Belgium’s foreign aid
Today, Belgium’s foreign aid program is one of the most generous in the world. In 2020, Belgium allocated 0.47% of its gross national income to official development assistance (ODA), putting it squarely within the ranks of the world’s most generous givers. But, what is just as impressive as the extent of Belgium’s foreign aid is the effective system Belgium has for allocating aid. Belgium does its best to make sure that every euro has the maximum impact.

Avoiding Past Mistakes

Belgium’s foreign aid program was not always a model system. During the Cold War, led by geopolitical interests, Belgium gave vast amounts of money to the corrupt ruler of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu used the aid to serve his personal interests and little aid went toward helping Congolese people. Today, the Belgian government is far more careful in ensuring that its foreign aid goes directly to its target.

The Belgian government lists independence and neutrality as two of its main foreign aid objectives. Independence refers to the idea that “bodies involved in humanitarian aid are not bound by any other political decisions and actions taken by the donors in the field.” This concept aims to prevent politicizing interference. Neutrality indicates “that no party involved in armed or unarmed conflict may receive preferential treatment in the context of humanitarian aid.” Both of these concepts help ensure that aid always goes where it is most needed rather than being a political tool.

The Distribution of Aid

Today, Belgium still directs large amounts of aid to the DRC. The DRC “receives a quarter of bilateral aid” from Belgium. This is in part because of Belgium’s dark colonial history in the country and also because of the intimate regional knowledge Belgian developers now have. As a result of all its investment, Belgium has become a leader in the fight to reduce poverty in the DRC, where a lack of infrastructure and constant conflict plunged 73% of the population into extreme poverty in 2018.

Focusing the lion’s share of its money on a single country has enabled Belgium to use its limited resources to maximum effect, alleviating food insecurity for many Congolese people and funding education, among many other projects. Another way Belgium ensures effective foreign aid is by maximizing the reach of its monetary contributions. Much of Belgium’s bilateral aid goes to international funds that can allocate money on a much smaller level. The most important of these groups are civil society organizations (CSOs).

CSOs are small volunteer organizations that address the specific needs of particular communities, much like NGOs. By diverting a significant portion of money to CSOs, Belgium is able to operate on both a small and a large scale, targeting both governments and smaller communities. The advantage of Belgium’s multilevel approach to foreign aid is obvious: taking multiple avenues toward aid ensures that no person or group ends up behind.

A Model for Other Countries

The Belgian foreign aid system is not without flaws. Impressive as its numbers may be, Belgium’s foreign aid has so far failed to reach its goal of 0.7% of GNI. In 2003, Belgium’s foreign aid reached 0.6% GNI but declined in subsequent years. Despite not yet reaching its foreign aid target, the Belgian foreign aid strategy has led to great success and serves as a model for other wealthy countries to emulate.

Thomas Brodey
Photo: Flickr

Brief History of US Foreign Aid Policy
When hearing the term “foreign aid,” one probably thinks of the U.S. giving money to poor countries for food and water. While this assumption is partially correct, U.S. foreign aid is also a means of economic and political strategic fodder for the U.S. Foreign aid often includes providing money to foreign countries for militarization efforts or providing assistance from the U.S. military itself.

U.S. Foreign Aid

While some oppose the U.S. giving aid to other countries in favor of using the same money to bolster the U.S. economy and provide national security, they usually do so under the false pre-tense that around 25 percent of our national budget is geared toward foreign aid; the real number is only around 1.5 percent.

In fact, foreign aid acts as economic investment with other countries and creates trading allies, providing a return on investment. Also, foreign aid works to provide national security for the U.S. by stabilizing countries rife with conflict and poverty; such measures often end wars before they even begin. This notion was confirmed by a letter to President Trump from over 120 retired generals, urging the president to reconsider the ‘benefits’ of the proposed cuts to the foreign aid budget.

Throughout the history of U.S. foreign aid, one can simply follow our military. Here are four of the big shifts in U.S. foreign aid policy.

Marshall Plan

Foreign aid, as we consider it now, started post-WWII. In 1947, two years after the war, Secretary of State George C. Marshall insisted at a Harvard commencement ceremony that the U.S. needed an aggressive plan to rebuild Europe. The Marshall Plan, officially known as the European Recovery Program, passed the next year.

In the next four years, the U.S. provided more than $13 billion in aid to European nations. The move, while helpful, was also tinged with a political agenda — the U.S. needed allies in Europe against an emerging enemy, the Soviet Union. The U.S. remains close allies with these European nations and 13 of them are current NATO members.

President Harry S Truman supplemented the humanitarian efforts provided by the Marshall Plan with further military and economic aid to allies in Europe by way of the Point Four Program, a technical aid program aimed at sharing U.S. technology and knowledge of agriculture and industry. This measure was ultimately a gesture meant to create allies against the emerging USSR. Truman then signed the Mutual Security Act of 1951, which replaced the Marshall Plan and shifted its priorities to containing the spread of communism.

Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was created out of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. The assumption was that by combining foreign aid programs, the U.S. could be a better leader and moral authority for the rest of the world (read: prevent the spread of communism).

USAID is now the main operator of U.S. foreign aid programs, leading development and humanitarian efforts across the globe ranging from the Feed the Future program, a global food security program providing funding, health services, water and protection to aiding peoples suffering from conflicts in South Sudan.

The Cold War

In the 1970s, the focus of foreign aid shifted from economic and political development, to meeting “basic human needs.” This lead to an emphasis on food production, nutrition, health and education — all means to providing developing countries with the means to be self-sufficient. Still, there was a political tinge. The U.S. was largely acting on anti-communism interests and Middle East peace initiatives. As a result of these priorities, Israel and Egypt became large recipients from U.S. aid.

Toward the end of the 1980s, Congress was tasked with reducing the national deficit and foreign aid was at less than 1 percent of the national budget. Still, foreign aid followed into the same countries as our military including Panama in 1990 after the U.S. invaded Panama during Operation Just Cause under President George H. W. Bush.

Due to the end of the Cold War and Congress’s continued efforts to maintain the budget deficit, foreign aid remained less than 1 percent of the federal budget until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Contemporary Foreign Aid

From 2003-2014, Iraq and Afghanistan received increases in economic and military assistance from the U.S. Afghanistan became the largest recipient of U.S. aid in 2017 at $4.7 billion. President George W. Bush also created the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003, which supports over 14 million people in over 50 countries living with HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR’s website claims to have helped more than 2.2 million babies to be born HIV-free to pregnant women living with HIV and AIDS.

In 2008, President Obama renewed PEPFAR and also signed the U.S. President’s Policy Directive on Global Development. The Obama administration called it the first of its time, but the measure resembles Kennedy’s act to instill the U.S. by way of foreign assistance and development at the forefront of moral and economic authority globally. The directive has a wide berth of goals aimed at providing increased global food security, global health and national security by working on poverty-related issues in impoverished nations.

Today, President Trump continues to insist we trim the U.S. foreign aid budget by over 30 percent, which will inevitably cut some humanitarian programs entirely. The Trump administration claims the cuts will go to bolstering national security, but as we’ve learned and as over 120 retired generals stated to President Trump, U.S. foreign aid is a form of national security.

– Nick Hodges
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits from Foreign Aid to Serbia
Serbia is working to strengthen human rights protections and to promote economic growth within the country while facing external pressure from Russia. Russia has been expanding its influence and amplifying ethnic tensions in several countries that may join the European Union. In particular consideration of the close relations between Serbia and Russia, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Serbia because this aid works to prevent a new Cold War in the Balkans.

Social Benefits of Foreign Aid to Serbia

From 2001 to 2017, the U.S. gave about $800 million in aid to Serbia to help the country stimulate economic growth, promote good governance and strengthen its justice system. One example of a major issue Serbia is dealing with is human trafficking.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons report, Serbia remains listed as a Tier Two country because it has yet to fully comply with the minimum standard for eliminating the issue. However, Serbia has shown significant efforts to address human trafficking by establishing a permanent human smuggling and trafficking law enforcement task force, identifying more victims as well as providing guidelines to judges and prosecutors.

Other U.S. aid to Serbia in the past has gone toward strengthening its export and border controls. This includes efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. More recently, U.S. military aid has helped Serbia take part in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programs as well as prepare for international peacekeeping missions.

Economic Benefits of Aid to Serbia

From an economic standpoint, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Serbia through U.S. investors in the country. These investors include KKR, Philip Morris, Ball Packaging, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Cooper Tire and Van Drunen Farms. In 2013, Fiat began shipping cars manufactured in Serbia to the U.S., increasing imports from the Balkan countries.

In addition, U.S. technology companies in Serbia are becoming more interested in opportunities in areas such as e-government, cloud computing, digitization, IT security and systems integration. In 2013, Microsoft even signed a $34 million contract to provide software to government offices in Serbia.

Political Benefits of Aid to Serbia

U.S. aid to Serbia is currently focused on helping the country integrate into the European Union, which will decrease Serbia’s vulnerability to Russian aggression as well as strengthen its democratic institutions. Out of the $5.39 million the U.S. plans to allot in foreign aid to Serbia in 2019, 46 percent will be allocated to strengthening the country’s rule of law and protection of human rights, 34 percent will be put toward increasing the capacity of civil society organizations and 20 percent will be for good governance.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Serbia from a diplomatic perspective as well in the case of international terrorism. The Ministry of Interior Directorate of Police, the Security Information Agency and Serbia’s law enforcement and security agencies have continued to work with the U.S. to prevent this major security threat, which affects both nations as well as the rest of the world.

In the past, Serbia has hosted a regional counterterrorism conference on foreign terrorist fighting. The country has also sent representatives to conferences in Albania, Italy and Slovenia to discuss how to counter violent extremism.

There are many economic and political reasons the U.S. and Serbia would benefit from the U.S. providing aid to Serbia. Together, the two countries have great potential to make technological advancements as well as work for a more peaceful world.

– Connie Loo
Photo: Flickr

 Korean War Facts
After World War II, the Korean War displayed the growing, global rivalry between the leading superpowers at the time, the United States and the Soviet Union. Engaged in “limited war,” the U.S. aimed to protect South Korea instead of totally defeating its enemy. The public was accustomed to total victories from World War II, therefore the Korean War is a forgotten war for many Americans. However, Koreans live and breathe the effects of the first “limited war” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Below are crucial Korean War facts and how the forgotten war continues to impact Koreans.

Top Korean War Facts

  1. The Korean War (1950-1953), juxtaposed with Japan’s colonization of Korea (1910-1945), continued a painful history for many Koreans. As colonized people, Koreans suffered repeated abuse and violations. The Japanese forced comfort women, as young as middle school girls, to become sex slaves. Against their wills, Koreans were sent to work in Japan’s factories and to fight on the front lines of World War II. When the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the number of Koreans thought to be killed in the bombing was more than 20,000.
  2. In August 1945, the Japanese Empire fell, and two young colonels temporarily divided the Korean peninsula in half along the 38th parallel, without consulting the Korean government. The Cold War brought a new set of challenges. South of the border, the U.S. reluctantly backed Syngman Rhee, the anti-communist dictator. Supported by the Soviets, Kim Il Sung, the communist dictator, reigned north of the border. As South Korea prepared to elect their leader, the Soviet Union blocked free elections in the North.
  3. On June 25, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th Parallel. After three days, South Korea’s capital, Seoul, fell to the communists.
  4. In July 1950, U.S. troops entered the Korean War. In the eyes of the U.S., the Korean War was a war against international communism. Harry S. Truman said, “If we let Korea down, the Soviets will keep right on going and swallow up one after another.” Sixteen U.N. members contributed combat forces that were led by General Douglas MacArthur, commander of U.N. forces in Korea.
  5. MacArthur’s Operation Chromite, a surprise amphibious landing at Incheon, dealt with skepticism because of the city’s narrow port and extreme tides. On Sept. 15, 1950, MacArthur’s amphibious assault successfully pushed North Koreans out of Seoul and to their side of the 38th parallel, shifting the tides of the Korean War.
  6. Yet MacArthur’s successes became a dangerous flaw. In the past, the general successfully defended Bataan and Corregidor; in World War II, he conquered the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific. After pushing the North Koreans back, MacArthur confidently pressed upward to achieve his vision of unifying the Koreas, ignoring Chinese warnings of retaliation in response to further U.S. encroachment near their lands. When his troops pressed forward into North Korea, China entered the war and annihilated South Korean and the U.N. troops.
  7. Fearing escalated fighting with China would draw the Soviets into the Korean War, Truman fired MacArthur for insubordination. MacArthur’s wishes to wage war conflicted with President Truman’s agenda to maintain peace in Europe. In one instance, the general publicly threatened to bomb China.
  8. Civilian casualties amounted to more than half of total casualties during the Korean War. (In 2012, the Washington Post argued that the U.S. largely ignores civilians who die in military interventions. When looking at Iraq and Afghanistan, the article argues that U.S. leaders, emboldened by the public overlooking the civilian costs associated with each war, pursue greater international interventions.)
  9. Although an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, the war technically continues today. In 1974, a North Korean agent assassinated Park Chung-hee, mother of current South Korean President Park Geun-Hye. In March 2010, a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors. To this date, a peace treaty has not been signed.
  10. After the Korean War, the U.S. national defense budget increased. South Korea immediately became poor; children survived on food donations like powdered milk. On the other hand, North Korea quickly recovered with Soviet and Chinese support. North Korea’s army became, and still remains, one of the largest armies in the world. However, North Korea‘s economy collapsed with the decline of the Soviet Union.

Today, South Korea has become the first nation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to shift from being a recipient into a donor. In fact, since the 1960s, South Korea has increased its per capita GDP, which was once less than $40, more quickly than any of its neighbors. However, skirmishes between the two countries are frequent and fatal. Because the Korean War never ended, one wrong move could result in an expanded conflict.

Andy Jung

Photo: Flickr

The Role of Unofficial Diplomacy in Peacekeeping
The role of unofficial diplomacy, also known as Track II diplomacy, became increasingly helpful for state crafting. This method of diplomacy started in the U.S. by a group of academics, state department bureaucrats and public intellectuals during the 1970s.

The methods grew out of the conflicts of the Cold War including Soviet-U.S. spy scandals and the Arab-Israeli conflict. By the 1980s and 1990s, many individuals and public institutions were taking part of unofficial diplomacy. Currently, Track II diplomacy is taught in several graduate programs.

The method encourages negotiators and private individuals to meet in an informal and unofficial setting to make common ground where normal diplomatic negotiators can’t.

Governments started worrying that Track II diplomacy is taking over freelance diplomacy but scholars insist that unconventional problems require unconventional solutions. Track II diplomacy efforts help to bring solutions to problems such as in Kashmir, China and North Korea.

An example where Track II diplomacy is used to resolve conflict is in India. For decades, India and Pakistan are fighting for the disputed Kashmir. The tension could escalate again into a conflict between the two countries.

In order to prevent such a situation, Track II diplomacy could bring more stakeholders to the negotiations table. According to the Diplomat, a genuine people-to-people approach would only help reach long-term peace among the two nuclear countries.

In order for unofficial diplomacy process to succeed in the conflict of Kashmir, Track II efforts should include groups who are not necessarily on either side. This includes diverse media and not just local media of both sides.

Also, diplomacy efforts should be conducted in local areas of the conflicts. This includes suburban towns that are not major cities. Agendas for prospective agreements should be open and not limited to biased goals.

A more practical example of the use of unofficial diplomacy is the resolved disputes between the U.S. and Iran. The tensions were high after the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis.

However, during the time from 1997 to 2005, Track II diplomacy efforts were taken to provide space for productive talk. These talks provided ground to discuss topics that government officials were not ready or willing to discuss. This was unique since the governments were not willing to discuss many issues.

Through implementing frequent use, the role of unofficial diplomacy will aid in the ability to civilly resolve disputes.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr

We talk sadly about the terrible conditions in “The Third World.” But do we actually know what the Third World is? Here are three things you probably didn’t know about the so-called Third World:

Etymology— After the Second World War, and before the start of the Cold War, the world was divided roughly into three different groups: the First World, the Second World, and the Third World. The First World referred to countries such as the U.S.: capitalist, democratic, and industrial.

The Second World referred to the communist-socialist countries in Eastern Europe and East Asia, such as Russia, China, Poland, etc. Finally, the Third World referred to the rest of the countries.

Today, the phrase “Third World” is used to refer to the Global South, or in general, to poorer nations. While this appropriation of the phrase is not entirely incorrect, there are a lot of “Third World” nations that are quickly developing, and taking center stage in many different fields.

History— A majority of what’s considered the “Third World,” both in terms of the original definition and what people assume now to be the third world has an imperial/colonized past. Africa represents one simple example of this. During the Berlin Conference of 1884, there was a “Scramble for Africa,” during which various European nations divided up the continent into parts to share.

Nations outside Africa, including Indonesia and India, were also colonized. Eventually, all these nations fought for and gained independence, and started developing their economies and governments. While most of these “Third World” nations that fought for independence remained democratic, some fell under the rule of tyrannous leaders and many citizens are still oppressed. These nations today continue to have severe human rights crises, as the rights of the citizens are very often denied or even ignored in these nations.

Economy— On a more optimistic note, some of the developing nations are places of great economic potential. It is widely agreed that investing in the “Third World” will have positive impact on the global economy. Up-and-coming innovations and businesses, along with the masses of populations that are just now trying to rise above the cycle of poverty provide great potential—if they’re given the opportunity to break out of said cycle of poverty.

It is important to remember that in addition to aiding the global economy, investing in and supporting the “Third World” will liberate millions from the shackles of poverty, opening up a world of opportunities and potential.

– Aalekhya Malladi

Sources: Nations Online, Nations Online: Third World, Then Again, The Borgen Project
Photo: Global Giving Foundation