Inflammation and stories on Foreign Aid

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US Troops Removal Affects Aid in AfghanistanLast week President Obama announced that he plans on bringing home 34,000 troops from Afghanistan within the next year. The presence of American troops in Afghanistan over the past 12 years has served more than just a military purpose, but also a humanitarian one as well.

Despite the corruption and backlash from the Taliban, U.S. soldiers have been successful in creating a much safer community for the Afghan population through constant patrolling on both lands and in the air. They have also provided the necessary institutions to provide health care and educate young girls. However, with the removal of most of the remaining troops, certain experts and members of Congress are worried that the $15 billion aid program for development and aid in Afghanistan will have been a wasted effort.

Because of the United States’ current economic standing, continuing to fund civilian-focused programs in Afghanistan is seen as creating a dependency on American assistance. In order to convince Congress and the President to at least gradually remove U.S. troops and continue to provide a small amount of monetary aid, Anthony H. Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that those in support of aid must quickly plan out their selling points and present a case to Congress that shows social and economic improvements in Afghanistan.

The argument against continuing aid is the belief that after all these years, the Karzai government still remains unaccountable and unable to keep corruption out of its administration. Those in support of aid believe that the Afghan people need more time to adapt if they are to begin independently managing their own affairs.

Over concern for the safety of Afghan women and girls from the Taliban, many senators, both Republican and Democrat, have come together to fully support the continuance of civilian assistance.

The main priority for all is to make sure that the billions of dollars that have been put into rebuilding Afghanistan and the American lives lost in doing so will not go wasted. All sides of the issue also understand that aid can no longer be given at the rate it has been for the past decade.

Reaching a middle ground that can guarantee the safety of Afghans but at the same time encourage them to actively build upwards from the foundations already set seems plausible and will hopefully remain an important concern while troops are being removed.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: The New York Times

LifeExpectancy

The 10 countries with the shortest life expectancy can be found in one continent, Africa, with the exception of Afghanistan. Short life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa can be caused by famine, poor governments, low levels of education (research has suggested that education correlates with healthcare awareness), availability of clean water and the existence of widespread AIDS. In Afghanistan, the main reason for short life expectancy has been due to infant mortality and women not surviving through childbirth. According to The Guardian, better access to healthcare in the last decade has helped cut infant mortality rates in Afghanistan.

What can we do? Well, donating and persuading our government to give more foreign aid helps solve the poverty issue. Once these countries move up, they can begin to fund higher levels of education, afford advanced agricultural tools which can help sustain growth, and improve healthcare.

(Listed top-to-bottom from the country with the shortest life expectancy)

  1. Chad: 48.69
  2. Guinea-Bissau: 49.11
  3. South Africa: 49.41
  4. Swaziland: 49.42
  5. Afghanistan: 49.72
  6. Central African Republic: 50.48
  7. Somalia: 50.80
  8. Zimbabwe: 51.82
  9. Lesotho: 51.86
  10. Mozambique: 52.02

Leen Abdallah

Source: CIA World Factbook, The Guardian, Econs Guide
Photo: Google: Short Life Expectancy

Sec_State_Kerry_Poverty_Terrorism
Earlier this week, the new Secretary of State John Kerry gave a brief talk to a group of college students at the State Department, where he stressed the importance of U.S. foreign aid in fighting poverty and terrorism. Kerry started by polling the auditorium and asked the students how much of the annual budget they thought is allocated towards the State Department, foreign affairs, and foreign aid.

Kerry went on to state that many Americans think that the amount of funds spent on foreign aid totals around 50 to 30 percent of the national annual budget, when in reality, foreign aid is allocated a mere 1 percent. He then went on to remark that he considers foreign aid spending “absolutely an investment,” and explained the real return on investment that is gained, although it is not always quantifiable.

“I can tell you that you could quantify it in troops that you don’t have to send somewhere, lives that are not lost because you managed to create a relationship with a country that resolves its problems peacefully and that doesn’t spill over into another nation, whether it’s a Mali or the problems we’re seeing in Egypt now or Syria. The ability to be able to help people to make peaceful transitions and to move their economies to open, accountable economies that engage with the rest of the world makes a world of difference to the lives of people in that country and everybody around them,” stated Kerry.

The Secretary of State also mentioned North Korea and the current state of human rights in the country, along with the current military actions towards additional missile tests and perhaps even nuclear activity, saying that the people of North Korea “desperately need to become more open and connected to the world.”

Kerry went on to mention the success of PEPFAR, the U.S. government’s initiative to curb the spread of AIDS, and how it has saved the lives of around 5 million children and increased health infrastructure throughout Africa. He also noted that the United States is in a unique and favorable position to have a military strong enough to “push back against evil and terrorism” and still have the ability to build up those same countries and give them democracy, freedom, and increased infrastructure.

Addressing the frequent question of why the U.S. has to be involved in so many global issues, he answered, “Because America, throughout the 20th century and now moving into this century, has proven again and again that there is an indispensable capacity to help bring about peace, find a way for people’s rights, their individual human rights to be able to be protected and to be able to live better lives.”

In support of his answer, he gave several examples of past instances where the U.S. has intervened and improved upon the situation – Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia, and The Dayton Peace Accords, namely.

Kerry conceded that although U.S. foreign involvement has improved people’s lives and countries in several instances, it is “not perfect” and that mistakes have been made in the past, but also acknowledged that the foreign issues that we face today are much different than they were during WWII, when the U.S. had obvious and clear-cut enemies. Kerry mentioned the U.S. aid that was given to Germany and Japan to rebuild post-WWII and said that was the “best decision we ever made,” and went on to state that foreign policy is all about making difficult decisions like this in order to build for the future.

Kerry went on to state that now, more than ever, is the time when the U.S. needs to continue its nation-building and international development efforts, especially in the tumultuous Middle East, where a majority of the population are young adults facing unstable governments and poverty. He went on to mention the need to persuade Congress to continue to support nation-building efforts, despite heavy budget deficit talks here at home.

In wrapping up his speech, the Secretary of State asserted that the major challenge of U.S. foreign policy moving forward would be “to help these folks be able to find the kind of opportunity that you have and that a lot of other people strive for in different parts of the world. Our challenge is not to retreat and go inwards and say, ‘Oh, let them fight it out, it doesn’t make a difference.’ It does make all the difference in the world, as we saw in Afghanistan, where if you leave people to their own devices, a lot of extremists will just organize themselves and make life miserable for people somewhere.”

Secretary of State Kerry encourages foreign aid because of the massive, global impact it has. With increased advocacy and awareness, hopefully a more diverse group of legislators and policymakers will start to do the same.

Christina Mattos Kindlon

Source: State Department

 

quebec-and-its-Potential-International-Aid-Agency
Recently, Quebec and its potential international aid agency have become a hot news topic. Quebec is considering the creation of its own foreign aid agency with its allotted share of the Canadian budget for International Development during the most recent elections.

If Quebec and its potential international aid agency become a reality, it would loosen its ties to the rest of Canada. Parti Quebecois is a political party in Quebec that aims to move away from its connections to Canada to make Quebec its own state. Overall, Quebec’s government, opposition to Canada’s Conservative party, believes that Canada’s foreign aid programs have been “tainted” by the Conservatives. Therefore, Quebec’s independent foreign aid budget becomes highly tangible.

Quebec has already shown progress on research and development into the definition and function of the new department. The government has demonstrated its full intentions by hiring several of Quebec’s developers to take on the job. A committee report is expected at the end of 2013 to give more updates on the project, which will be run by the Quebec Association for International Solidarity.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: Macleans, Winnipeg Free Press
Photo: CTV News

USAID Claims Further Transparency and Accountability

Financial foreign assistance is one of the most powerful ways that developed nations can help lower-income countries fight their way through poverty. It also provides the most immediate results, given that aid investment is effectively distributed both to short-term direct programs as well as long-term indirect programs. Many in aid-giving communities, including the United States, criticize foreign aid spending because they believe it a wasteful investment, used to line administrator’s pockets or be lackadaisically distributed to corrupt governments.

Futuregov estimates that annually, around $150b is contributed globally to aid and assist socio-economic and social development.

Given the global community’s demands for greater accountability and transparency in funding, the AidData Centre for Development Policy organization was established.  The organization is “a joint venture between the College of William & Mary, Development Gateway, Brigham Young University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Esri.” AidData will be funded $25 million over five years in its conjoined efforts with the United States Agency for International Development.

The program will combine the work of experts in a menagerie of different fields to track and make public the effects of specific foreign aid projects. The purpose of the program assessments is also self-reflective, as programs become more stringently criticized. The aim is to have less money spent will have efficiently maximized impacts.

Nina Narang

Source: futureGOV
Photo: BIPPS

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