US Budget Cuts Could Weaken Global Fight Against AIDS
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been the largest national effort by any country to combat a single disease and has resulted in 11.5 million people put on antiretroviral treatment. PEPFAR has received wide bipartisan support since its inception in 2003, but the Trump administration has proposed a 17 percent cut to the program as part of the 2018 budget proposal. Experts are now warning that these cuts to PEPFAR and other global health programs could inflame the AIDS epidemic.

Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations fears the worst. “Without a revolutionary breakthrough in either vaccines or the entire model of HIV control, a massive second global wave of AIDS will come, perhaps within the next 10 years.” These predictions come as the U.S. shows a greater reluctance to commit funds to fighting HIV/AIDS.

With the wide distribution of antiretroviral drugs, deaths from AIDS have been halved over the past decade, but new infections haven’t slowed down. Two million people are infected with HIV annually, and these new infections are showing greater resistance to traditional treatments. Despite the need for further research, global funds for research and development have been declining. The Trump administration has proposed a 20 percent budget cut to the National Institutes of Health, America’s leading funder of HIV research.

Though the proposed budget would uproot U.S. efforts in the global fight against AIDS, political analysts have predicted that Congress will fight to reduce these cuts. PEPFAR has bipartisan support and the Republican majority considers it a party accomplishment due to its enactment by President George W. Bush. The National Institutes of Health have also recently gained bipartisan support with both Republicans and Democrats supporting greater funding.

Although the Trump administration’s cuts will likely be reduced by Congress, advocates worry that the proposed cuts will keep these programs from operating at their current levels. “I have no doubt Congress will succeed in restoring some level of funding,” says Scott Morris, director of the U.S. Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development. “But it strikes me as an insurmountable lift to get back to the level of funding these programs currently enjoy.”

Carson Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Private Businesses Speak up on Cutting of Foreign Aid Budget
Shortly after taking office in 2017, the Trump administration released its proposed budget cuts for FY 2018. Among the proposed cuts was a 31 percent decrease in the foreign aid budget, which includes cutting funding to the United Nations, the World Bank and other diplomatic institutions. With the already low foreign aid budget potentially decreasing, impoverished nations still do have dependable allies in the U.S. other than the government.

After the release of the proposed foreign aid budget cuts, American business leaders from companies such as Walmart, Nike and Coca-Cola signed a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to reevaluate the proposed cuts. The May 22 letter highlights the fact that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S. and that “eleven of America’s top fifteen export markets are in countries that have been recipients of U.S. foreign assistance.”

Not only are private businesses lobbying the government to take responsibility when it comes to stepping up foreign aid policy, but they have also stepped up in their own funding to developing countries and their economies.

According to The Guardian, private sectors have invested money to developing countries at a faster rate than government foreign aid; they receive 27 percent more foreign business investments than development aid. The investments, which have increased nine-fold since the year 2000, are starting to bring countries out of poverty with increasing business capital flow into their economies.

As businesses see more market potential in countries where citizens could come out of poverty and would have more money to spend on luxury goods, they have an incentive to invest in development.

For example, The Coca-Cola Company and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation teamed up with TechnoServe to invest in eastern African farmers to produce fruit for their Minute Maid drinks. As a result, local farmers were educated on how to produce better crop yields that would benefit both Coca Cola’s production and the farmers’ incomes. This venture was titled Project Nurture and increased the incomes of 54,000 farmers.

“We are committed to working with you in your role as Secretary of State to share our perspectives on the importance of U.S. international affairs programs to boost our exports abroad and our jobs here at home,” read the May 22 letter to Tillerson. Whether the proposed 31 percent foreign aid budget cut goes into effect or not, private businesses will continue to invest in foreign markets and give aid to developing countries. It is also important to note that, in budgetary matters, Congress holds the power of the purse. While the President is able to propose budgetary cuts, they must be approved by Congress before going into effect.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr

Among the many controversial changes to the U.S. federal budget proposed by President Trump, reductions in spending on health in foreign countries may prove the most costly. Contrary to popular opinion, the amount of money spent by the U.S. on assisting foreign countries to stay healthy is extremely small, and foreign aid budget cuts will not save the country any significant amount of money.

“It is very troubling,” said Georgetown University global health expert Lawrence Gostin. “Especially when you think of the pivotal role the U.S. has played over the years in global health. The world is lost without U.S. leadership.”

For reasons unknown, one of the most persistent myths Americans believe about the federal budget is that the government spends nearly 20 percent of it on foreign aid. In reality, even before Trump’s proposal can take effect in 2018, less than one penny of every dollar goes to foreign assistance of all types. When factoring in the gross national income, the U.S. spends a shockingly low 0.16 percent of its budget on helping improve the lives of those in developing countries.

Cutting back on foreign aid spending may actually end up costing the U.S. The outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, which occurred between 2014 and 2016, proved that there is no such thing as an isolated national health crisis in the current global economy. In order to protect American citizens from infection, the U.S. government had to spend $2.3 billion to help contain the spread of the epidemic.

Spending on foreign aid helps to prevent catastrophic outbreaks like Ebola from happening, which consequently results in financial savings. Perhaps most importantly, foreign aid budget cuts may not save money because foreign assistance spending is not so much a charitable donation as it is an investment in the future. According to the Lancet Commission, spending on global health can provide returns of a whopping nine times the initial investment.

The good news is the proposed budget cuts remain just that: a proposal. Congress must approve the full budget before the changes take place, and representatives rely on feedback from their constituents when making decisions on important matters such as these. Securing the future of foreign aid investment may be a phone call away, and our guide to contacting local representatives is a great place to start.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

house of representatives budget
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a two-year, bipartisan budget plan that moves onto the Senate next week before going to President Barack Obama.

The budget passed overwhelmingly in a 332 to 94 vote, including 164 Democrats and 169 Republicans. President Obama has expressed his support for the bill. In addition to budget allocation, the bill addresses the sexual assault cases in the military. Military commanders no longer have the ability to overturn sexual assault cases and victims of sexual assault in the military have greater protections.

The bill outlines $1.012 trillion in government spending, reducing the deficit by more than $20 billion. The bill includes more targeted spending cuts in order to balance spending. $63 billion is allocated to temporary sequester relief, and $85 billion worth of programs have been cut from the budget. The plan includes funding for the Affordable Care Act, increased government spending, and increased taxes. Republican say the new deal is moving “in the wrong direction,” but Democrats call the bill “a small positive step forward.”

The budget does not include unemployment benefit extensions for the one million Americans whose benefits are set to expire in January, but White House spokesman Jay Carney urged Congress to take up the issue in 2014.

The 2014 budget does not solve any major problems, but it avoids another period of government shutdown. Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin says the budget “reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it does so by cutting spending in a smarter way. It doesn’t go as far as I’d like, but it’s a firm step in the right direction. This agreement will stop Washington’s lurch from crisis to crisis. It will bring stability to the budget process and show both parties can work together.” In a year where Congress has only passed 15 bills, many fear bipartisan cooperation is dead.

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Al Jazeera, CNN, Slate, House of Representatives

UK’s End of Aid to S. Africa Attracts Criticism
The United Kingdom’s announcement that it would stop giving direct foreign aid to South Africa in 2015 has drawn criticism from international aid organizations like Oxfam and Action Aid. The U.K. has opted to supplant development aid with a trading relationship. This decision is similar to one the U.K. made last year to end monetary aid to India.

Action Aid is critical of both decisions and warns wealthy countries of ending aid to middle-income countries. One critique of the UK’s announcement is that it is not giving South Africa enough warning or time frame to adjust to the sudden decrease in aid. However, even more importantly, money given by U.K. foreign aid that went towards vaccines and other medicines for impoverished people will abruptly go unfunded. The U.K.’s foreign aid program also focused on improving health conditions for women giving birth and reducing labor deaths.

However, Justine Greening, the U.K.’s International Development Secretary, maintains that South Africa should no longer rely on foreign aid since it is now “the region’s economic powerhouse.” The Secretary met with South African officials and agreed that it was time to change their relationship to strictly trading partners.

Despite this justification, the head of development finance and public services at Oxfam, Emma Seery, reminds the U.K. that, although South Africa is becoming more developed, there is still vast economic and social inequalities in the country. U.K.’s monetary assistance went towards programs that many poor people depended on and now they will either have to find another way to fund the programs, or the programs will cease to exist.

At its highest point in 2003, the United Kingdom was giving South Africa about $40 million in foreign aid. Although the U.K. will no longer be investing in South Africa, the country is still receiving aid from other countries and is continuing to improve itself. Hopefully, the combination of these two factors will ensure that South Africa’s poor receive the assistance they need and rely on.

– Mary Penn

Source: BBC

Photo: BBC


Barack Obama has called for reforms to the in-kind American food aid system. If enacted, these budget reforms could dramatically change how the world’s largest donor operates abroad.

The reforms, included in the President’s 2014 budget proposal, would significantly roll back requirements that American food aid is bought and shipped from the US. Instead, more funding than ever would be available for recipients to buy food closer to where it’s needed, or send cash or vouchers instead.

The administration’s proposals would entirely end “monetisation” programs where aid groups receive US food commodities in place of cash, which they then sell in local markets to fund other development projects such as clinics and schools. USAid said the reforms would enable it to reach an additional two to four million people each year. “Rather than limiting the United States to a tied, commodities-only approach, these reforms will enable experts to select the right tool to most efficiently meet the needs of hungry and vulnerable people,” it said.

However, if the reforms are passed, they may take a toll on the maritime unions and US based farmers that depend on the current food aid system. USA Maritime, a coalition of maritime unions, called on Congress to reject the reforms. “The administration’s proposals … will be harmful to our US merchant marine, harmful to our national defense sealift capability, harmful to our farmers and millers and bad for our economy,” said chairman James L Henry.

The administration’s proposal includes $25 million in additional funding for the department of transportation’s maritime administration, which would lose significant business under the reforms. This would support “certain militarily useful ships, and will facilitate the retention of US mariners”, it said.

Congress must now decide whether to fund these programs and accept the proposed changes. Analysts expect months of increased lobbying both from supporters and detractors.

-Kira Maixner

Source: The Guardian


How much aid does the U.S. give to the world’s poor?
$30 billion goes to programs that assist the world’s needy.

How does that compare to other foreign policy priorities?
$663 billion goes toward military spending.

US foreign aid pie chart


The Major Players in Global Do-Gooding

In 1970, the world’s richest countries agreed to give 0.7% of their gross national income as official international development aid. Most rich countries have failed to reach this reasonable goal, but five countries have exceeded the target.

foreign aid

Foreign Aid: Public Perception vs. Reality

Americans drastically overestimate the level of funding going to assisting the world’s poor and consequently there hasn’t been public outrage over the miniscule funding levels. On average, Americans believe 25% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, and ironically think it should be “slashed” to only 10%. In reality, less than 1% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid.

Listen to the Money Talk…

$73 – Amount per American the U.S. spends on aid.
$1,763 – Amount per American the U.S. spends on defense.

(The Guardian)

Public Opinion of Foreign Aid…

  • 61% say that combating world hunger should be a very important goal of U.S. foreign policy.
  • 78% favor helping poor countries develop their economies as a way to fight terrorism.
    (World Views)

Did you know? During Hurricane Katrina, 95 countries offered foreign aid to the United States.

Impact of Foreign Aid

Below is a small sampling of the results of U.S. foreign aid.


  • More than 3 million lives are saved every year through USAID immunization programs.
  • Oral rehydration therapy, a low cost and easily administered solution developed through USAID programs in Bangladesh, is credited with saving tens of millions of lives around the globe.
  • Life expectancy in the developing world has increased by about 33 percent, smallpox has been eradicated worldwide, and in the past 20 years, the number of the world’s chronically undernourished has been reduced by 50 percent.
  • The United Nations Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, in which USAID played a major role, resulted in 1.3 billion people receiving safe drinking water sources, and 750 million people receiving sanitation for the first time.
  • More than 50 million couples worldwide use family planning as a direct result of USAID’s population program.
  • In the past 50 years, infant and child death rates in the developing world have been reduced by 50 percent, and health conditions around the world have improved more during this period than in all previous human history.
  • Since 1987, USAID has initiated HIV/AIDS prevention programs in 32 countries, and is the recognized technical leader in the design and development of these programs in the developing world. Over 850,000 people have been reached with USAID HIV prevention education, and 40,000 people have been trained to support HIV/AIDS programs in their own countries.
  • USAID child survival programs have made a major contribution to a 10 percent reduction in infant mortality rates worldwide in just the past eight years.
  • In the 28 countries with the largest USAID-sponsored family planning programs, the average number of children per family has dropped from 6.1 in the mid-1960s to 4.2 today.


  • Forty-three of the top 50 consumer nations of American agricultural products were once U.S. foreign aid recipients. Between 1990 and 1993, U.S. exports to developing and transition countries increased by $46 billion.
  • With the help of USAID, 21,000 farm families in Honduras have been trained in improved land cultivation practices which have reduced soil erosion by 70,000 tons.
  • Agricultural research sponsored by the United States sparked the “Green Revolution” in India. These breakthroughs in agricultural technology and practices resulted in the most dramatic increase in agricultural yields and production in the history of mankind, allowing nations like India and Bangladesh to become nearly food self-sufficient.
  • Early USAID action in southern Africa in 1992 prevented massive famine in the region, saving millions of lives.
  • U.S. exports of food processing and packaging machinery have increased from about $100 million in 1986, to an estimated $680 million in 1994. This huge increase is due partly to USAID-funded projects that have increased supplies of agricultural raw materials for processing and have given potential processors the information, technical assistance and training they needed to start or expand their businesses.
  • Investments by the United States and other donors in better seeds and agricultural techniques over the past two decades have helped make it possible to feed an extra billion people in the world.

Democracy & Self-Governance

  • There were 58 democratic nations in 1980. By 1995, this number had jumped to 115 nations.
  • USAID provided democracy and governance assistance to 36 of the 57 nations that successfully made the transition to democratic government during this period.

Sustainability & the Environment

  • Over the past decade, USAID has targeted some $15 million in technical assistance for the energy sectors of developing countries. U.S. assistance has built a $50 billion annual market for private power. U.S. firms are capturing the largest share of these markets, out-competing Japan and Germany.

Economic Growth & Financial Independence

  • Eighty thousand people and $1 billion in U.S. and Filipino assets were saved due to early warning equipment installed by USAID that warned that the Mount Pinatubo volcano was about to erupt in 1991.
  • After initial USAID start-up support for loans and operating costs, Banco Solidario (BancoSol) became the first full-fledged commercial bank in Latin America dedicated to microbusiness. BancoSol serves about 44,000 small Bolivian businesses, with loans averaging $200 each. The bank now is a self-sustaining commercial lender that needs no further USAID assistance.
  • Millions of entrepreneurs around the world (many of them women) have started or improved small businesses through USAID assistance.


  • Literacy rates are up 33 percent worldwide in the last 25 years, and primary school enrollment has tripled in that period.


“It’s in our country’s best interest to get economic development in every corner of the world.”
– Jeff Immelt, CEO, GE

“The United States has an interest in working with our allies to help the world’s poorest countries grow into productive and prosperous economies governed by capable, democratic, and accountable state institutions.”
– U.S. National Security Strategy

“Foreign aid must be viewed as an investment, not an expense.”
– Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX)

“No national security strategy is complete in the long run without promoting global health, political freedom and economic progress.”
– President George W. Bush

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”
– Nelson Mandela

“By doing good, we do well.”
– Rajiv Shah, Director of USAID

“Foreign Assistance is not an end in itself. The purpose of aid must be to create the conditions where it is no longer needed- where we help build the capacity for transformational change in a society”
– President Barack Obama

“The ultimate importance to the United States of our security and development assistance programs cannot be exaggerated”
– President Ronald Reagan

“If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”
– Secretary of Defense James Mattis

“The programs supported by the International Affairs Budget are as essential to our national security as defense programs. Development and diplomacy protect our nation by addressing the root causes of terrorism and conflict.”
– Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge

“Strong national security is dependent on having a strong diplomatic arm, a strong development arm, a strong intelligence arm, a strong capability to try to have strong economies in the world.  I mean, all of this is related to our national security.”
– Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

“We live in a dangerous world and a world of opportunity. Increasing our diplomatic and development resources is absolutely critical and money well spent to deal with the dangers and seize the opportunities.”
– Former Secretary of State Colin Powell