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Foreign aid gives backForeign aid is too often misidentified as charity, with the implication of a one-way relationship. Like other myths surrounding aid, such as its depletion of the federal budget, a reality much different than popular belief silently survives. In truth, only one percent of the U.S. federal budget goes toward foreign aid and shrouded in much the same circumstances lies the fact that foreign aid gives back just as much, and more.

Who Gives to Whom?

According to an article by Jason Hickel, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics completed a study in which they found that a much larger amount of money travels from poor countries to rich countries, rather than the other way around. As of 2015, cumulative foreign investment in the U.S. totaled more than $3 trillion.

Beyond the quantitative, the proof of return on investment manifests in countries like South Korea, Japan and Germany. All having once depended on U.S. aid in their times of need, these nations now play major roles in the global economy.

How Foreign Aid Gives Back to Developed Nations

Consider the fact that half of U.S. exports now go to developing countries and that developing countries’ economies grow three times faster than our own. The economics speak for themselves—with more new consumers to trade and do business with, more growth opportunities arise both at home and abroad. In Tennessee alone, more than 22 percent of jobs are supported by trade—that’s 830,000 reasons to continue investing in developing nations.

Beyond the wallet, though, foreign aid gives back in ways that cannot be measured. Potential new markets keep the U.S. competitive on the world stage, allowing its reputation and influence to spread. As Bill Gates points out, foreign aid even helps to keep the U.S. safe. By its nature, aid fights poverty, promotes development and largely focuses on foundational areas like healthcare, nutrition and education, which provide for a strong infrastructure.

The ultimate goal of this infrastructure-building rests in the ability to form a middle class, and by extension, find some stability. Countries that achieve this are more capable of preventing global health epidemics and are less likely to go to war. Stabilizing these nations by promoting democracy and human rights and by helping to install strong governance has far-reaching effects.

What Drawbacks Exist for Foreign Aid?

While some would argue that corruption and misuse of aid render the process futile, the results drown out the argument. Programs are in place to fight against this kind of criminality and are finding success. Foreign aid gives back in ways never thought of before now, such as:

  • Stopping diseases before they gain global reach.
  • Promoting U.S. exports.
  • Countering violent extremism.
  • Combating climate change through education.
  • Supporting overseas embassies and new allies.

Foreign aid gives back despite the stigma that claims otherwise. Experts say that cutting the U.S. foreign aid budget would do very little to reduce the federal deficit anyway. If the strongest argument against the use of foreign aid remains money, then it is time to take out the wallet and make a change.

– Daniel Staesser

Photo: Flickr

Gavi

In his proposed 2017-2018 budget, President Donald Trump has pledged to fulfill the U.S.’s $1 billion commitment to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The program has helped immunize hundreds of millions of children and lowered the cost of vaccinations since its creation in 2000.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is an international organization that “aggregates demand” for vaccines from the countries it supports— 60 percent of the world’s births take place in Gavi-supported countries. This demand sends “a clear signal to manufacturers” that these countries are viable markets for vaccines. Countries supported by Gavi pay for a portion of their vaccine programs, but as “a country’s income grows, its co-financing payments gradually increase to cover the full cost of vaccines.” Gavi relies on large donors to run this business model.

In January 2015, USAID dedicated $1 billion to Gavi in support of the organization’s plan to “immunize 300 million additional children and save at least 5 million lives by 2020.” The Obama administration was vocally supportive of global poverty reduction efforts— Obama addressed extreme poverty in three of his State of the Union addresses— but the Trump administration was not expected to contribute to poverty reduction efforts to the same extent. Trump’s pledge to Gavi is refreshing in the midst of the 32 percent overall cuts to international aid proposed in his budget.

Gavi’s website lists the U.S.’s contribution to the program for the period of 2016-2020 as $800 million. If Trump were to have cut the U.S.’s funding for Gavi, the organization would have lost close to a ninth of its $9.2 billion budget. Reducing aid to Gavi would have further damaged the U.S.’s aid reputation, as it spends the least on foreign aid of all developed countries, especially since other countries fund the majority of Gavi’s budget. Notably, the U.K. has contributed $2,515 million, Norway $922 million, and Germany $676 million for the same 2016-2020 cycle.

It is important that the U.S. continue to support international vaccination programs like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance as they allow healthier populations to become more stable, self-sustaining and economically stronger. Gavi projects $100 billion in economic gain worldwide as more people are immunized and the world moves closer to global poverty eradication.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr

2018 Federal Budget Threatens the Peace Corps
Most of the coverage of President Trump’s “America First” foreign policy has focused on budget cuts to foreign aid and drastic changes to USAID. Often overlooked among the alarming changes proposed by the president are the potential cuts to national service programs such as the Peace Corps. Since the 1960s, the Peace Corps has served as an important service that the United States offers to developing nations. The proposed 2018 federal budget threatens the Peace Corps with a 15% funding cut.

President John F. Kennedy founded the Peace Corps in 1961. The Peace Corps Mission has three goals: to help people in other countries; to encourage a better understanding of Americans; and for Americans to better understand others. The programs consist of three months of training and two years of service in an assigned country. Since its inception, almost 220,000 volunteers have served in 141 developing countries.

In the past half-century, the Peace Corps has run a variety of initiatives to meet the specific needs of developing countries. Peace Corps volunteers currently serve in over 60 countries, mostly in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

Ongoing initiatives include fighting HIV/AIDS; combatting hunger; protecting the environment and improving access to technology. One of the newest Peace Corps programs is Let Girls Learn. Led by former first lady Michelle Obama, this initiative aims to help girls around the world gain better access to education and prevent pregnancy at a young age.

The benefits of the Peace Corps go both ways. More than just providing foreign financial aid, the Peace Corps helps and instructs local populations to be healthier, more equitable and more sustainable. In turn, the volunteers that provide these services receive job and language skills in addition to an important cultural and learning experience.

President Trump cited balancing the national budget and emphasizing national security as reasons for the funding cuts. However, foreign aid funding currently takes up less than one percent of the national budget. This move is as unlikely to balance the budget as it is to strengthen national security. Goodwill missions like the Peace Corps improve U.S. relations with developing countries. And efforts that help stabilize these areas preempt extremism and other national security threats.

Assisting the Peace Corps is hardly most Americans’ top priority, but it is an effective government agency that benefits developing nations, young Americans and U.S. interests. Since the 2018 federal budget threatens the Peace Corps, U.S. citizens would do well to highlight the importance of the Peace Corps to their elected officials and urge them to secure Peace Corps funding in 2018.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr/span>

While the process of passing the United States Federal Budget each year can seem incredibly complex and confusing, it can be summarized in just a few steps.

  1. First, the various federal agencies submit budgets to the president to review. This means the Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and all the rest each propose the costs and funding allocations they predict for the following fiscal year.
  2. Next, based on the information gathered from the various departments, the president submits a budget request, or proposal, to Congress. This takes place every February, as the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
  3. This is where it gets complicated. Following the president’s submission, both the House of Representatives and the Senate vote on resolutions for the budget. These resolutions are not concrete, but provide boundaries for Congress to use when settling the actual numbers.
  4. At this point, it’s up to the Appropriations Committees in both the House and the Senate. They use the budget resolutions as a framework and decide precise amounts to be allocated to each department.
  5. Then, it is put on the floor for debate. The full House and Senate are able to debate and vote on the appropriations bills upon which each subcommittee agreed.
  6. Finally, the budget is sent back to the president for review and he or she decides whether or not it will be signed into effect. Ideally, but rarely, this process comes to conclusion before its deadline on Oct. 1.

It is important to remember that Congress is available for contact from its constituents throughout this process which lasts a minimum of nine months. In order to ensure the United States Federal Budget matches the people’s wishes, it is crucial to call or email representatives.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Spending
Much of what Americans believe about foreign aid spending is wrong. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 1,505 people found most couldn’t accurately place the percentage of its federal budget the U.S. spends on foreign aid. The average amount they guessed is 26 percent; the answer is less than 1 percent. Only one in every 20 people answered the question correctly.

Where do these misconceptions come from?

The U.S. spends more in net amount than any other country on foreign aid; the total came to some $32 billion in 2014. However, when looking at aid spending as a percentage of gross national income (GNI) , the amount the country and residents abroad take in as income, the U.S. spends a mere 0.19 percent of the wealth it receives each year in aid.

The American contribution falls flat behind larger benefactors like Sweden which donates 1.1 percent of its GNI, or Luxembourg at 1.07 percent and Norway at 0.99 percent.

The misconceptions of Americans regarding foreign aid are showing no signs of clearing up on their own. Another poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org in 2010 found the median estimate Americans believe their country spent on foreign aid was 25 percent. When the poll asked them what would be an “appropriate” amount, the median answer was 10 percent.

These findings might even be humorous if so many people around the world weren’t living amid crushing levels of poverty. The erroneous views Americans hold of foreign aid spending have a direct impact on millions of people who struggle each day with hunger and a lack of economic opportunities.

Americans also host conflicting views regarding foreign aid based on their party affiliation. A survey conducted by yougov.com in 2016 revealed 49 percent of Americans identifying as Democrats believed U.S. aid should go to the poorest countries, while 59 percent of those identifying as Republicans believed aid should go to countries who support U.S. foreign policy.

Overall, 39 percent of Americans believed in aid for poor countries and 41 percent believed aid should be directed based on foreign policy support.

Our misconceptions of foreign aid influence how we think about the topic. In the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 56 percent of those interviewed believed the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid.

However, when presented with the actual situation, namely the fact that the U.S. spends less than 1 percent of its $4 trillion federal budget on foreign aid, the poll found the number of Americans who think the U.S. is overspending on the aid dropped to 28 percent.

The wording of the questions also makes a difference. When the poll posed the question to Americans, “Do you think the U.S. is now spending too much, too little, or about the right amount on foreign aid?” 56 percent of respondents said too much.

However, when researchers modified the question to ask, “Do you think the U.S. is now spending too much, too little, or about the right amount in efforts to improve health for people in developing countries?” the percentage of those saying too much dropped to 28 percent.

Despite perceptions of corruption, elected officials tend to act in accordance with public opinion when faced with overwhelming support for spending measures. By dispelling the myths surrounding U.S. foreign aid spending, aid legislation will face less opposition as more Americans come forward to support it.

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr

foreign aid
Over half of the U.S. population believes that about 28 percent of the federal budget is dedicated to foreign aid. The reality is that the U.S. foreign affairs budget is only 1 percent of the national budget. What would it look like if these misguided beliefs were true?

In a study by the Kaiser Foundation, people were asked to define whether the U.S. spends too much, too little or about the right amount on foreign aid. Their answers were 61 percent, 13 percent and 18 percent, respectively. However, when they were asked to vote on the same question, after hearing that it was actually only close to 1 percent, their responses changed to 30 percent, 28 percent and 31 percent respectively.

The results imply that the average American has difficulty assessing a correct estimate of monetary allocation by the government, largely due to the large magnitudes of these sums. Let us consider this, the U.S. national budget for last year was $3.45 trillion, and at 1 percen,t the foreign aid budget comes up to $34.5 billion. For some, hearing that the U.S. spends billions of dollars on foreign aid, it is very unlikely they would place their estimate close to one percent.

While one can be frustrated by the gap between perception and reality, Dylan Matthews at The Washington Post, posed the question what if we actually allocated what people estimated on foreign aid spending? What if we spent 28 percent of the national budget on foreign aid?

Using the estimated 28 percent the average American believes is allocated to foreign aid spending, according to the Congressional Budget Office latest projection the 2015 national budget is to be close to $3.77 trillion, America would be putting approximately $1.1 trillion toward foreign aid, which translates into a foreign assistance budget of $1.1 trillion.

With this amount of money, the possibilities of foreign aid would essentially be limitless. It could be used to improve and expand upon current education and health programs. It could be allocated as cash transfers to those who need it the most, and to those with the ability to invest in their communities and generate economic growth.

A newly released study by The World Bank shows that when people are given cash directly, it is spent on things they actually need, more so than when it comes through foreign aid workers. Also this would be a good way to cut through the red tape and corruption in developing nations.

Coming back to reality, this theoretical course of action would be very unpopular, especially for those in public office. But perhaps, continuing to educate people about the facts of foreign aid would help create better awareness. At the very least, this thought experiment serves to remind Americans of the reality behind foreign aid investment.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: The Washington Post, The Week
Photo: New Security Beat

usaid_food_crisis_aid_international_foreign_policy_un_budget_cut_opt

Federal budget constraints are beginning to take a toll on development and food aid efforts for the world’s poor.

After 14 years of meeting annually to discuss global development and food aid, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed this week there will be no International Food Aid and Development Conference (IFADC) in 2013 because of the current federal government budget constraints.

According to Food Business News, the agencies said, because of “U.S. government agencies facing a difficult budget environment and being urged to minimize conference events in light of these budget constraints.”

Previous IFADCs pulled together 700 or more participants from around the world, representing major food assistance program stakeholders. Meetings included representatives from U.N. agencies including the World Food Programme, officials from recipient countries, private charitable organizations, and USDA and USAID staff for the meetings in Kansas City every year.

Instead of multiple days of conference meetings as in previous years, USDA and USAID will replace the Kansas City conference with a one-day public meeting in Washington in November 2013. The meeting will be held as an add-on to the Food Aid Consultative Group meeting.

“We know that this is not a complete substitute for the IFADC and that we will have to be creative and thoughtful in how we organize this event. USDA and USAID will reach out to stakeholders during the planning of the one-day meeting,” conference organizers said.

– Liza Casabona

Source: Food Business News
Photo: Guardian