating poverty and hunger. The country’s “A Better World” policy has been a focus of Irish Aid, the government’s official foreign aid program. Ireland’s foreign aid works closely with many countries, prioritizing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, through development partnerships with local governments and communities and other international aid programs.

Irish Aid

Ireland’s foreign aid, better known as Irish Aid continues to provide development aid and assistance for the most impoverished communities in the world. The Humanitarian Programme Plan is one of the main sources of funding for Irish Aid’s work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In 2020, the budget was more than €15.8 million in order to maintain strong partnerships with NGOs while providing humanitarian assistance and emergency relief.

The Rapid Response Corps (RRC) is a group of 120 highly trained members that goes to communities for emergency response aid and crisis management. Irish Aid formed Standby Agreements for the RRC with four U.N. humanitarian agencies: The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Working with these organizations, Ireland’s foreign aid has resulted in more than 400 Rapid Response Corps deployments since 2007.

A Better World

Ireland’s newest foreign policy, “A Better World,” aims to promote sustainability and peace while providing developmental assistance and protecting human rights. Launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, this foreign aid policy is an example of how the Irish government is committing itself to “reaching the U.N. target of allocating 0.7% of our GNI to official development assistance by 2030.”

This new policy mainly focuses on gender equality, adequate governance and combating poverty. In addition, it aims to maintain partnerships with prominent aid programs and organizations to prioritize violence and conflict prevention, health and education, food sustainability and humanitarian crises. This policy will, therefore, ensure support to the most impoverished communities in the world through trackable funding, partnerships and emergency response.

Visible Impact

Because Ireland’s foreign aid has provided support and resources for some of the world’s impoverished communities, progress is visible. Irish Aid’s successes are notable, including a recent project providing access to education for girls in Zambia through a partnership with Campaign for Female Education. The project has supported marginalized girls with resources, funding and training while also breaking down the barriers barring girls from their right to an education. Another prominent impact of Ireland’s foreign aid is its commitment to clean and affordable energy. Irish Aid headed the National Cookstove Steering committee that provides cookstoves to individuals in Malawi as a solution to reduce deforestation and the health impacts of open fire cooking.

Irish Aid and the “A Better World” policy emphasize the importance of creating equal opportunities for impoverished communities by providing support to fight poverty and hunger as well as several other key global issues affecting the world today. Ireland has made immense strides in prioritizing foreign aid in the hope to join the fight for poverty alleviation.

Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

Finland's Foreign Aid
Rankings and dollar signs are typically what one can use to compare a country’s contributions to foreign aid against the next. However, what is not present in those comparisons and dollar signs is the context and structure behind the contributions of these countries. The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) ranked Finland number 19 out of 30 countries because it provides only $1.08 billion in aid. This ranking is consistent across the board showing Finland as one of the lowest contributors of foreign aid, however, Finland’s foreign aid contributions include quality standards that every country should mimic to get the most out of their contributions.

Finland’s Goal Regarding Foreign Aid

Finland’s long-term overarching goal is not simply to help countries in need but also to free those countries from their dependency on aid and provide each country it contributes to with the ability to flourish. This goal puts Finland in a position to use the idea of quality over quantity when it decides its foreign aid budget and what country will benefit the most from Finland’s foreign aid contributions. Finland’s foreign aid policies follow a strict set of criteria that helps to guide and direct small but potent decisions. The Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Finland has spelled out the four driving components to criteria for foreign aid contributions within Finland’s Development policy.

4 Driving Forces Behind Finland’s Foreign Aid

  1. Strengthening the Status and Rights of Women and Girls: Finland intends to improve the rights of women and girls across the globe and promote gender equality. In fact, Finland is one of the largest contributors to UN Women, after giving the organization 10 million euros in 2016.
  2. Strengthening the Economic Base in Developing Countries and Creating Jobs: Without a strong economy, a country may have limited jobs, so it is crucial for Finland to actively participate in the rebuilding or strengthening of that economy. Finland seeks out partnerships and opportunities to promote the creation of jobs and strengthen the countries’ trade environments. In a three-year span of time, between 2016 and 2019, Finland contributed over $500 million in investments and loans to support sustainable development. Finland’s investment in Somalia went solely toward economic infrastructure and electricity distribution as well as the private sector. This contribution should provide valuable stepping stones to help Somalia rebuild and sustain the resources available to it.
  3. Education, Well-Functioning Societies and Democracy: Finland stands by its rule of law to provide a safe and peaceful environment, sustainable resources and public services to its population. Moreover, it extends those values to other countries. In fact, 57% of Finland’s foreign aid goes to fragile states in order to promote stability and security.
  4. Environmental Challenges and Natural Resources: Finland also aims to offer reliable access to safe and clean water and better water and land resources. It also intends to promote better farming conditions, forest management and decreased risk of hygiene-related diseases. It has implemented sanitation projects in Nepal, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Kenya and more.

Examples of Finland’s Foreign Aid Projects

Finland’s foreign aid contributions have centered around rural development, food security and land tenure in Africa and Asia. Again, while Finland’s contributions may not evenly compare to other countries’ contributions, they directly align with its overarching goal of creating opportunities for countries to build and sustain their own resources. As a result, those countries might be able to enter a position to sustain themselves.

Another great example of Finland’s contributions is its investment in water supply and sanitation programs. Access to clean water and food is a worldwide issue and Finland is aiming to alleviate those issues in Ethiopia, Kenya and Nepal. Ethiopia and Nepal were among the top five recipients of Finland’s foreign aid in 2015. Finland has dedicated itself to providing support to countries that have the highest need for funds. In Vietnam, Finland contributed to the urban water supply and sewage system, helping those countries achieve self-sufficiency and providing them with consistent access to the sources they need.

These programs and resources are only effective if they can occur over the long term. This is why Finland’s foreign aid contributions focus on programs that support rule of law and political systems. For example, Finland gave Afghanistan $3.2 million between 2016 and 2019 to broaden “civic engagement” and help foster an environment where the people participate more closely with the decision-making process of Afghanistan’s government.

Concluding Thoughts

Individually, each criterion above may seem like an impossible mountain to climb, but for Finland, these are simply the small but potent foundational steps necessary to create and sustain an efficient, profitable and sustainable economy. Finland’s foreign aid contributions may seem like only a small blip on the radar compared to the contributions that the United States and other larger countries are making, but it is blazing a trail to ensure that the funds, no matter how big or small they are, can make a powerful contribution to countries in need.

– Janell Besa
Photo: Flickr

Biden’s “Feminist Foreign Policy”The Biden administration has made gender equity a cornerstone of its domestic and foreign policy. About 61% of White House employees are women. Furthermore, the administration’s intention is to “protect and empower women around the world.” The government aims to do this by making women’s rights a key component of foreign policy. Biden’s “feminist foreign policy” would redirect national attention from military dominance to global equality by instituting new changes to systems of defense, foreign aid, immigration, trade and diplomacy.

Studies on global gender and security suggest that if the United States increases its effort to improve women’s rights abroad, countries with a greater emphasis on gender equity will be less likely to experience instability and civil war. As such, the Biden administration has the power to advocate for a more just, inclusive and peaceful world.

Feminist Foreign Policy in Other Countries

Canada and Mexico have adopted a women-friendly stance on foreign policy. Thus, Canada began a “feminist international assistance policy” that focuses on supporting the global health of women, children and adolescents in 2017. The Canadian government pledged an annual $1.4 billion to foreign governments and international organizations. This money will be used to increase access to education, healthcare and nutrition in developing countries. Approximately $700 million will go to ending gender-based violence and promoting sexual health. Furthermore, $10 million will be allocated for UNICEF to reduce female genital mutilation.

In January 2020, Mexico became the first Latin American country to adopt a feminist foreign policy. The government aims to increase global gender equity, combat gender-based violence and end inequality in social and environmental justice. In addition, Mexico plans to increase the foreign ministry staff to have at least 50% women by 2024. Moreover, the nation wants to ensure equal workplace conditions.

Additionally, France, Norway and Sweden have adopted an official feminist foreign policy overseas. Now, the U.S. will join a growing list of nations committed to promoting gender equality.

Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States

The departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development have each announced a plan to advance women empowerment in 2020. This plan promotes women’s participation in foreign diplomacy, advocates for women’s rights and ensures access to humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, Biden’s feminist foreign policy aims to establish a cohesive foundation across trade, aid, defense, diplomacy and immigration that prioritizes equality for women. The strategy would emphasize peace and security as methods of conflict resolution. It will also increase the representation of women across all branches of government.

One of President Biden’s first actions in office was to eliminate the “global gag rule.” This global gag rule limits the type of healthcare services organizations receiving U.S. foreign aid are allowed to perform. The funding restrictions limited access to all types of healthcare in low-to-middle-income countries. Moreover, this restriction exposed women to a greater risk of disease and forced them to seek unsafe health services. A major goal of the Biden administration is to reallocate financial resources in a way that levels the playing field for women. Furthermore, the administration aims to provide greater support and opportunities for women. Additionally, the U.S. government plans to use foreign aid to increase support for women in the areas of healthcare, education, workplace protections and conflict zones.

The United States is unlikely to replace a focus on military strategy with a strictly feminist foreign policy. However, promoting gender equity at home and abroad can set the stage for an increased global emphasis on women’s rights. The U.S. can reallocate more financial resources to women’s access to education, healthcare and human rights and increase women’s participation in government and diplomacy. This dual strategy aims to combat existing inequality and create a more peaceful and equitable global future.

– Eliza Browning
Photo: Flickr

Distributing Foreign Aid
No unitary world body is responsible for coordinating and distributing foreign aid. Foreign aid efforts generally consist of bilateral or multilateral aid. One country directly grants bilateral aid to another, while several countries pool resources together before joint-delivering multilateral aid. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an example of a bilateral aid organization because only the United States is part of its decision-making process. A strong example of a multilateral aid donor would be the United Nations or the World Bank, where the organizations themselves exercise a strong degree of autonomy over distributing foreign aid.

International Cooperation in Foreign Aid

The World Bank, United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are some of the biggest agenda-setters in foreign aid. While they all operate independently, each contributes to a shared effort and common understanding in achieving their goals.

In 2012, the United Nations convened a large conference to set targets and an agenda for goals in sustainable development by 2030. Of its 17 development goals and 169 targets, poverty topped the list and contained seven targets. The conference determined the most significant and salient issues relating to sustainable development until 2030. In support of this common objective, OECD also incorporated a platform regarding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This exemplifies how one organization’s agenda can cross over and influence agendas that others set.

The Coordination Efforts of the OECD

The OECD advises the distribution and implementation of effective foreign aid flow among the aid members of its Development Assistant Committee (DAC). Within many different frameworks and groups, OECD utilizes a “gold standard” for foreign aid called Official Development Assistance (ODA). Since 1969, the largest countries convened within the DAC have adopted ODA as their primary source of distributing foreign aid. The definition of ODA is a complicated matter, because, for instance, the countries that are eligible for ODA change over time. Regardless, distributing foreign aid undergoes careful optimization to promote and target economic development and welfare in developing countries. These repercussions are wide-ranging. International bodies from the World Bank to the U.N. respect the standards that the OECD sets.

The OECD utilizes a top-down approach to achieving broader development and aid objectives. The organization regularly measures and assesses its progress in implementing its objectives. This includes providing advice to member countries. In its report on “Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets,” it provided member countries with an assistive overview of strengths and weaknesses when it comes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the U.N. set. Such feedback helps countries stay on track to best reach the goals. Overall, the study revealed uneven progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. Some targets, such as infrastructure experienced near achievement, but other targets rated medium to low progress.

The World Bank

The World Bank is something of a twin to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, instead of preventing and dealing with financial catastrophes like the IMF, “the [World] Bank is primarily a development institution.” One can see the international links when the World Bank discusses ODA while considering foreign aid flows.

In 2021, one of the World Bank’s primary objectives is to soften the economic blow of COVID-19. It plans to deploy up to $160 billion by June 2021 in support of countries’ responses to the virus. For example, the World Bank provided nearly 7,000 infection, prevention and control supplies and more than 31,000 personal protective equipment to Papua New Guinea. In Ghana, it supported the training of thousands of health professionals and technicians. Today, the World Bank is the largest external financier of education in developing countries. In its 2020 annual report, the World Bank estimated that the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, would contribute to the creation of at least 1.9 million jobs through the projects it financed in the fiscal year 2020.

Looking Forward

Thanks to organizations such as the World Bank, the U.N. and OECD, foreign aid benefits from higher levels of cooperation than ever. While no unitary body exists to overlook aid distribution, these organizations are filling the gap. Their efforts foster hope for even greater effectiveness in distributing foreign aid.

– Marshall Wu
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Yemen's humanitarian crisisCaught in a civil war rife with ongoing violence costing thousands of lives, Yemen is currently the most impoverished country in the Middle East and is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is a matter of urgency as roughly 24 million Yemenis depend on foreign aid for survival.

Houthis Terrorist Designation

On January 10, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Yemen’s Houthis group would be designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. The designation went into effect on January 19, 2021, only a day before the new presidential administration would see Pompeo exit his position. This decision has drawn international concerns and criticisms as it is feared that the label would pose major challenges to U.S.-Yemen relations.

As foreign aid must go through the Houthis in order to be allocated to the people of Yemen, this act would further complicate the distribution of essential aid from the U.S. and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Meanwhile, it has equally evoked a necessity to put the spotlight back on Yemen’s dire state of relentless and unforgiving civil war.

Conflict and Corruption in Yemen

Since North and South Yemen unified in 1990 to form the present state of Yemen, the country has struggled with internal unity due to the inherent religious and cultural divide among citizens. However, these differences became increasingly visible in 2014, when Yemen experienced a period of unrest throughout its population after Yemen’s president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, lifted fuel subsidies, threatening an aggravated state of poverty and food insecurity throughout the nation.

Frustrated with the pervasive corruption within the administration, widespread protests would encourage the Houthi rebels to consolidate power and take over Yemen’s Government the same year. In an effort to regain control over the region, Saudi Arabia utilized military intervention to overthrow the Houthis with the aid of foreign powers such as France, the United States and the United Kingdom. However, this conflict only set the stage for the calamity to come.

Since the Houthi takeover and the Saudi-led intervention, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has seen more than 200,000 fatalities recorded as a result of direct and indirect effects of the country’s civil war.

Signs of Promise

While the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization throws a wrench into the already complex relationship dynamic between the United States and Yemen, there are three signs of promise:

  • Following Pompeo’s announcement, the United States exempted organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Nations to continue essential aid to Yemen and allowed for exports of agricultural commodities and medicine.
  • On January 25, 2021, the United States approved a month-long exemption that would allow transactions to take place between the U.S and the Houthis.
  • The new secretary of state, under the Biden Administration, Antony Blinken, has pledged to review the terrorist designation of the Houthis — a reassuring statement for the stability of aid to Yemen’s people.

Despite this setback, the designation has nevertheless raised an opportunity to bring our attention back to Yemen’s tumultuous state. Revitalized efforts of diplomacy may inspire more substantial action in order to address Yemen’s growing humanitarian crisis.

Alessandra Parker
Photo: Flickr

Susan Rice's Approach to Foreign Aid
Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid has formed by her listening to her colleagues’ advice. Her approach is to negotiate and implement policies to help textile workers, small farmers and other people in need.

Susan Rice’s Background

According to her latest 2019 book, “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For,” Susan Rice grew up in Washington, D.C. Her first job in 1979 at age 14 was as a Democratic page in the U.S. House of Representatives. She graduated high school and took home many awards from the National Cathedral School NCS in D.C. After this, she was a fellow at the Brookings Institute and an undergraduate at Stanford University.

She studied at Oxford in the U.K., where she earned her M.Phil. (masters) degree in international relations. Afterward, she went on to earn her Ph.D. During that time, her thesis “The Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979–1980: Implications for International Peacekeeping” won the 1991 Chatham House–British International Studies Association Award for the most distinguished doctoral dissertation in international relations in The U.K. She went on to be the youngest black woman to serve in a presidential administration.

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid has involved her putting her colleague’s advice into practice. When she first started as assistant secretary of state for African affairs, her colleague Ambassador Prudence’s advice was to pay attention to policy outcomes, not the bureaucracy.

African Growth Opportunity Act and Other Programs

During her years in the Clinton Administration, Susan Rice worked hard toward the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), which passed Congress in 2000. In 2015, Congress updated and extended the program through 2025. The AGOA requires countries to remove obstacles to U.S. trade, implement poverty reduction procedures, fight corruption and bolster human rights.

Poverty is reducing among women through the creation of jobs and through new businesses that women own. The African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), which supports women who own businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, came to be because of the AGOA.

The Department of State also created an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). This program sponsors a small group of African women business owners to come to the U.S. for a three-week intensive networking event to meet with leaders in bipartisan policy, industry and nonprofits. The support these women entrepreneurs receive helps create jobs and influence society. It lifts their communities out of poverty one job at a time.

Work as the US Ambassador to the United Nations

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid widened when the Obama Administration made her the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), which began with the George W. Bush Administration, continued in the Obama Administration.

It had the intent of lowering or eliminating tariffs on imports and exports of participating countries, thus making it more affordable for them to produce, import and export. The affordability attracts businessmen and women and lifts people out of poverty by creating jobs in both the import and export country. This symbiotic relationship helps lift people out of poverty by the creation of these jobs. In 2014, according to Susan Rice’s speech, one-third of TPP participants were from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia all benefit from TPP.

How TTP and AGOA Impact People

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid is to negotiate and implement policies like TTP and the AGOA. According to The World Bank, TTP will increase the wages of poor under-skilled textile workers in Vietnam by over 14% by 2030. African countries could also benefit from TTP and especially African women.

According to The World Bank, women make up most of the small farmers in Africa. These women carry goods across borders where they sometimes meet with opposition in documents, regulatory requirements and tariffs.

As Brookings reported, Africa is benefiting from the AGOA. In 2014, African countries exported nearly $1 billion worth of textiles to the U.S. creating jobs for poor under-skilled workers, especially women.

– Kathleen Shepherd-Segura
Photo: Flickr

4 Incoming Members of the 117th Congress Who Could Shape America’s Approach to Foreign Aid
At least 65 representative-elects and senator-elects joined the 117th Congress in January 2021 to serve with a president who wants to “bring aid back to the center of our foreign policy.” The next two years could represent a sea of change in the U.S.’s approach to foreign policy and foreign aid under an administration committed to global development. Several new representatives want to increase foreign aid and improve the U.S.’s approach to peacekeeping and diplomacy. Here are four new members of the 117th Congress who could shape the U.S.’s approach to foreign aid.

4 New Members of the 117th Congress

  1. Sara Jacobs (CA-53) served as a policy advisor to the Hillary Clinton 2016 Presidential Campaign. Jacobs has worked to end child poverty through her nonprofit San Diego For Every Child. Jacobs was elected to represent California’s 53rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Foreign Policy for America Action Network, a non-partisan advocacy organization that promotes safe foreign policy and endorses a slate of candidates each cycle who are believed to serve on key committees or lead on key legislation, endorsed Jacobs. The organization stated that she is ready to tackle issues such as immigration reform and global health on day one. According to Jacobs’ website, she supports protecting and maintaining current funding levels for USAID. However, she also supports properly funding the State Department and USAID to maximize efficiency.
  2. Mondaire Jones (NY-17) has worked in the Department of Justice and provided legal counsel with the Legal Aid Society. When inaugurated, he and fellow New York Representative-elect Ritchie Torres will be the first openly gay Black men in Congress. Jones promotes a “Diplomacy-First” foreign policy, sharing the belief that if the U.S. can dedicate more funding to foreign aid. He has criticized budget cuts to USAID (the president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget provided $41 billion for USAID, as opposed to $50 billion in the FY 2016 budget) and plans to push for reinvestment in the State Department to allow the U.S. to take initiatives in humanitarian efforts. According to his website, Jones supports redirecting funds designated for conflict and weapons sales toward aid and promoting peace and development in foreign countries.
  3. Jake Auchincloss (MA-4), a former city councilor, was recently elected to the district formerly held by Joseph Kennedy III. With an extensive background in foreign policy and service in Panama and Afghanistan, Auchincloss supports a nuanced apportionment of foreign aid. Auchincloss advocates for a recommitment to “the types of foreign aid programs that strengthened America’s alliances and improved our security in the 20th century.” He supports continued aid to countries like Iraq in combatting COVID-19 and terrorism, and he wants the U.S. to commit to increasing foreign aid. Like The Borgen Project, he believes that foreign aid is a national security asset to the U.S.
  4. In June, Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), a Bronx middle school principal, defeated 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel. Bowman has emphasized the necessity for a foreign policy that gives voice to developing nations, particularly in Africa, as those countries emerge as world leaders on the global market. Bowman also supports a new Marshall Plan, which lent assistance to Europe after World War II. This new Marshall Plan put forward by Representative Joaquin Castro (TX-20) is meant to address the economic and social disparities in Central America that have led to mass migration, poverty and violence. By addressing the root causes of these issues, Bowman believes the U.S. can help millions of vulnerable people.

A Look to the Future

Jacobs, Jones, Auchincloss and Bowman have come out in favor of innovative solutions to addressing global poverty. However, any of the new members of the 117th Congress could advance the U.S.’s approach to foreign aid. The bold approaches put forth by some of these representatives have the potential to set a standard for the future of U.S. foreign aid as Congress takes on the COVID-19 pandemic and faces a changing foreign and economic landscape.

– Kieran Graulich
Photo: Flickr

Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon
Since November 2016, the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon has been ongoing, which is an issue that links to its population’s identity. A section of the English-speaking minority population of the country, originally from the northwest and southwest regions of the country, is protesting against the current government. Their claims mostly focus on the marginalization of the English language, the lack of access to English education, the common law system and even jobs for native anglophone Cameroonians. The conflict started with a peaceful protest from anglophone lawyers and teachers and escalated with the emergence of an anglophone separatist movement. As the situation remains tense, the attention of the international community is necessary.

The State of Affairs

Beyond the language and identity claims, this conflict collides with other threats, such as Boko Haram, that have significantly weakened the economy of the country, especially in the northwest and southwest regions. In 2018, the National Organization of Employers, Gicam, reported that about 45% of the cocoa produced in the country is in the southwest, and 75% of Cameroonian arabica coffee comes from the northwest. Export earnings from these two commodities have fallen by 20% due to the conflict in the English-speaking area, where a fifth of the total population lives. Moreover, an increase in unemployment and the shutting down of businesses has occurred. Human Rights Watch estimates nearly 300 Cameroonians have died since January 2020 in regions of concern, and over 1 million have experienced internal displacement. In such a context, foreign aid could be particularly beneficial, but things are not that simple.

The Challenges of Foreign Aid

Through time, Cameroon has received foreign aid from countries and institutions such as France, the United States and the World Bank. In September 2020, Cameroonian Foreign Minister Lejeune Mbella Mbella asked for increased international cooperation in support of the country’s ongoing struggle against “terrorism.” Moreover, the UN OCHA has launched a Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) that identified 3.9 million people in need. Estimates determined that the initiative would provide $320.7 million USD.

Despite some previous successes of foreign aid programs in Cameroon, challenges remain, especially in the context of the current Anglophone Crisis. Firstly, aid and humanitarian workers are highly at risk, which slows down their work. In January 2020, pro-independence fighters kidnapped seven aid workers from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation and the COMINSUD. Although they later released all staff, the abductions resulted in several organizations restricting their area of operations.

Secondly, cooperation with the government tends to be difficult sometimes. Indeed, Cameroonian authorities have publicly charged NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Think Tank International Crisis Group – among other organizations – of working to “destabilize state institutions.” Resistance also comes over concerns of aid distribution, as Cameroon ranks 152 out of 180 countries in the 2018 Transparency International corruption perceptions index, and it ranks 166 out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report.

Good News and Solutions

Despite remaining challenges and perceptions, foreign aid has had some success in Cameroon in the past, which keeps some humanitarian workers optimistic, even during the Anglophone Crisis. Indeed, the poverty rate has dropped from 53% in 1996 to 37.5% in 2014. As many organizations continue to provide humanitarian aid to Cameroon, some experts remain optimistic that the living conditions of Cameroonians will continue to improve. The work of state and nonprofit actors continues to reap positive results, though the improvements cannot always occur easily. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is one of the organizations providing support to the country.

To improve these good results, it appears important to address the different obstacles to the redistribution of foreign aid in Cameroon. For this purpose, both the state and civil society level initiate actions. Indeed, at the civil society level, international organizations such as the World Bank have developed a performance-based system – Country Policy and institutional Assessment – that allows the institution to evaluate the qualification of a country to receive aid while reducing the risks of corruption.

This kind of mechanism can be a standard for international NGOs providing financial assistance to Cameroon. At the state level, the Cameroonian government has made another step towards its decentralization process. Indeed, regional advisors have undergone recent election. Their role is to foster the development of their localities while remaining accountable to the people. These new authorities can increase transparency and can use their knowledge of the local dynamics to help humanitarian workers in the distribution of aid.

Jules Sombaye
Photo: Flickr

Denmark's Foreign Aid
When it comes to foreign aid, one of the most widely-commended countries is the small nation of Denmark. The Danes are well-known for their generous aid spending and both donor and recipient nations recognize Denmark as a highly effective partner in the fight against global poverty. Here are five facts about Denmark’s foreign aid.

5 Facts About Denmark’s Foreign Aid

  1. Denmark is a world leader in foreign aid spending. In 2019, Denmark spent $2.55 billion on foreign aid, a seemingly small figure compared to the $34.62 billion the United States spent, but Denmark’s population is only about 1.76% that of the U.S. When adjusted for population, Denmark’s foreign aid totals $447 per-capita, much higher than the United States’ $95 per-capita. In fact, Denmark is the fourth-highest per-capita spender of all OECD countries after Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg.
  2. Denmark has consistently been a world leader since the 1970s. The United Nations uses foreign aid as a percentage of Gross National Income to measure a country’s proportional spending, and Denmark is one of the few countries that has met or exceeded the U.N.’s target of 0.7% of GNI since 1978. Denmark’s foreign aid currently amounts to 0.71% of its GNI, trailing only Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden among OECD countries. However, for a brief period during the 1990s, Denmark actually increased this number to over 1%.
  3. Low-and-middle-income countries rate Denmark high for usefulness, influence and helpfulness in foreign aid. In a new study that AidData conducted, leaders from 40 aid-receiving nations ranked Denmark as a top development partner. Besides meeting the U.N.’s foreign aid target, Denmark scored second among all countries for its usefulness regarding policy advice, second for its influence in setting agendas and first for its helpfulness regarding reform implementation. Since 2009, these reforms have included promoting greater private sector expansion and focusing on social progress as a catalyst for economic growth. Denmark’s long-term commitments to implementing such policies in a small number of prioritized nations have proven to be highly effective in reducing extreme poverty.
  4. Denmark manages its foreign aid spending and implementation through DANIDA, the Danish International Development Agency. DANIDA’s top priorities for 2020 are advancing human rights and equality, developing sustainable green growth, providing humane asylum for displaced people and maintaining international cooperation in all global efforts. Denmark’s foreign aid reaches over 70 low-and-middle-income countries, but those of the highest urgency include Afghanistan, Somalia and Niger. Efforts in Afghanistan largely center around education as Danish aid provides teacher education, updated textbooks and curriculum development. In Somalia, DANIDA works to develop safety nets, human rights advancements and strengthen national and local governance. Niger receives policy advice on properly handling the irregular number of migrants in the country as well as basic delivery of living essentials to impoverished children.
  5. Denmark can still improve. While the country is one of only six to meet the U.N.’s target of 0.7% GNI in 2019 with 0.71%, this is a substantial drop from 2015 when Denmark spent 0.85% of GNI on foreign aid. Addressing this cutback, which was largely due to increased spending on refugees within the country, should be a top concern. Reverting back to 2015’s percentage or higher is a positive step Denmark can take, and such a move is all the more likely now as Denmark’s 2019 net migration was negative for the first time in almost a decade. As the country spends less on internal migrants, more of the Danish budget is available to supplement the once-highly-robust foreign aid sector.

One of the most effective ways developed governments can help to improve conditions in poverty-stricken nations is by properly funding and managing healthy foreign aid budgets. By taking Denmark’s example, more countries should seek to meet the U.N.’s 0.7% GNI target and implement this aid in a manner that best fits the needs of impoverished individuals in low-income countries.

– Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr

Spain’s Foreign Aid
Spain is a great example of a country with a diverse and organized foreign aid plan. The European nation provides aid in many different sectors to a diverse set of recipients and its population places a high value on international support. Spain’s foreign aid expenditure was a total of $2.9 billion USD in 2019, making it the 13th-largest provider of foreign aid in the world. While Spain’s foreign aid allocations fluctuate due to economic trends and fortune, the nation displays a strong commitment to development across the world. 

Spain’s Aid Strategy

Spain’s foreign aid primarily goes towards Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America as a whole, but there are some exceptions. Some of the main countries Spain gives aid to have a long history or a strong relationship with the country. The top 10 nations that receive aid from Spain are:

  • Venezuela
  • Colombia
  • Turkey
  • El Salvador
  • Syria
  • Morocco
  • Guatemala
  • The West Bank and Gaza Strip
  • Bolivia
  • Ukraine
Of these nations, some were former colonies of Spain whereas some are very close to Spain. For example, Morocco is a mere 8 miles from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar. This could be a primary reason why these nations are among the top receivers of Spanish foreign aid. Still, aid to these top 10 recipients only accounts for a quarter of Spanish foreign aid, showing how balanced and wide-reaching the nation’s aid planning is.

Spain’s foreign aid is diverse and targets many different sectors for development. The primary sector Spain invests in is governance and security, followed by education, industry and trade, humanitarian aid and health care. This makes up about half of the aid that Spain sends out, with the rest unspecified or in smaller sums going to sectors like water and sanitation, infrastructure and debt relief. Spain has recently made crucial contributions in these sectors to donor countries. For example, Spain sent €2 million in aid to Venezuela during its economic crisis, which Spain’s foreign aid agencies spent getting food and medical supplies to the most impoverished.

Aid in the Past Decade

Unfortunately, Spain’s commitments to foreign aid have dropped in recent years, mainly due to economic considerations. The economic crisis of 2008 hit Spain hard, and the country’s foreign aid budget mirrors its economic troubles. Spain currently contributes 0.21% of its GNI (Gross National Income) to foreign aid. This is down from a high of nearly 0.5% in 2009 when the effects of the crisis first hit. While foreign aid commitments suffered in the past decade, Spain has a strong plan to revamp its foreign aid budget in the coming years.

Still, in recent years, Spain has put its foreign aid to good use. The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation’s Humanitarian Action Office identified five current crisis areas that Spain’s current foreign policy plan for 2018 to 2021 emphasized. These are the Syrian regional crisis, the Sahel and Lake Chad, the Palestinian Territories, the Sahrawi Refugee Camps and Latin America and the Caribbean. Spain also participated in various emergency responses to natural disastersThese include the 2018 earthquakes in Indonesia, the 2018 Fuego volcano eruption in India and Cyclone Idai in Mozambique in 2019. The aid Spain provided included on-the-ground disaster response support and the deployment of a team of medical professionals from its health care system in response to the cyclone.

Public opinion towards foreign aid in Spain remains remarkably strong despite the recent downturn in the foreign aid budget. According to a 2018 Eurobarometer survey, Spaniards attached the greatest importance to international aid of any European nationality. It also ranked highest in Europe regarding citizens’ belief that their government should give more emphasis to international aid

Looking to the Future

The future of Spain’s foreign aid is bright and signifies a return to the country’s previous strong commitments to foreign aid. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez supports a target of 0.5% GNI contribution to foreign aid and included it as a part of his governing coalition’s agreement.

Spain has been displaying a commitment to a new future of foreign aid recently, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. The country’s foreign development agencies released the Spanish Cooperation Joint Strategy to fight COVID-19, which included an extra $2 billion budget for foreign aid in 2020 and 2021. It also announced that it will prioritize global health and epidemic prevention in its development cooperation policy.

Since 2020, Spain has pledged to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to multilateral institutions such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the Green Climate Fund, the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals Fund and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. These contributions, its balanced aid policies and the populace’s enthusiasm for foreign aid indicate that Spain will continue to be a global leader in thiarea. 

– Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr