U.S. foreign aid
Secretary of State, George C. Marshall, built the foundations of U.S. foreign aid from 1947 to 1949. Marshall wanted to help reconstruct Europe after the brutalities of World War II by providing financial funding and technical support. The initiative was a great success. In 1950, President Harry S. Truman followed in Marshall’s footsteps and started the Point Four Program. The program’s goal was to reduce poverty and at the time, communism. Though many different agencies helped with foreign aid, none were specifically dedicated to foreign, economic development. President John F. Kennedy soon realized the need to bring these organizations together into one agency that could help foreign countries with their economic and social growth. Therefore, in 1961, the Foreign Assistance Act created USAID in the hope of uniting different countries in the name of development and modernization. Below are more U.S. foreign aid facts that everyone should know.

What Does the US Really Give?

While the U.S. is perceived as one of the top contributors of foreign aid, only about 1.2% of the U.S. federal budget goes to foreign assistance. This perhaps represents a lesser-known U.S. foreign aid fact. However, the U.S. gives the most in absolute terms. Notably, a comparison of GDP income ranks the U.S. as one of the lowest, out of 27 countries. Only 0.18% of the nation’s GDP income goes toward foreign aid. The U.S. is not giving nearly enough as it might otherwise.

How Foreign Aid Helps

One of many U.S. foreign aid “facts” that many people think true — “no matter how much is given, it makes no difference,” could not be further from the truth. Even with the estimated 1.2% given, millions of lives are saved as a result. Over the last 20 years, foreign aid lifted countless people out of extreme poverty, while fighting disease and malnutrition.

USAID invests in nearly 140 countries, providing 31 million education materials to children in need. Investing in childhood education is a surefire way to increase the chances for an objectively better future. “Nutrition-specific interventions” reach about 33 million children up to age five, along with other healthcare services. Despite these drastic improvements, there is still much more to do to improve the lives of the world’s poor.

How the US Benefits

Out of many, often overlooked U.S. foreign aid facts — is that the aid benefits both the recipients and the U.S., itself. Aid programs are extremely efficient ways to boost the U.S. economy. They operate via a domino effect — i.e., when poverty rates decline, more and more people can afford U.S. products. This increases the demand for products and leads to the creation of more U.S. jobs. Simply put, providing aid to poverty-ridden countries helps the U.S. fund domestic businesses and jobs. U.S. foreign aid contributes to both national and global security; it provides a safer country, domestically and a safer world abroad.

The benefits of U.S. foreign aid are plentiful, but the crux of the matter is that helping others when it is within the power of the U.S. is the noble thing to do. For more information on U.S. foreign aid and global poverty — click this hyperlink to hear more from the President of The Borgen Project, himself.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Flickr

YouthBuild International Act
Around the world, over 200 million youth live in extreme poverty, earning less than $2 a day. On February 12, 2020, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, introduced her sponsorship for the YouthBuild International Act. The Act aims to amend and improve upon the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. In doing so, it strives to program educational opportunities and employment training for underprivileged youth in developing countries.

The bill adds a new point to Section 105 of the indispensable Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Following the original Act, the bill adds: “Program to provide disadvantaged youth in developing countries with opportunities to receive education and employment skills.” Following this broad point, the text describes five distinct goals for the bill: economic self-sufficiency, community engagement, leadership development, affordable housing and improvement of facilities.

Goals of the Bill

To begin, the bill states its goal to make higher education and employment skill-training more accessible to underprivileged youth. By providing these opportunities, the bill aims to equip youth with economic self-sufficiency. Secondly, the bill promises to provide poverty-ridden youth with opportunities for “meaningful work and service to their communities.” Thereafter, the bill promises to enhance the development of marketable leadership skills for youth in low-income communities.

Next, the bill proposes the establishment of affordable and permanent housing initiatives for homeless and low-income families. The final section of the bill promises to improve the energy efficiency and overall quality of community facilities. This is meant to benefit nonprofit and public facilities that protect homeless and low-income families. Youth participants in the program will contribute directly to these efforts.

Domestic Success

The potential for the YouthBuild International Act is demonstrated by the successes of the United States YouthBuild program. That program provides educational, employment and leadership opportunities to thousands of young Americans who lack education and employment. As of 2019, 70% of YouthBuild participants earned a certificate or a degree, 62% improved their literacy or mathematical skills and 54% gained earned education or employment.

Next Steps

The positive results of the United States YouthBuild program prove how successful the YouthBuild International Act could be. However, the odds are not in this bill’s favor. Although Congresswoman Omar introduced it nearly six months ago, the bill has neither gained any cosponsors nor moved past the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Act remains stagnant despite its immense potential for change. According to Skopos Labs, the bill only has a 3% chance of being enacted into law.

Although domestic poverty legislation is more pressing than ever, these issues must not put foreign aid on the back-burner. It is vital to bring awareness to under-supported aid legislation, especially when it can lead to economic self-sufficiency. Passing the YouthBuild International Act could significantly uplift millions of vulnerable communities and break the cycle of poverty for future generations. This will not happen unless more Americans contact their senators and representatives about the YouthBuild International Act and other under-prioritized aid legislation.

Stella Grimaldi
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Health AssistanceThe beginning of the 20th century saw the United States begin to take its place at the forefront of the international stage. Fast forward to the middle of the century and the end of WWII and the United States took its place as a world superpower. With this newfound responsibility, the government of the United States began to do more to secure the safety and health of citizens of any nation in its sphere of influence.

Key Aspects of U.S. Foreign Health Assistance

  • U.S. foreign health assistance began with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948, better known as the Marshall Plan. The plan’s goal, which it accomplished successfully, was to economically rebuild a war-torn Europe. This included hospitals and universities to train doctors.
  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy as a tool to better aid allied countries and countries teetering on the edge of the West and Communism. The organization also brought all of President Eisenhower’s foreign assistance programs under one agency.
  • U.S. foreign health assistance in the USAID is under the jurisdiction of The Bureau of Global health. For 55 years, the Bureau for Global Health has worked towards strengthening health systems, combating HIV/AIDS, combating other infectious diseases and preventing child and maternal deaths. Past Presidents have each had a hand in improving the operation and mission of the Bureau for Global Health.
  • Between 2000 and 2015, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both introduced plans to combat malaria and HIV/AIDS. An estimated 6.2 million malaria deaths were prevented around the world.

Global Development Alliances

The USAID Bureau for Global Health is not alone in its fight — Global Health Development Alliances have partnered with USAID since 2001 to provide U.S. foreign health assistance around the world. These partners come from the private sector, and strive to both open new markets and help the local populace in need.

Private medical companies involve themselves in the alliance program — such as “The Utkrisht Impact Bond” led by Merck for Mothers and UBS Optimus — along with other large companies to target infant and maternal mortality in the Rajasthan region of India. Their program currently reaches up to 600,000 people and aims to save 10,000 mothers and children by 2020.

Multilateral and Bilateral Efforts

From 2006 to 2017, the U.S. foreign health assistance programs received a budget increase from $5.4 billion to $10.7 billion. Bilateral efforts comprise 80 percent of the U.S foreign health assistance budget, and one of these efforts is the Family Planning and Reproductive Health Program run by USAID.

The program combats HIV/AIDS, prevents child and maternal deaths and reaches 24 countries on three continents. By 2020, USAID’s goal is to educate 120 million women and girls with family planning information, commodities and services.

Multilateral efforts by the United States government include participation in and funding given to, organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and other multi-government organizations and charities. Unfortunately, the budget request for U.S. health foreign health assistance programs was set at $7.9 billion.

The United States Peace Corps

The United States Peace Corps was founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1960. Its goal then and still today is to help people around the world with the support of the United States government. By helping people in need, Peace Corps Volunteers spread goodwill about the United States and educate people about U.S. citizens and culture. They are probably best known for their English teaching program, but they also specialize in health initiatives.

Such initiatives include participating in programs initiated by Presidents Bush and Obama that reduce people’s exposure to, and number of cases of, malaria and HIV/AIDS. As part of their cooperation with USAID in 2012, the Peace Corps launched the Global Health Service Program to draw the attention of trained health professionals to countries in need.

Members of this program have a one-year service time rather than the usual two years. These volunteers not only help patients in the country, but they also pass on their knowledge and experience to sustainably help these populations in the future.

Center for Disease Control

In 2016, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was granted $427 million from the United States Congress to participate in combating f HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases, as well as promoting immunization and emergency response. The CDC was also granted $10.9 million to participate in recovery efforts in Haiti.

On January 10, 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7 magnitude earthquake. Since then, the CDC has helped the citizens of Haiti in various ways — stopping the spread of infectious diseases through the Haitian health system, educating the Haitian people about the spread and treatment of these diseases and helping the Haitian government reconstruct their health systems. The latter aid is a program first for the CDC.

International Aid Changes Lives

U.S. foreign health assistance has been a major help to many struggling people and countries around the world. Millions of lives have been changed for the better and saved because of the United States’ efforts.

Unfortunately, the budget request for U.S. health foreign health assistance programs was set at $7.9 billion. Although cuts will have to be made in staffing and funding around the world, men and women will not stop trying their best to work with the U.S. government and make a difference.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

International Violence Against Women Act

On Feb. 15, 2018, Representative Janice Schakowsky of Illinois introduced the International Violence Against Women Act of 2018 to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The overarching goal of the bill is to stop violence against women, with a focus on women in other countries, particularly those who live in poverty.

Why the Bill is Necessary

The bill provides several alarming statistics to show that poverty and violence against women are closely intertwined, such as the fact that one out of three women around the world will face violence and abuse in her lifetime. Also, around 70 percent of women in other countries have said they have personally experienced gender-based violence in their life.

Violence, particularly sexual abuse toward adolescents and pre-adolescents, is significantly prevalent. Surveys in Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Haiti showed that, on average, 28 to 38 percent of young girls and 9 to 18 percent of young boys said they had experienced sexual abuse before they were 18 years of age. Forced marriage of child brides is expected to occur to around 140,000,000 girls between 2011 and 2020. Furthermore, female genital mutilation/cutting has affected around 125,000,000 young girls and women alive today.

The Connection Between Violence and Poverty

However, these distressing statistics do not demonstrate the connection that exists between these forms of violence and poverty. The International Violence Against Women Act further notes that violence against women generally prevents women from engaging in their communities socially, economically and politically.

To be clear, the bill states that economies are affected because, around the world, women are often stuck working low-paying, insecure jobs where they are unable to have basic workers’ rights such as safe reporting systems, access to justice and legal and medical services. The subsequent lack of these rights and resources forces women in poverty to use dangerous methods in order to provide for themselves and their families, which often leads to them experiencing violence and abuse.

Furthermore, violence impacts a woman’s ability to work efficiently and be productive in the workplace and at home, which can hinder food production. As a result, this decreases food security and has the potential risk of subjecting women to more violence. The International Violence Against Women Act noted that research in India, Colombia, South Africa and Uganda found that women who have greater economic power and more control over economic assets are less likely to experience violence.

Strategies of the Bill

The bill aims to end violence against women in multiple ways. First, the bill will work through the continued implementation and monitoring of the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. This strategy was originally passed into law by President Obama in 2012 and was last updated in 2016. The strategy works in three ways:

  1. Prevention of gender-based violence through working closely with a country’s local organizations and civil society, which includes educating men about violence toward women.
  2. Protection for victims of violence by providing related services.
  3. Accountability to create justice for victims and improving legal and judicial systems so that aggressors face consequences for their crimes.

The second strategy described in the International Violence Against Women Act is adding amendments to The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, a law that affirms the U.S.’s goal of helping developing countries achieve security and stable economies. The bill adds amendments that specifically include gender-based violence into the law.

Lastly, the bill seeks the creation of the Office of Global Women’s Issues, to be added as a subset to the existing Secretary of State’s office in the Department of State. The role of the Office of Global Women’s Issues will be to generally promote gender equality and ensure that the status of women and girls around the world remains included in U.S. foreign policy.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Google

Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018 Introduced to House Committee on Foreign Affairs
On February 27th 2018, Representative Chris Smith introduced a bill to reauthorize the Global Food Security Act for four years from 2018 through 2021.

The Original Law

The original Global Food Security Act, also introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, became a law in 2016. The law only lasted a year, and has since encountered difficulty being reintroduced.

The law sought to outline a clear approach for the United States’ foreign assistance, so that its role was not just to increase food security in developing countries (as the name of the bill suggests), but to also provide economic growth through sustainable agricultural means, increase nutrition and resilience, help women and children particularly to receive that nutrition and fight against hunger and poverty in general.

The bill became law in 2016 under then-President Obama, who said of the law at the White House Summit on Global Development: “No society can flourish, children can’t flourish if they’re going hungry. We can’t ask a child to feed her mind when she can barely feed her stomach.”

Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. attempted to reintroduce the law in 2017. The law was read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in December of that year, but never made it to a vote.

New Changes

Rep. Chris Smith’s Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018 would add several amendments to the old law. The first change would be to one of the goals in the Statement of Policy Objectives. The new objective focuses on providing adequate nutrition to women and children, and increasing maternal and child health.

Aside from the goal of improving nutrition and encouraging more diverse diets, the 2018 version of the act would add a new emphasis on deworming programs. The second amendment includes The Inter-American Foundation in the list of relevant federal departments and agencies for the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act.

The last three changes update the language of the bill so that the act will extend from September of 2018 through 2021.

Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

Another addition to the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018 is that it amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to reflect the extension of the years to 2021.

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 is a law that was originally signed by President John F. Kennedy in November of that same year. Its goal was to promote the United States’ general welfare, security and foreign policy through helping developing countries achieve security and a stable economy.

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018 are both important not just for the benefit of developing countries, but also for achieving the best national security interest for the U.S. The original 2016 act states that helping developing countries by encouraging economic growth based on agriculture is an important step to end global poverty and hunger.

So far, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018 has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. To help get this bill signed into law, you can use the Borgen Project’s website to contact your representative and encourage them to support it.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr

Global Poverty
As of 2013, 767 million men and women worldwide live under the global poverty line. Nearly 11 percent of the world’s population still struggle to make ends meet with less than $1.90 per person per day. According to recent World Bank statistics, much of this community is densely populated in sub-Saharan Africa. This region touts over half of the global impoverished community.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is one of the many organizations looking to make strides with this epidemic. Launched by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, USAID aims to lead the U.S. national effort to abolish socioeconomic inequality.

This agency has instituted multiple initiatives geared towards combating widespread global poverty. Most notably, the U.S. Global Initiative Lab, instituted in 2014, works in conjunction with prominent businesses and academic institutions to address preeminent wealth disparity issues through a wide network of pooled resources.

These cornerstone partnerships offer advanced research and development capabilities which would otherwise be unavailable to one single entity. The U.S. Global Initiative Lab has also recently sought to implement technological advances in these poverty-stricken communities. The Lab has labored to effectively reallocate funds to provide the necessary groundwork for these actions to take place.

One USAID administrator, Rajiv Shah, expresses optimism when discussing these changes in a 2014 interview with Time Magazine. “[…] if we could get and invent new seeds, new mobile technology, and open new data centers to help farmers connect their crop prices and understand weather variability, we can do something transformational […].”

In 2016, USAID requested a budget of $50.1 billion to carry out development activities. This lump sum included a $35.2 billion base request to directly support people and global health programs while bolstering American U.N. leadership.

In its Congressional budget justification, USAID recognized the need for “accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness in the use of taxpayer dollars.” Additionally, the agency directly pointed out the need for budget allocation to African programs.

This request specifically outlines the need to secure policies concerning democracy, education and economic growth. USAID points to democratic gains in Nigeria as well as political transitions throughout the continent as vital measures towards infrastructural improvement.

These initiatives illustrate a refreshing sense of awareness on the part of USAID. Blindly throwing money at an issue yields ineffective and temporary solutions. Dire situations require resilience and thoughtful action.

USAID’s mission statement calls for “democratic societies to realize their potential.” The organization does not look for immediate solutions to complicated problems. More accurately, USAID works to promote a stable environment which can cultivate economic prosperity for years to come.

USAID believes actions like theirs may go to “define the majority of the history written about our era.” Time will show the scope of the impact USAID can have in the fight against global poverty.

Brady Rippon

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid for Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania, located in the southeastern great lake region of the African continent, has received foreign aid from the United States since around 1961. That year, John F. Kennedy passed the Foreign Assistance Act, which formed USAID, and began a new era of global cooperation.

The then recently independent nation of Tanganyika teamed up with USAID in an effort to increase the number of educated workers in public service. A few years later, in 1964, Tanganyika and the nation of Zanzibar united to form the country now known as Tanzania.

Over the decades that would pass, the United States maintained an important role providing foreign aid for Tanzania through USAID.

From efforts in 1973 to improve the lives of Tanzania’s poorest through agricultural innovation and funding to combating the rise of HIV/AIDs in the 1980s, USAID has been involved every step of the way.

Today, Tanzania is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. Positive trends took off in 2013 when Tanzania experienced record GDP growth of 7.3 percent, an increase from the year before of 6.9 percent. Things are looking up with growth expected to continue at least seven percent a year for the foreseeable future thanks to a support from public investment in infrastructure, energy, and transportation.

While this progress is an undeniable success, there is still a lot of work to be done for the Tanzanian people. Poverty persists as a serious issue afflicting the populace, with 46 percent of people living on $1.90 per day. Agriculture, which employs 75 percent of the population, along with empowerment of women and youth are essential to continued growth.

Tanzania has remained a recipient of United States Foreign Assistance for a long time thanks to manageable rates of ethnic tension, political stability and sustained economic growth. As the largest contributor of foreign aid for Tanzania, the United States must maintain its funding and support of the African nation in order to assure the current goal of middle-income status by 2025.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

Education for All Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Education for All Act of 2016 on September 7 — five days after it was initially listed on the House Schedule. This bill, which promotes quality universal basic education, now moves on to the Senate.

In July, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced near-identical companion legislation to the Senate which is currently being considered in the Foreign Relations Committee.

This low-cost, bipartisan bill aims to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, asserting that multilateral education aid to developing countries is essential to protecting U.S. national security interests.

The bill requires that the United States government develop a comprehensive strategy, beginning with the designation of a Senior Coordinator of U.S. Government Actions to provide basic education assistance within USAID. This position will coordinate international resources in order to promote universal access to education.

If the Education for All Act continues its momentum, once signed by the President, the bill has the potential to change the lives of millions of children.

Currently, 59 million primary school-aged children are not enrolled in school. Furthermore, 250 million children who do attend school are unable to read, write, or do basic mathematics. Many drop out before the fourth grade.

Gender discrimination, conflict and extremism continue to limit the educational growth potential for at-risk children.

Guided by coordination, sustainability and aid effectiveness, the Education for All Act will support national education plans in developing countries worldwide, creating specific indicators to measure educational quality.

Additionally, the bill focuses on the equitable expansion of education in marginalized or conflict-affected populations, in an attempt to keep schools safe from violence.

“An education is a fundamental tool with which boys and girls are empowered to increase their economic potential, improve their health outcomes, address cultural biases, participate in their communities and provide for their families”, said Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), the original sponsor of the House bill.

According to the bill text, the legislation would promote and contribute to an overall increase in economic growth for underdeveloped countries, improve democratic institutions of government, encourage empowerment for women and young  girls while “ensuring that schools are not incubators for violent extremism.” As such, focusing on improving access to education across the globe would promote U.S. national security interests.

Congressional Budget Office estimates indicate that the Education for All Act is low-cost initiative, requiring less than $500,000 per year. Enacting the bill would neither increase net direct spending nor budget deficits in the future.

The Borgen Project applauds the House for passing this important legislation and urges readers to call and email their Senators to support the Education for All Act of 2016. Let’s get this bill to the President’s desk and give millions of children access to quality education.

– Larkin Smith

Photo: Flickr


Learn about the READ Act.