Information and stories on foreign aid.

Dutch Foreign Aid Controversy

The current economic crisis is causing many Western countries to change the way they allocate funds in their budget, mainly regarding development aid. Increased contention has generated attention over the foreign aid topic. And now, the Dutch government is re-thinking their foreign aid plan: they want to shift from direct aid to more focus on trade. A 1 billion euro cut by the Dutch Ministry of International Trade and Development Cooperation (MITDC) generated this uncertainty and controversy over whether entrepreneurs and businesses can wholly be trusted to tackle global poverty. Thus, Dutch foreign aid is on the hinges of drastic change.

There are a few leading opposing arguments: the minister of MITDC Ploumen suggested that despite the cuts, trade can ease up on the damage effects. In another argument, author Linda Polman suggested that international aid can “prolong war, promote corrupt governments and contribute to a culture of dependency.” Ploumen stressed “international [development] cooperation,” now that most countries have moved up the poverty ladder and have become middle-income countries. On the other hand, Linda Polman views this new phenomenon of “international cooperation” as mainly serving Dutch interests. Polman is calling for a revision of European agricultural and economic policy.

A professor at the Radboud University, Henk van Houtum, expressed his thoughts in a Dutch newspaper regarding helping less developed countries; he said that alleviating structural inequalities from the world trade system provides greater help to more people than an aid program would. Bernedine Bos, from Corporate Social Responsibility (MVO), Netherlands, asserted that with those inevitable inequalities aside, investment in less developed countries should not stop. He asserts that causing political change at the structural level is a tough challenge, adding that entrepreneurial endeavors can undoubtedly cause a more effective “bottom-up” change with social responsibility.

Leen Abdallah
Source: Xinhuanet News
Photo: Google

US AID and Nepal Partner to Educate on Agriculture
Nepal Economic, Agriculture, and Trade Activity (NEAT), a 32-month program funded by USAID, aims to “promote economic growth, reduce poverty, increase food security, and improve lives” throughout Nepal. As part of the program, USAID and Nepal have partnered up through the Nepal Ministry of Agriculture Development to distribute educational materials on agricultural practices in the hopes of improving the production of agriculture in the country.

Through the funding provided by USAID, more than 263,000 pamphlets were handed out detailing specific agricultural instructions, both written in Nepali and as visuals in order to aid those citizens who are illiterate. The pamphlets detail “critical agriculture practice” on 13 types of crops and 3 species of livestock.

The NEAT program has improved the agricultural education of 67,510 households throughout 20 districts of Nepal with a regular lack of access to proper food sources. Thus far, the project has already allowed area farmers to see an increased income of $8.5 million collectively. These farmers and households have had increased access to markets and are better educated on agricultural practices such as pest and disease control, use of fertilizer, improved seed, and “post-harvest handling.”

The Director of USAID’s Social, Environmental, and Economic Development Office, John Stamm, maintained that USAID is dedicated to creating sustainable development solutions, including the NEAT program – which will allow Nepalese citizens greater resources for continuing to improve their lives long after the program ends in August of 2013.

Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID

Effects of Drone Strikes on Humanitarian Aid
The moral, ethical, and legal questions and uncertainties about secretive US drone strikes have increasingly become subjects of media attention. Many have criticized the Bush and Obama administrations for effectively engaging in endless, unchecked war, in many places, all the time. But one question has gone largely unasked in the debate over unmanned US strikes: what are the effects of drone strikes on humanitarian aid?

As we know, poverty and terrorism are closely linked. The daily struggles of those living in extreme poverty breed despair and desperation and leave many, especially youth, vulnerable to terrorist groups’ incendiary messages. Poverty reduction is an important part of US national security and foreign policy, and yet drone strikes may be undermining attempts to combat extreme poverty on the ground.

Organizations working in rural areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other drone strike-targeted regions have reported increased hostility and resistance in relation to drone strikes. Suspicions are always aroused in the days and weeks following a strike. According to NGO security officials in Somalia, following a 2008 drone strike, attacks on aid workers increased from one to two a month to six to eleven.

Aid workers have been accused of complicity in drone strikes. Often, workers who have been collecting information for aid purposes are accused of passing on sensitive information that supposedly enable strikes, such as GPS coordinates. Some workers have been killed, either by hostile locals or as a direct result of strikes.

One of the biggest problems that aid organizations and NGOs face in dealing with drone strikes is the lack of human personnel involved in the attacks. There are no authorities on the ground to address the safety of aid workers or civilians in the region. It is difficult to determine responsibility for the attacks because even though drones often operate from regular military airbases, they are under the CIA’s jurisdiction.

Some groups, such as the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), have had success interfacing with the US government through the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). But others, like the Center for Civilians in Conflict, have had zero success in lobbying Congressional leaders for greater oversight of drone strikes. Civilians in Conflict released this report in 2012 on the effects of drone strikes on civilians.

The effects of drone strikes on humanitarian aid cannot be underestimated. Compounding tensions in areas already struggling with poverty and violence does nothing to alleviate the problems. Instead, it hampers the valiant efforts of those risking their own lives to make a positive difference. If the US government wants to positively contribute to poverty relief and reduction efforts, it needs to evaluate the effects of drone strikes on humanitarian aid work in targeted regions.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN

USAID Increases Attempts To Put Itself Out Of BusinessUSAID holds a unique position in that its main objective is to put itself out of business. In order to achieve this goal, USAID established USAID Forward.

Shortly after Rajiv Shah became president of USAID in 2009, USAID Forward was created. USAID Forward is a group of measures implemented to strengthen the effectiveness of the Agency’s performance in areas such as budget management, project implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

Recently, USAID has issued a progress report and infographic containing the progress USAID Forward has made in maximizing transparency and delivering better results. This report not only catalogs the current progress being made but also hints at future developments and the future direction of USAID.

As an agency, USAID is moving away from establishing individual missions around the world and moving toward establishing partnerships with foreign nations. During the presidency of Rajiv Shah, USAID has cut its global footprint by 11 missions. Rather than establishing missions, USAID works to aid nations monetarily and help them establish a sustainable infrastructure created with its own people. This is a result-oriented tactic that centers around providing data and technical support as well as goal-oriented monetary aid with a focus on accountability.

USAID is one of the United States’ largest nonprofits and was established by President Kennedy in 1961. It is currently one of the largest nonprofits in the United States and operates directly under the guidance of the President of the United States and Secretary of State.

Despite the changes in strategy and tactics, the main goal of USAID remains the same: creating conditions where aid is no longer needed.

– Pete Grapentien

Source American Enterprise Institute

World Poverty Declines RapidlyOxford University’s poverty and human development initiative published a world poverty report.  As world poverty declines, the report notes that “never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.”  In fact, if some countries continue to improve at current rates, it is possible to eradicate acute poverty within 20 years.

The academic study measured new deprivations, such as nutrition, education, and health. By examining more than income deprivation, the study is able to convey the bigger picture.  The new methodology is entitled to the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).  Past studies identify income as the only indicator of poverty.  This is a misrepresentation because multiple aspects constitute poverty.

The MPI measures poor health, lack of education, inadequate living standards, lack of income, disempowerment, poor quality of work, and threats from violence.  These factors provide a holistic look as world poverty declines.

Dr. Sabina Alkire and Dr. Maria Emma Santos developed the new system.   They named the system “multidimensional” because it is what people facing poverty describe.  “As poor people worldwide have said, poverty is more than money,” Alkire said.

This increased information and understanding better inform international donors and governments.  “Maybe we have been overlooking the power of the people themselves, women who are empowering each other, civil society pulling itself up,” Alkire said.  The new data could incentivize donors to provide assistance.  International and national aid contribute to declining rates.  Improvements to infrastructure, education, and healthcare help decrease poverty rates.  Trade has improved the economies of Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone.

Rwanda, Nepal, and Bangladesh experienced the greatest decrease in poverty rates.  It is possible that “deprivation could disappear within the lifetime of present generations.”  Close behind in the ranks of poverty reduction were Ghana, Tanzania, Cambodia, and Bolivia.

The study is supported by the United Nations’ recent development report.  The UN report stated that poverty reduction was “exceeding all expectations.”

Check out the MPI interactive world map for more details.

– Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: The Guardian

How To Shock A CelebrityAs Richard Hatzfeld writes on Impatient Optimists, breaking through the clutter of global health propaganda is “like asking someone to pick out the sound of a pin drop in a room full of tambourine-clanging kindergartners.”

The pin dropping in this scenario is End7, a nonprofit organization on a mission to end seven Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD’s) by 2020. Earlier this year, End7 released a new video that begins with international celebrities reacting to the visual horror of NTD’s.

Let’s talk about what NTD’s are first. NTD’s, which affect 1 in 6 people worldwide, prevent children from going to school. They prevent parents from going to work and supporting their families. These diseases push impoverished communities deeper into poverty.

NTD’s comprise of diseases such as:

– Schistosomiasis, also known as Snail Fever, the 2nd leading parasitic killer after malaria

– Lymphatic Philariasis (elephantiasis), the massive swelling of limbs and genitals

– Trachoma, an infectious leading cause of blindness, characterized by white lumps in the upper eyelid and eyelashes curling inward

Not to mention river blindness, roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm – End7 promises that all 100% of donations will be given to treatment programs for these diseases.

This isn’t a mainstream health issue. The U.S. hardly even recognizes this as a health issue due to lack of public awareness and thus, its absence from top health policy discussions.  Upon recognizing this, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases launched the End7 campaign and promptly took its first step to mass public awareness – by showing the video to international celebrities, like Emily Blunt, Priyanka Chopra, & Tom Felton. Reflecting its inherent effect, the video’s name became “How to Shock a Celebrity.”

End7’s video campaign bluntly highlights the underrated power of sight. Look, it tells us. These diseases are real. They’re terror inducing, and they exist halfway around the world from your neighborhood. What you’re feeling is clearly a normal reaction. Do something about it.

Do what? Watch the video. Share it. Become part of the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Show it to your friends, your family, your co-worker who also eats lunch at her desk.

Maybe even show it to a celebrity.

– Shraddha Anandpara

Source: Impatient Optimists


What is our Return on Investment for USAID?Many people ask, what is our “return on investment” for USAID? One clear answer is that we substantially improve public attitudes about the US. America offers humanitarian assistance all around the world, and there is growing research to suggest that US aid to developing nations results in substantial benefits to the US itself.

The non-profit group Terror Free Tomorrow, in Washington DC, has done extensive surveys:

  • Two-thirds of Indonesians favorably changed their opinion of the US because of the US tsunami response in 2004. Most significantly, 71% of self-identified Osama bin Laden supporters adopted a new favorable view of the US.
  • As a direct result of American efforts in 2004, support for Al Qaeda and terrorist attacks dropped by half in Indonesia  (the largest Muslim country in the world). Even two years after, 60% of Indonesians continued to have favorable opinions of America.
  • After the U.S. Navy ship Mercy, fully equipped floating hospital, docked for several months in local ports in 2006, provided medical care to the people of Indonesia and Bangladesh, nationwide polling in Bangladesh found that 87% said the activities of the Mercy made their overall opinion of the US more positive.
  • Indonesians and Bangladeshis ranked additional visits by the Mercy as a higher priority for future American policy than resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • After the US war in Afghanistan, and the drone strikes inside Pakistan, anti-American attitudes in Pakistan were among the strongest in the world. However, on a local level, where USAID had been active after an earthquake – there was still significant trust in the US, even four years after.
  • Even more dramatic change in public opinion can occur when American aid is targeted and focused on directly helping people in need and not foreign governments.

Humanitarian aid saves lives and helps to improve living standards during horrible disasters. It builds allies and strengthens our national security by doing so. It changes public opinion toward the US and can lead to significant changes in values. It can increase understanding across borders – lessening inter-tribal, religious, and regional conflict, and enhance support for free markets, trade, and democracy.

In this time of limited government funds, the effectiveness of American foreign humanitarian help must be protected. A full understanding of humanitarian aid shows that it helps donors and recipient nations alike.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Brookings Institution
Photo: Truth-Out

More US Aid to Jordan to Help With Syrian Refugees

The Civil War in Syria has driven thousands of people out of the country and into Jordan. This has resulted in major problems in Jordan as they try to figure out what to do with all of the Syrian refugees. Recently, President Barack Obama made a public announcement offering $200 million in U.S. aid to help with the Syrian refugees in Jordan.

This pledge from Barack Obama for foreign aid money comes at an interesting time as it follows the extensive budget cuts recently put in place by the United States Congress. However, President Obama seems adamant on offering aid money to Jordan for basic services to help place and educate displaced Syrians, saying he will work with Congress to find a way to give $200 million extra dollars in U.S. aid. According to  Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whom Obama met with on Friday, March 22, more than 460,000 Syrians have fled their country in search of refuge within the Jordanian borders. This number is estimated to double in the upcoming months if the turmoil in Syria continues.

Putting these numbers into perspective: 460,000 people make up approximately a tenth of the Jordanian population. Doubling the number of Syrian refugees causes an almost 25% increase in the number of people in Jordan.

This increase in people will have serious effects on the economic situation in Jordan. Some economists predict a nearly 30% unemployment rate by the end of the year as more and more Syrians pour into the county. These many refugees are also predicted to cost over $1 billion. Yet, King Abdullah pledges to not turn away any refugees, asking “how are you going to turn back women, children or the wounded?”

The Obama administration seems committed to helping end the fighting in Syria, pushing for the current Syrian president Assad to step down. Yet, Obama absolutely refuses to provide U.S. military assistance for the Syrian opposition movement, saying that interference may discredit the message the Syrian rebels are advocating or may lead to even larger security issues. Financial support in Jordan to take care of the many Syrian refugees seems to be a substitute solution for showing its support for bringing peace to Syria without getting directly involved in the civil war.

Obama pledging the extra aid money is only half of the equation. Congress must now scrape together this money, which may be a difficult task, as evident from the inability for Congress to come to an agreement over budget cuts.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: CNN, Wall Street Journal
Photo: UPI

Last Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron received plenty of calls from voters who demanded cuts to foreign aid. They believe that foreign aid cuts will allow for savings thereby boosting the British economy. Despite Cameron’s attempts at protecting foreign aid and asserting that maintaining such aid is in the UK’s national security interest and it’s the morally right thing to do, people still think that foreign aid is a waste and it is their number one priority for cuts.

Philip Davies, a conservative member of parliament, suggests that ““The policy of borrowing more and more money we don’t have to hand to dictators in other countries is morally bankrupt and politically insane.” The main support for these foreign aid cuts has come from Tory party supporters and Independence party supporters. There has also been plenty of dissatisfaction among Conservative party supporters toward Chancellor George Osborne because of his failed policies, or his failure to fulfill what he claims to through his proposed policies to revive the British economy through tax cuts.

The main issue at hand concerns David Cameron’s actions against the public’s desires and his shift away from popular demands. The prime minister wants to meet the goal of giving 0.7% of gross national income to poor countries. The mentioned goal has been introduced by the UN in 1970 and since then, only 5 countries have met it: Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Luxembourg. This year, the UK’s prime minister wants to meet this goal too. Is the public failing to recognize and understand that the percentage given as foreign aid is in fact much less than they assume it to be? That may explain the public’s pressure on David Cameron to cut foreign aid and their firm opposition to foreign aid.

Leen Abdallah
Sources: Express, Guardian

Funding for foreign aid is an issue coming up for debate in more countries than the United States. UNICEF has begun a campaign in Australia to increase foreign aid spending. During the North Sydney electorate, the organization is urgently spreading awareness for the cause and raising public support.

Australia currently spends .35 percent of its gross national income (GNI) on foreign aid. To put that in perspective, the US donates about .2 percent and Sweden gives 1.02 percent of its GNI. UNICEF hopes to increase this percentage by going door-to-door and asking Australians to sign a petition in support of more foreign aid funding. They will deliver these petitions to election candidates.

Their campaign does not, however, exist without resistance. Tony Abbott, Opposition Leader, warned that his party would support funding for projects in Northern Territory rather than increasing foreign aid if his party did not win the majority in the federal election. Another party, the Labor Government, expressed their intentions to supersede some funding for foreign assistance programs in favor of providing financial support for “offshore processing of asylum seekers.”

Despite this opposition, volunteers for UNICEF remain enthusiastic about public support for increased foreign aid. Tess van der Rijt, a campaigner during the North Sydney electorate, was encouraged that so many people whose homes she visited were passionate about the effectiveness and necessity of foreign aid and did not want to see the program lose funding. With a lot of hard work, UNICEF may be successful in pressuring politicians to adhere to the demands of the public and increase foreign aid.

– Mary Penn

Source: Herald Sun