Information and stories on foreign aid.

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