Information and stories on foreign aid.

Listen to the Poor

In 2010, Armando Barrientos had a plan: just give direct money and resources to the poor, no need for the expensive aid industry. The argument made calls for community involvement, by directly transferring money to the poor. In this way, the recipients have a chance to decide what to do with that money. According to Barrientos’ argument in the Guardian, this model is being implemented in several countries including Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, and India. These countries provide “regular transfers of money to households in poverty with the aim of improving their nutrition, making sure children go to school and ensuring expectant mothers have regular check-ups.” Nevertheless, these same social transfer programs are difficult to set up without the help of the international community.

This year, the aim is a little higher; The Guardian posted an article discussing these social transfer programs in a broader light. The goal is to know how the poor and affected communities feel about these programs, if the programs actually help or detract the communities, and how the recipients can make better use of these money transfers. Recently, governments and aid donors have been more interested in involving the recipient communities in the decision-making, monitoring, and evaluating of “social protection programs.” Although the very concept of money transfers has generated positive results and is appreciated in several countries including Palestine, Mozambique, Yemen, and Uganda, monetary transactions are not sufficient enough in order to meet people’s basic needs.

Additionally, the access to cash transfers is confusing and alienating as the extremely poor either: do not know how to become eligible for funds, how to apply to receive funds, or are stuck on waiting lists for too long. Cash transfer recipients are reluctant to complain about such conditions regarding long waiting and the insufficiency of cash because the recipients are afraid to be regarded as “troublemakers,” which may cost them their access to funds altogether.

It is more efficient and effective to include the recipients in the decision-making process since the money directly affects them and their communities. It is also ethical, “people have a right to a say over what affects them.” The poor need a voice that will be listened to in order to improve social protection and cash transfer programs, making aid more effective, fair, and beneficial to the global community.

Leen Abdallah
Source: Guardian

US AID Working to Further Education in PakistanAs part of a larger effort to further education in Pakistan, USAID has awarded scholarships to 150 students of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). The students are enrolled for either the two-year Associate Degree in Education program or the four-year Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education program and are candidates the teachers who will go on to educate Pakistani youth. This is an important part of USAID’s collaboration with the Government of Pakistan in the larger Teacher Education Project. The project, which is slated to run for five years, includes an updated and standardized curriculum in 22 Pakistani universities and 75 teacher colleges.

The USAID Mission Director, Jock Conly, and the Prime Minister of AJK presented the awards, where Conly said that the scholarships are representative of the U.S. government’s committed effort to helping solidify the state of education and prosperity in Pakistan and to help create a “Roshan Pakistan.” He went on to confirm that the US hopes to help raise the bar of Pakistani education by supporting “better prepared teachers.”

USAID hopes that the program will create a much higher standard of education throughout the country. They aspire to hand out over 1,900 scholarships throughout the duration of the program. The U.S. gives more than $110 million to support education in Pakistan annually.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Pakistan Today


Divided Congress a Threat to Foreign AidJohn Kerry, in one of his first official speeches as Secretary of State, declared that diplomacy is key to securing the nation’s economic well-being, and urged Americans and legislators alike to avoid isolationism simply because of a down economy. Kerry pinned the blame for a lack of support for foreign aid on a divided Congress, saying that “the greatest challenge to America’s foreign policy today is in the hands, not of diplomats, but of policymakers in Congress.”

As a budget-cut-inducing sequester looms, Congress must come to an agreement on the national debt and budget – which includes funding for foreign aid and diplomacy programs, many of which have been the target of proposed cuts by conservatives. Kerry said that it is more important now than ever for America to have financial stability in order to set an example through diplomacy for developing countries. He went on to argue that diplomacy strengthens our economy at home by providing economic markets abroad for US exports, which negates the initial cost of government-sponsored foreign aid and international development ventures.

Kerry cited the success of the Marshall Plan in post-World War II Berlin, and asserted that the United States would have to stay relevant in the global arena in order to keep up with rising economic super powers like China and India.

Kerry gave additional real-world examples in support of foreign aid, including increased exports to Vietnam in the last decade, and the high number of former aid recipients who now import US goods. Learn more about how the US economy depends on participating in foreign aid here.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Telegraph

Teenager Helps Residents of a Garbage DumpWhile most teenage girls her age are reluctant to take out the trash, Courtney Quigley is begging her parents to return to Guatemala City to help the poverty-stricken residents of a garbage dump there. In the past, Courtney has worked with Potter House, a nonprofit which helps the 11,000 people living in the garbage dump. Out of that population, 6,500 are children.

According to the Lake Zurich Patch, Courtney first fell in love with Guatemala when she was nine and her family took a trip to build playgrounds with Kids Around the World, an organization whose primary goal is to provide safe play equipment for children who find it difficult to be “just a kid.” Courtney describes the garbage dump as being 40 acres filled with trash and yet the children somehow manage to stay positive and in high spirits.

While her family has been on other mission trips, Courtney has fallen in love with Guatemala. She was able to return in 2011, meeting a family of seven who lived in a 9 x 10 shack. One of the children, a 15-year-old girl, was pregnant and Courtney decided that something needed to be done to help improve their living condition.

To help, Courtney and her friends are hosting a “Hope’s in Style” fashion show fundraiser on February 24 at the Garlands Center in Barrington, Illinois.

Although she is now living in the United States, the memory of the children in Guatemala still remains vivid in her mind.

“There is nothing here that is hopeful, but when you shake hands, hug, and talk to people, they are so full of hope, so full of faith,” Courtney said. Their determination to make the best of their situation is what inspires her to keep moving forward.

 – Pete Grapentien

Source: Lake Zurich Patch

Books For Africa Teams Up With The Peace CorpsBy pairing with the Peace Corps and other nonprofits, Books for Africa has become the world’s largest shipper of donated books to the African continent. With its headquarters based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Books for Africa has shipped nearly 27 million books to 48 countries in the past 25 years.

In countries where few classrooms have suitable resources, Books for Africa ship libraries of new scholarly and leisurely texts as well as new law and human rights texts. Classrooms in countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa are filled with avid learners whose parents have sacrificed greatly to provide them with an education but often lack adequate supplies.

While many classrooms have adequate textbooks to constitute as reading material, noted on project organizer, the establishment of reading centers such as libraries indulge the hope that “Ethiopian children and their families will be able to experience the joys of reading and literacy activities directly.”

– Pete Grapentien

Source Huffington Post

Earlier this week, the new Secretary of State John Kerry gave a brief talk to a group of college students at the State Department, where he stressed the importance of U.S. foreign aid in fighting poverty and terrorism. Kerry started by polling the auditorium and asked the students how much of the annual budget they thought is allocated towards the State Department, foreign affairs, and foreign aid.

Kerry went on to state that many Americans think that the amount of funds spent on foreign aid totals around 50 to 30 percent of the national annual budget, when in reality, foreign aid is allocated a mere 1 percent. He then went on to remark that he considers foreign aid spending “absolutely an investment,” and explained the real return on investment that is gained, although it is not always quantifiable.

“I can tell you that you could quantify it in troops that you don’t have to send somewhere, lives that are not lost because you managed to create a relationship with a country that resolves its problems peacefully and that doesn’t spill over into another nation, whether it’s a Mali or the problems we’re seeing in Egypt now or Syria. The ability to be able to help people to make peaceful transitions and to move their economies to open, accountable economies that engage with the rest of the world makes a world of difference to the lives of people in that country and everybody around them,” stated Kerry.

The Secretary of State also mentioned North Korea and the current state of human rights in the country, along with the current military actions towards additional missile tests and perhaps even nuclear activity, saying that the people of North Korea “desperately need to become more open and connected to the world.”

Kerry went on to mention the success of PEPFAR, the U.S. government’s initiative to curb the spread of AIDS, and how it has saved the lives of around 5 million children and increased health infrastructure throughout Africa. He also noted that the United States is in a unique and favorable position to have a military strong enough to “push back against evil and terrorism” and still have the ability to build up those same countries and give them democracy, freedom, and increased infrastructure.

Addressing the frequent question of why the U.S. has to be involved in so many global issues, he answered, “Because America, throughout the 20th century and now moving into this century, has proven again and again that there is an indispensable capacity to help bring about peace, find a way for people’s rights, their individual human rights to be able to be protected and to be able to live better lives.”

In support of his answer, he gave several examples of past instances where the U.S. has intervened and improved upon the situation – Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia, and The Dayton Peace Accords, namely.

Kerry conceded that although U.S. foreign involvement has improved people’s lives and countries in several instances, it is “not perfect” and that mistakes have been made in the past, but also acknowledged that the foreign issues that we face today are much different than they were during WWII, when the U.S. had obvious and clear-cut enemies. Kerry mentioned the U.S. aid that was given to Germany and Japan to rebuild post-WWII and said that was the “best decision we ever made,” and went on to state that foreign policy is all about making difficult decisions like this in order to build for the future.

Kerry went on to state that now, more than ever, is the time when the U.S. needs to continue its nation-building and international development efforts, especially in the tumultuous Middle East, where a majority of the population are young adults facing unstable governments and poverty. He went on to mention the need to persuade Congress to continue to support nation-building efforts, despite heavy budget deficit talks here at home.

In wrapping up his speech, the Secretary of State asserted that the major challenge of U.S. foreign policy moving forward would be “to help these folks be able to find the kind of opportunity that you have and that a lot of other people strive for in different parts of the world. Our challenge is not to retreat and go inwards and say, ‘Oh, let them fight it out, it doesn’t make a difference.’ It does make all the difference in the world, as we saw in Afghanistan, where if you leave people to their own devices, a lot of extremists will just organize themselves and make life miserable for people somewhere.”

Secretary of State Kerry encourages foreign aid because of the massive, global impact it has. With increased advocacy and awareness, hopefully a more diverse group of legislators and policymakers will start to do the same.

Christina Mattos Kindlon

Source: State Department


William & Mary Discuss the AidData Centre for Development Policy
Financial foreign assistance is one of the most powerful ways that developed nations can help lower-income countries fight their ways through poverty, also yielding some of the most immediate results. That being said, many in aid-giving communities criticize foreign aid because there exists the idea that the money invested is wasted, used to line administrators’ pockets or be lackadaisically distributed to corrupt governments.

Futuregov estimates that annually, around $150 billion is contributed globally “to support human and socio-economic development worldwide.”

Given the global community’s demands for greater accountability and transparency in funding, the AidData Centre for Development Policy has been created as “a joint venture between the College of William & Mary, Development Gateway, Brigham Young University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Esri. The Centre’s work will initially be funded through a five-year $25 million cooperative agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).”

The program will combine the efforts of experts in a menagerie of different fields to track and make public the effects of specific foreign aid projects. The purpose of the program assessments is also self-reflective; ideally, the more stringently programs are criticized, the less money will be needed to affect a large impact.

Hopefully, AidData will put USAID back on the map of the United States’ foreign policy agenda and silence the naysayers against providing money for foreign aid.

– Nina Narang

Source: futureGOV
Photo: The Flat Hat

Recently, Quebec and its potential international aid agency have become a hot news topic. Quebec is considering the creation of its own foreign aid agency with its allotted share of the Canadian budget for International Development during the most recent elections.

If Quebec and its potential international aid agency become a reality, it would loosen its ties to the rest of Canada. Parti Quebecois is a political party in Quebec that aims to move away from its connections to Canada to make Quebec its own state. Overall, Quebec’s government, opposition to Canada’s Conservative party, believes that Canada’s foreign aid programs have been “tainted” by the Conservatives. Therefore, Quebec’s independent foreign aid budget becomes highly tangible.

Quebec has already shown progress on research and development into the definition and function of the new department. The government has demonstrated its full intentions by hiring several of Quebec’s developers to take on the job. A committee report is expected at the end of 2013 to give more updates on the project, which will be run by the Quebec Association for International Solidarity.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: Macleans, Winnipeg Free Press
Photo: CTV News

The Social Impact Bond model of international aid is a relatively new way of helping foreign countries; many call it a “pay for success” model. Social Impact Bonds, or SIBs, are based on outcomes, rather than intentions. Despite the name, they do not fit the average definition of a “bond,” which would imply those receiving the investors’ money are obligated to return it no matter what happens. Rather, in a nutshell, the independent investors will only get their money back (plus interest) if the program succeeds. The social impact bond model of international aid is meant to be a preventative course of action to benefit society; only those programs that have the most chance of success will be funded.

Due to the existence of private investors, the social impact bond model of international aid does not threaten public funds or rely on the United States (or any other country’s) federal budget. SIBs could also provide a huge benefit to foreign aid if the right programs exist. Rather than merely expecting those wealthy enough to donate their cash to these causes, they are investing in them, and like any other investment, there is a chance of failure. Still, if they invest wisely, not only will they reap the rewards, but so will those who have received help from the various nonprofits.

Although there are certain flaws to SIBs, because not all programs will be able to gather funding (such as pilot programs, because they have not proved they can be successful), it certainly would help in some cases. Moreover, it will protect the U.S. budget and, if successful, will benefit a large number of people across the globe, including investors in the U.S.

Instiglio is an example of a nonprofit organization that deals primarily with social impact bonds.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: McKinsey, US News
Photo: Tech