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U.S. and ChinaCOVID-19 has brought nearly all facets of normal life and governance to a screeching halt. On all fronts, from the economy to the military, the coronavirus has changed the way this planet runs. One area that has been heavily affected by the pandemic but does not get as much attention is international relations.

Diplomatic relations between countries is one of the toughest areas of government. It has become even more difficult to fully engage in with the onset of COVID-19. With more states turning to domestic engagement, the status quo of international relations has been shaken. In no foreign relationship is this more clear than that between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

U.S.-China Diplomatic Relations

Current diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China were established under President Richard Nixon in 1972. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has experienced highs and lows. In 2020, it is nearly at an all-time low. The hostile status of this relationship now mainly stems from the ascension of President Xi Jinping of China to power in 2013, and the election of the U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Under these two leaders, U.S.-Chinese relations have greatly diminished over the last four years. A rise in nationalism and “America First” policies under President Trump’s administration has alienated the Chinese amidst constant public attacks on the ‘authoritarianism’ of Jinping’s government. For example, China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy over the last two years has been the subject of extensive international condemnation, particularly from President Trump and the United States. In addition, the two countries have been engaged in a high-profile trade war since the beginning of 2018.

More recently, a dramatic escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the two countries was taken in July 2020, when the U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, on the basis of technological-espionage on China’s part. In retaliation, China ordered the American consulate in the city of Chengdu to close as well. Another significant strain on the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China is COVID-19.

The Outbreak of the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, more than 4,600 people have died in China, over a period of nearly nine months. In the same amount of time, almost 180,000 people have died in the U.S. The U.S. government has consistently blamed the Chinese for failing to contain the virus. China has firmly denied these accusations. COVID-19 has seriously damaged the economic and healthcare systems of both the U.S. and China. Both systems have lost nearly all economic gains they’ve made since the 2008-2010 recession. While state economies around the globe also suffer, the decline of the economies of these two specific countries has far-reaching implications. Not only is the global economy in danger, but military alliances and foreign aid are as well.

Global Economy

Nearly every nation on earth has some kind of economic partnership with either the U.S., China or both. For example, the United Arab Emirates has been an ally of the U.S. since 1974, but in recent years has engaged in a pivotal economic partnership with China. Continued threats of tariffs and pulling out of trade agreements threaten the balance of these partnerships. These threats could force smaller nations to choose sides between the U.S. and China, should this confrontation escalate.

Military Alliances

While the U.S. enjoys a military advantage over China, China has allied itself with many of America’s adversaries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea. These alliances have been solidified in recent years, for example, just before the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019, China, Russia and Iran conducted nearly a week-long military exercise in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic waterway for oil tankers. An American confrontation with any one of these countries could draw China into the conflict, which could spell disaster for the world order.

International Aid

As part of China’s “charm offensive” in the early 2000s, the country began to heavily invest in the reconstruction of the economies and infrastructure in impoverished African states. In exchange, China received rights to natural resources such as oil in these countries. The U.S. also maintains a high level of foreign assistance in Africa. COVID-19 forces the U.S. and China to put more of their respective resources toward rebuilding their own economies. However, the aid they both provide to developing states worldwide diminishes at a time when those states need it most.

It is clear that even before the coronavirus spread to all corners of the globe, the turbulent relationship between the U.S. and China was advancing toward a breaking point. The pandemic has, to some extent, halted the diminishing state of relations between the two countries. However, any further provocations similar to the closing of the consulates in Houston and Chengdu could result in a catastrophe. The impacts of this relationship extend beyond the U.S. and China; they affect nations that heavily depend on the aid they receive from both powers.

Alexander Poran
Photo: Pixabay

foreign aidAs the COVID-19 pandemic spread over the world, so did foreign aid in many forms. Countries were sending masks, money, equipment and even healthcare professionals. Despite suffering from the effects of the pandemic themselves, China, Taiwan and South Korea all contributed to providing 16 countries around the world, including in Europe and Asia.  Even the U.S. became among those who were aid recipients when a shipment of masks and equipment from Russia arrived in April 2020. Perhaps most notably, Italy received foreign assistance from the U.S., China, Cuba and Russia among other countries.

Concerns About Aid Effectiveness

A common misconception regarding aid is that developed countries rarely benefit from foreign aid. Studies have shown that most Americans think the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid. Moreover, many aid opponents argue that aid is ineffective, costly and creates dependence.

Even Africans, who receive 20% of U.S. aid, have raised concerns about aid effectiveness. In 2002, Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, said “I’ve never seen a country develop itself through aid or credit. Countries that have developed—in Europe, America, Japan, Asian countries like Taiwan, Korea and Singapore—have all believed in free markets. There is no mystery there. Africa took the wrong road after independence.”

Foreign Aid to Developed Countries

The pandemic has shown that strong relations and aid are necessary for countries to overcome economic and healthcare challenges. Foreign aid has a complicated history, but many developed countries were recipients of aid in the past and still benefit from it in many ways.

Italy received around $240 billion in aid from the E.U. during the pandemic. If a similar aid package was given to Sub-Saharan Africa, it could provide primary healthcare to every African. If used to relieve food insecurity, $240 billion could end world hunger by 2030. That is not to say that foreign aid to developing countries should come at the expense of the recovery of developed countries. But contextualizing the funding helps demonstrate what foreign aid could do if distributed equally.

During the destruction of Notre Dame in Paris, France received $950 million in total from donations globally. The White House also pledged to help rebuild France, a year after announcing a reduction to the foreign aid budget. When it comes to aid, the question is not whether to provide it or not—it is about who to provide it to.

Foreign Aid to Developing Countries

Contrary to popular belief, the developing world does not receive nearly enough aid. The average Sub-Saharan African country receives less than $1 billion in aid annually. Following the Ebola outbreak in 2013 – a crisis that is most notably remembered for U.S. involvement – the WHO received around $460 million to help affected West African countries. The World Bank estimated that the outbreak cost $2.2 billion for these countries.

As African and Latin American countries see their first huge waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now crucial that the U.S. and other countries continue to increase their foreign aid budget to help these nations recover. In addition to the pandemic, most developing countries are dealing with food insecurity as well as continuing political and civil unrest. Although aid alone will not resolve all these issues, it can alleviate the impact of the crisis. By being aid recipients themselves, Western and European countries can understand the importance of foreign assistance and take the necessary steps to help those in need.

– Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

poverty in afghanistanForeign aid in any form can be considered positive at face value, but Afghanistan could benefit from greater investment in private organizations due to its specific needs. Aid from countries such as the U.S. is accompanied by political strings that, according to a U.S. agency report on Afghanistan, results in the Afghani government’s focusing on the goals of its foreign investors rather than the needs of its citizens. Poverty in Afghanistan requires attention unhindered by political expectations.

US Foreign Aid Policy

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in March of 2020 that the U.S. would be cutting $1 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan, which became a foreign policy initiative following major U.S. military presence in the country. The U.S. foreign aid is allocated to a variety of purposes, some of which attempt to address the widespread poverty that still impacts 54.5% of Afghans. Despite these efforts, poverty remains a large concern. For example, the number of Afghans without basic food and housing increased from 6.5 to 9.4 million between 2019 and 2020.

Dr. Jessica Trisko Darden, an assistant professor at American University with expertise in foreign aid and Central and Southeast Asia, asserts that different types of foreign aid are better suited to target specific goals. Darden noted that U.S. foreign aid in Afghanistan is largely concerned with developing infrastructure tied to the needs of the foreign parties in this country, such as Kabul International Airport. Additionally, while the U.S. aid package may set aside some portion of the money with the intention of addressing poverty in Afghanistan, the larger goals are often political in nature.

Non-Governmental Organizations’ Contribution

Private organizations could focus their resources on areas ignored by foreign government aid. “I think that, in terms of overall strategies for Afghanistan, getting more resources to outlying regions, and having more NGO and local NGO presence in outlying regions is something that should be a goal of a sustainable development strategy for Afghanistan, rather than continuing to over-concentrate resources and efforts in the Kabul area,” said Darden. The U.S. aid focusing on the Kabul area for accessibility and the ability to address political goals arguably takes away attention from less centralized regions. A larger NGO presence in the country could mean an established, long-term effort to target the humanitarian needs of Afghans and reduce poverty in Afghanistan.

Afghan Women’s Network

One of the most prominent independent groups acting in Afghanistan is the Afghan Women’s Network. It was created following inspiration from the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. This organization serves as an umbrella for a variety of humanitarian efforts in the country. It has direct points of contact in several major regions throughout the country and provides support to other organizations in the remaining regions. With 3,500 members and 125 women’s groups under its leadership, the Afghan Women’s Network has the ability and resources to provide immediate and specialized support to Afghans.

The political struggles of Afghanistan exist in tandem with the struggles of Afghani citizens. Multiple NGOs with unique goals ranging from gender equality to infant mortality to education could target the diverse needs of the Afghani population more directly. By supplying aid without political expectations and restrictions, NGOs could work to downsize poverty in Afghanistan.

Riya Kohli
Photo: Pixabay

Congressional LeadersA Gallup poll taken before the government shutdown of 2018-19 found American’s approval rating of congressional leaders’ job performance at 18%. More recent polls show ratings have improved but remain low, with an average of 24.2% of people approving of Congress, according to Real Clear Politics. Government shutdowns and highly publicized filibusters highlight the challenge of passing bills and contribute to these low approval ratings. In fact, in 2016, after a House of Representatives sit-in over gun control measures, political analyst Larry Jacobs told a Minnesota local CBS affiliate that more than 90% of bills die in Senate or House committees.

However, as USHistory.org notes, passing bills is meant to be difficult with the checks and balances system in place. What’s more, bills do get introduced constantly. For instance, each of the 200 senators and 435 representatives in Congress is involved with at least a few of the hundreds of bills introduced throughout any given leaders’ tenure. Here are five leaders who have been especially active in supporting bills directly impacting the fight against global poverty.

5 Congressional Leaders Tackling Global Poverty Issues

  1. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). Susan Collins has been a senator since 1997.  She directly sponsored 18 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 374. Bills she introduced include the Clean Cookstoves and Fuels Support Act, which she introduced in various forms in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015. These bills encourage the U.S. to better help advance an international initiative to make clean cooking accessible to millions of people worldwide. Collins also introduced the Reach Every Mother and Child Acts of 2015, 2017, and 2019—which urge the president to create a five-year strategy to, as the bill states, help end “preventable child and maternal deaths globally by 2030.”
  2. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). A Senator since 1993, Robert Menendez has sponsored 178 and co-sponsored 650 international affairs bills. Menendez’s sponsored bills include the Ebola Eradication Act of 2019, which passed in the Senate in September 2019, the End Tuberculosis Now Act of 2019, which is still under Senate consideration, and the Venezuela Humanitarian Relief, Reconstruction, and Rule of Law Act of 2018.
  3. Representative Lois Frankel (D-Fl). Lois Frankel has been in Congress since 2013. She’s sponsored 12 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 200 with a focus on women’s rights issues abroad. For example, one bill she introduced herself is the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act of 2019, which authorizes aid to women’s groups abroad that address terrorism-related issues. Frankel also introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act, a bill improving access to education for young girls worldwide. Frankel introduced the initial version in 2018 and passed the new 2019 version in the House in January 2020.
  4. Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ). Christopher Smith has been in Congress since 1981. In that time, he’s sponsored 287 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 1,208. One bill he introduced is the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, which directs the U.S. to help treat and eliminate under-the-radar tropical diseases to improve lives in at-risk regions. The bill passed in the House in December and is under review by a Senate committee. Another bill he introduced is the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018, which extends the programs of the Global Food Security Act of 2016. Smith’s bill was a sibling to a Senate bill that passed through both legislatures first, becoming law in October 2018.
  5. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY). A Congressman since 1989, Eliot Engel has personally introduced 150 bills addressing international affairs issues and co-sponsored an additional 1,312. One bill he introduced is the Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act of 2017, which calls for the U.S. to assist Venezuela amid its growing humanitarian crisis. The bill passed in the House in December 2017 and is under Senate review. Engel also introduced the Global Fragility Act to “establish the interagency Global Fragility Initiative to stabilize conflict-affected areas and prevent violence globally.” This act passed in the House in May 2019 and is under review by the Senate.

These five congressional leaders have worked directly on hundreds of bills addressing issues of global poverty. The examples above are only a snapshot of their individual contributions. These five leaders have had a total of 30 sponsored bills in the international affairs category become law; the process of introducing and passing bills never ends. The upcoming election will determine whether these leaders will continue to build on their legacies or cede their place to new leaders eager to make a mark on the legislative process.

– Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

poverty relief reduces disease
The universal rise in global living standards has helped combat diseases, spurred on by international poverty relief efforts. In fact, one study found that reducing poverty was just as effective as medicine in reducing tuberculosis. Poor health drains an individual’s ability to provide for themselves and others, trapping and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Better public health increases workforce productivity, educational attainment and societal stability. Here are 5 ways poverty relief reduces disease.

5 Ways Poverty Relief Reduces Disease

  1. Better Sanitation: According to the WHO, approximately 827,000 people die each year due to “inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene.” Poor sanitation is linked to the spread of crippling and lethal diseases such as cholera and polio, which hamper a nation’s development. By investing in the sanitation of developing nations, the rate of disease decreases and the food supply improves. Furthermore, an all around healthier society emerges that can contribute more to the global economy. In fact, a 2012 WHO study found that “for every U.S. $1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of U.S. $5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.”
  2. Improved Health Care Industries: A hallmark of any developed nation is the quality of its health care industry. A key part of reducing poverty and improving health, is investing in health care initiatives in developing countries. When the health care industry is lacking (or even non-existent), the population experiences high levels of disease, poverty and death. Many American companies have already invested millions into the medical sectors of developing nations, however. In September 2015, General Electric Healthcare created the Sustainable Healthcare Solutions, a business unit that donates millions in money and medical equipment to developing nations.
  3. More Informative Education: Knowledge is power when it comes to fighting disease. Educational institutions provide a nation with one of the best tools to fight diseases of all kinds. According to a WHO report, “education emphasizing health prevention and informed self-help is among the most effective ways of empowering the poor to take charge of their own lives.” Schools must teach about proper sanitation, how to spot warning signs and form healthy behaviors. School health programs are also an invaluable resource in times of pandemics and disease outbreaks, as they coordinate with governments. This cooperation has helped tackle diseases, including HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eritrea, for example, has one of the lowest rates of infection in the region (less than 1%), partially due to an increase in HIV/AIDS education measures.
  4. Enhanced Nutrition: Malnutrition and food insecurity weaken the immune systems of the impoverished and significantly lower one’s quality of life. Millions of children each year die from famine or end up crippled due to dietary deficiencies. By investing in and supporting agricultural sectors of developing nations, aid programs help in not only decreasing poverty, but also in cutting down on illness of all kinds. Likewise, international aid during conflicts and natural disasters is crucial to ensuring the continued health and productivity of a country. One nation combating such an issue is Tanzania. With the help of aid organizations like UNICEF, Tanzania has decreased malnutrition for children under five.
  5. More Effective Government Services: Arguably encompassing all the previous categories, governments with more money and resources can effectively help stop diseases. A healthy general population leads to more productivity, which increases tax revenue. Central governments can then invest that money back into health care and sanitation, creating a positive feedback loop. Governments also provide a centralized authority that can cooperate with organizations like the WHO. In the 21st century, communication and cooperation between world governments is key to halting pandemics and working on cures.

Impact on COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how improved government resources provide poverty relief, which helps combat the virus in the developing world. Kenya is a good example of how developing nations can help contain and combat the virus with effective government actions. The systems and governmental services built up over past decades sprang into action and coordinated with organizations like the WHO. The government has also implemented various economic measures to help mitigate the negative economic side-effects. Moving forward, it is essential that governments and humanitarian organizations continue to take into account the importance of poverty relief for disease reduction.

– Malcolm Schulz 
Photo: Flickr

Famine in North Korea

North Korea is known as one of the world’s most economically isolated countries. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was only $40 billion in 2015North Korea also has an extremely negative track record of famine. The 1990s famine in North Korea is estimated to have killed between up to 1 million people from 1995 to 2000.

How Did North Korea Get to This Point?

After the conclusion of World War II, Korea was split between the Soviet Union and the United States along parallel 38. In 1950, the Korean War began after communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. The war went on until 1953 and ended in a stalemate. Ever since the Korean War, North and South Korea have been divided at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and the two countries have still not signed an official peace agreement to date.

North Korea’s communist regime has committed numerous human rights violations and threatened the United States, Japan and South Korea with a war on a frequent basis. As a result, the United Nations and the United States have placed significant sanctions on North Korea that have seriously reduced economic growth in the country. In fact, North Korea’s economic situation is so poor that many experts believe that, without China as North Korea’s major ally and trading partner, the country would not be able to sustain itself.

There have been past attempts to negotiate with North Korea, particularly regarding their nuclear weapons program. In June 2018, President Trump became the first United States President to meet with North Korea’s tyrannical regime, headed by Kim Jong Un. While President Trump is attempting to negotiate with North Korea, there has not been any significant progress made so far regarding diplomacy. However, President Trump temporarily succeeded in stopping Kim Jung Un from testing ballistic missiles (as many as 12 tests were conducted in 2019) and was also able to negotiate bringing home the remains of 55 American soldiers who died during the Korean War.

Why Does North Korea Have Problems With Famine?

Since North Korea’s annual GDP is low, monetary resources are tight. Unfortunately, the Regime uses nearly 25 percent of its GDP towards military funding. It does not invest as much in basic services such as healthcare, clean water, roads and food. On top of that, North Korea is a rather small country with nearly 24 million people. Its land area is estimated to be the size of Mississippi. Most of the northern areas are mountainous, which makes agriculture very difficult.

The devastating 1990s famine in North Korea was caused by a variety of factors. Besides the major problems discussed above, an excess of floods brought on by El Nino in 1995 and 1996 caused devastation in North Korea. This devastated crops and destroyed already limited farmland. As grain resources decreased, the government reduced the supply to its people in order to preserve food resources for itself and the military.

Are Conditions in North Korea Improving?

Conditions in North Korea are very difficult to gauge because the country is extremely selective regarding who is allowed in and out of the country. Therefore, data is limited. However, most experts agree that famine in North Korea has not improved very much. While North Korea’s GDP is slowly growing at approximately 4 percent, there were still 1,137 defectors in 2018. Twenty percent of North Korea’s children are thought to be stunted, and 40 percent of North Korean residents are malnourished. All of these factors are signs that conditions are still poor throughout the country.

On a positive note, domestic agriculture has improved greatly. Grain production has almost doubled from the 1990s to about 5 million tons per year. Humanitarian aid to North Korea is now supplying nearly 30 percent of the country’s food supply. In 2016, the United Nations spent at least $8 million in foreign aid to help reduce malnutrition. In the meantime, North Korea’s upper class, which largely consists of government officials and military generals, has plentiful access to food. This is largely because they all live in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Unfortunately, smuggled photos out of North Korea show small villages with residents starving, and in extreme cases, eating grass.

Nearly half of North Korea’s population still lives in poverty. Human rights violations are common, and the military is considered a priority over infrastructure and agricultural production. Until North Korea develops normalized relations with the rest of the world and commits more resources to its people, it is highly doubtful that any major breakthrough against famine or poverty will be possible.

Kyle Arendas
Photo: Pixabay

The International Commitment for Foreign Aid SpendingCurrently, there is an international commitment among developed countries to spend 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) on foreign aid. The goal for this aid is to assist the world’s poorest countries in developing sustainably. However, the majority of the richest countries in the world have not met this commitment. In fact, the United States ranked last in 2018 (27th) on the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) after only spending 0.18 percent on foreign aid. While the U.S. is reducing foreign aid spending, four countries are choosing to invest even more into developing countries than international commitment. They are doing so not only for humanitarian reasons but for strategic reasons as well.

Here are the four countries exceeding the international commitment for foreign aid spending.

4 Countries Exceeding the Commitment for Foreign Aid Spending

  1. Denmark – In 2018, Denmark allocated 0.72 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. The majority of this amount took the form of bilateral aid, which means Denmark provided aid directly to foreign governments rather than international organizations. With its commitment to foreign aid spending, the country seeks to enhance its soft power and to reduce immigration to Denmark. Development Minister of Denmark Ulla Tørnæs stated, “Through our development work, we create better living conditions, growth and jobs in some of the world’s poorest countries and thereby help prevent migration.”
  2. Norway – Norway spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Although the country directed a higher percentage of its GNI to foreign aid than Denmark, Norway’s quality of foreign aid is not as strong. According to the Center for Global Development, the country’s aid score has declined due to struggles in the transparency and learning categories. According to Børge Brende, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, foreign aid spending enhances Norway’s soft power and national security interests. Additionally, the promotion of business development in foreign countries “is a good example of how aid can be used as a catalyst to mobilize other, larger flows of capital.”
  3. Luxemburg – Luxemburg spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Luxemburg’s aid score is quite high, ranking fifth out of 27 among CDI countries. As explained by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), efficient bilateral foreign aid spending “enables Luxembourg to maximize its visibility, impact and international influence.” Currently, Luxemburg focuses its foreign aid spending in sub-Saharan Africa due to its particularly high rates of poverty.
  4. Sweden – At 1.01 percent, Sweden ranks first amongst developed nations for the highest percent of GNI directed towards foreign aid. Foreign aid has become a primary focus for Sweden due to the high influx of immigrants Sweden has taken in within the past few years. Like Denmark, Sweden sees foreign aid as an opportunity to reduce the inflow of immigrants by improving the economic conditions and overall wellbeing of developing countries. This high level of foreign aid spending is one of the main reasons why Sweden ranked eighth in the world in terms of soft power in 2018. In that sense, foreign aid spending is a long-term investment for Sweden because it helps Sweden manage immigration flow, build up the global economy and increase its influence on foreign countries. Since Sweden views foreign aid as an investment, the country heavily focuses on learning about the effectiveness of its foreign aid spending in order to maximize results.

Denmark, Norway, Luxemburg and Sweden all demonstrate that foreign aid spending is in the national interest of developed nations. Since these countries do not perceive foreign aid spending as a mere charity, they have become more incentivized than most other developed countries to provide high-quality aid.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

What is USAID
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is often brought up when people talk about spending bills for foreign aid and in policy reports analyzing the government foreign assistance programs. They do not explain what USAID actually is, what its purpose is, who is in charge of it, or what are its responsibilities as an organization.

The text below will go through the history of USAID, its importance to the United States government, and the organization’s responsibilities in the fiscal year 2019.

History of USAID

In the fall of 1961, U.S. Congress passed the Foreign Assitance Act. This act formally separated military and non-military aid since before this point political and military spending was not differentiated from development spending. The bill also mandated for the creation of an agency that will be responsible for managing the new category of economic and development aid. President John F. Kennedy, shortly after the passing of the bill, created USAID by executive order.

The creation of USAID unified several existing programs and operations, including the Food for Peace Program, loans from the Development Loan Fund and the economic assistance from International Cooperation Agency. By unifying these operations, USAID provided a new focus on aiding other countries.  

Who is in charge of USAID and what is USAID responsible for?

USAID largely follows the policy directions of the President, State Department and the National Security Council. It can be stated with the certainty that it is not a completely interdependent agency. USAID is not responsible for military aid whose responsibility falls primarily to the Department of Defense. Instead, USAID is concerned with humanitarian and development aid.

Since its formation, USAID’s scope of humanitarian aid expanded. USAID’s assistance now includes global health, gender equality, water and sanitation, education and many other categories. It also works in several regions all over the world including Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

A good example of what USAID does as an organization is the program called Promoting Gender Equality in National Priority Programs Project (PROMOTE) in Afghanistan. This program aims to increase female participation in the total workforce by offering women internships to build up their resume and network.

It will also help the economic development of Afghanistan by creating a larger workforce. According to an evaluation made by USAID in 2017, 237 women got a job in the first year of the program’s implementation. Also, 98 percent of the women who were helped into internships by USAID reported that they were working in a women-friendly workplace.

What is USAID planning on doing in 2019?

USAID and the State Department will receive $39 billion from the president’s budget. USAID is responsible for managing $16 billion of this amount that is just below half of all the money allocated to foreign aid. USAID hopes to accomplish several objectives in the fiscal year 2019 including providing leadership in response to national disasters and human crises, improving global health by stopping the spreading of diseases and improving transparency of the organization’s activities and its spendings.

To summarize, what is USAID? USAID is an organization that is the primary executor of foreign aid spending of the United States. It oversees billions of dollars every year with the goal of helping developing nations economically, socially and politically. USAID does this through the creation of government programs to help those who need it most.

– Drew Garbe
Photo: Flickr

Living in Extreme Poverty: A Global Decline
Less than 40 years ago, close to 42 percent of the world’s population was living in extreme poverty. People living under these conditions often cannot buy basic necessities like food and do not have access to clean water. They face starvation and disease on a daily basis.

However, in 2018, the world has become a better place, slowly but surely. By today’s reckoning, fewer people than ever before are living in extreme poverty, and it is something to celebrate. Though there is still a lot of work to be accomplished, the fact of the matter is that extreme poverty is declining everywhere.

Decades of Extreme Poverty Decline

The current standard of determining extreme poverty is whether someone is living on less than $1.90 per day. There is often debate over whether extreme poverty is truly ending or if contemporary standards for determining poverty rates are too low. Current research has determined that extreme poverty rates are declining no matter what amount per day is being used. 

Despite the negative effects of the 2008-2009 financial crisis on the global economy, the world community has made significant strides towards ending extreme poverty. A report published by The World Bank in 2016 found that from 1981 to 1990, the percentage of those living in extreme poverty had declined from 42 percent to 35 percent.

The later study published that from 1990 to 2013, the number of people living in extreme poverty had reduced to 10.7 percent, meaning that, in those two decades, about 1.1 billion people around the world clambered out of extreme poverty.  

Between 2008 and 2013, The World Bank found that earnings increased by 40 percent for those living in extreme poverty. And just between 2012 and 2013, the number of those living in extreme poverty dropped by 100 million people. After 2016, that number lowered to 9.1 percent.

Crucial Steps to Reducing Extreme Poverty

Using data identified as beneficial in lowering a country’s poverty rate, The World Bank boiled their findings down to six crucial steps that a country could make to lower their poverty rates.

  • Universal health coverage
  • Universal access to quality education
  • Making cash transfers to poor families
  • Rural infrastructure — especially roads and electrification
  • Progressive taxation
  • Early childhood development and nutrition

The World Bank study noted that the most significant declines in extreme poverty came from the Pacific Islands and East Asia. Approximately 50 percent of those still living in extreme poverty today will be found in Sub-Saharan Africa. This region of the world will require the highest amount of foreign aid and relief efforts looking into the future.

How To Help

Those individuals who are fortunate enough to live in areas of the world predominantly above the poverty line can do their part by contacting their representatives at both the local and national level. Furthermore, continued support through foreign aid is crucial to the ongoing development of regions that need help the most. Today, it’s estimated that 775 million people still live below the poverty line, often on less than $1.90 a day. The global effort is getting closer to eliminating that number every day.

– Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr

Multilateral Aid Review ActThe Multilateral Aid Review Act calls for a complete review of The United States system for foreign assistance. It would also serve as the foundation for a Global Development Strategy for foreign aid and would assist in any potential reconstruction of U.S. developmental programs and efforts. Ultimately, the importance of The Multilateral Aid Review Act is that the bill provides a positive move towards evidence-based reforms as well as offers a potential substitution to the proposed budget cuts for international aid programs.  

A Bipartisan Group of Supporters

The importance of The Multilateral Aid Review Act can be seen by the bipartisan group of Senators who introduced the bill. Two Senators from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), introduced the legislation that will review and potentially enhance the effectiveness of The United States participation in foreign organizations as well as improve accountability. The Multilateral Aid Review Act is also cosponsored by a number of Senators including Todd Young (R-Ind.), Tim Kaine (D-Va), Marco Rubio (R-Fla), Michael Bennet (D-Colo), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) and Bob Casey (D-Pa).  

According to Senator Bob Corker, “American taxpayers deserve to know how our involvement in these organizations benefits this country (…) Establishing an interagency review process will give us a more thorough and objective way to evaluate the performance of these institutions.” Senator Chris Coons stated, “At a time when some question the value of foreign assistance, I am proud to lead this bill which will provide data to analyze the effectiveness of our investments with these agencies and others.”  

Oversite of How the Money is Allocated

The importance of The Multilateral Aid Review Act is that it will establish an “interagency task force” that will review the organizations that receive federal foreign aid assistance. The proposed task force will be led by The Department of State, but it would have to consult with Congress and various outside experts. It would assess each organization’s financial management practices. There are three specific areas that would be evaluated:

  1. The degree to which the organization meets their declared goals
  2. Ensuring those goals align with U.S. policies
  3. The effectiveness of pursuing U.S. objectives multilaterally

In March 2018, President Trump announced, as a part of his proposed budget, that an estimated 28 percent of current spending on foreign aid would be cut. Obviously, this would have an astronomical impact on countries facing extreme poverty and the organizations hoping to put an end to this issue.

To put this in perspective, there would be a 25 percent cut in global health programs, the impact of which would be seen across all sectors. A 68 percent cut would slash The Bureau for Food Security, which works to eliminate world hunger.  

Helping Countries in Need As Well As US Interests

The importance of the Multilateral Aid Review Act is that it allows for the possibility of protecting countries receiving foreign aid as well as organizations and programs working towards solving world issues. The truth of the matter is that The United States investing in foreign aid not only helps countries in need but it also can help America in several ways.

  • Foreign aid is an investment that can be returned by creating strong trading partnerships that will eventually bring both employment and income back into The United States.
  • The United States is safer because foreign aid helps resolve the conditions that led to instability, therefore, reducing the threat of violence and even terrorism.
  • Investing in foreign aid helps prevent epidemics, which ultimately save thousands of lives, not to mention thousands of dollars in aid in the event of an epidemic.
  • The United States participating generously in foreign aid boosts the country’s reputation, which opens up several opportunities, including allowing U.S. goals to be pursued.  

The Multilateral Aid Review Act is an extremely important piece of bipartisan legislation that will allow a more detailed review of where The United States foreign aid budget goes, therefore, ensuring it is spent in the right way. If passed, this bill will not only help The United States but also countries around the globe facing extreme poverty.

– Olivia Hodges
Photo: Flickr