Posts

US-foreign-aid-percent-GDP.opt
Global aid, formally known as Official Development Assistance (ODA), continued to decline in 2012 as wealthy countries struggled with the global financial crisis. Global aid decreased by four percent in 2012, following a two percent decline in 2011.

Global aid totaled about $125 billion USD in 2012. Most of that came from members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which includes most of the world’s wealthiest countries: the United States, Japan, and much of Europe. However, contributions of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are becoming increasingly important to poverty reduction and assistance efforts.

In 2012, Australia, Austria, Iceland, Korea, and Luxembourg increased their donations to global aid. Countries hit the hardest by the financial crisis, including Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal, decreased their contributions.

Donations can be measured both by total quantity of donation and percentage of gross national income (GNI). The US was among the largest donors in total monetary value, but did not reach the minimum threshold of 0.7% of GNI. Smaller countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark surpassed 0.7%. In some cases, donations from non-traditional donor countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey surpassed individual donations from DAC-member countries.

The percentage of OECD global aid dedicated to humanitarian causes has increased from 3.3 percent to 8.6 percent over the last two decades. Global aid is distributed to many different sectors, including economic development, social and administrative infrastructure, food aid, transportation, and agriculture.

Global aid distribution has also shifted in recent years. The share of aid going to sub-Saharan Africa, traditionally the largest beneficiary, decreased from 47.8% to 41.8%. Meanwhile, aid to South and Central Asia increased from 11.5% to 19.8%.

The OECD’s official report on global aid trends can be found here. Call your senator or representative and let them know that you’d like to see the US contribute more, not less, to global aid.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN
Photo: The Fact File

Effects of Drone Strikes on Humanitarian Aid
The moral, ethical, and legal questions and uncertainties about secretive US drone strikes have increasingly become subjects of media attention. Many have criticized the Bush and Obama administrations for effectively engaging in endless, unchecked war, in many places, all the time. But one question has gone largely unasked in the debate over unmanned US strikes: what are the effects of drone strikes on humanitarian aid?

As we know, poverty and terrorism are closely linked. The daily struggles of those living in extreme poverty breed despair and desperation and leave many, especially youth, vulnerable to terrorist groups’ incendiary messages. Poverty reduction is an important part of US national security and foreign policy, and yet drone strikes may be undermining attempts to combat extreme poverty on the ground.

Organizations working in rural areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other drone strike-targeted regions have reported increased hostility and resistance in relation to drone strikes. Suspicions are always aroused in the days and weeks following a strike. According to NGO security officials in Somalia, following a 2008 drone strike, attacks on aid workers increased from one to two a month to six to eleven.

Aid workers have been accused of complicity in drone strikes. Often, workers who have been collecting information for aid purposes are accused of passing on sensitive information that supposedly enable strikes, such as GPS coordinates. Some workers have been killed, either by hostile locals or as a direct result of strikes.

One of the biggest problems that aid organizations and NGOs face in dealing with drone strikes is the lack of human personnel involved in the attacks. There are no authorities on the ground to address the safety of aid workers or civilians in the region. It is difficult to determine responsibility for the attacks because even though drones often operate from regular military airbases, they are under the CIA’s jurisdiction.

Some groups, such as the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), have had success interfacing with the US government through the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). But others, like the Center for Civilians in Conflict, have had zero success in lobbying Congressional leaders for greater oversight of drone strikes. Civilians in Conflict released this report in 2012 on the effects of drone strikes on civilians.

The effects of drone strikes on humanitarian aid cannot be underestimated. Compounding tensions in areas already struggling with poverty and violence does nothing to alleviate the problems. Instead, it hampers the valiant efforts of those risking their own lives to make a positive difference. If the US government wants to positively contribute to poverty relief and reduction efforts, it needs to evaluate the effects of drone strikes on humanitarian aid work in targeted regions.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN
Photo:

What is our Return on Investment for USAID?Many people ask, what is our “return on investment” for USAID? One clear answer is that we substantially improve public attitudes about the US. America offers humanitarian assistance all around the world, and there is growing research to suggest that US aid to developing nations results in substantial benefits to the US itself.

The non-profit group Terror Free Tomorrow, in Washington DC, has done extensive surveys:

  • Two-thirds of Indonesians favorably changed their opinion of the US because of the US tsunami response in 2004. Most significantly, 71% of self-identified Osama bin Laden supporters adopted a new favorable view of the US.
  • As a direct result of American efforts in 2004, support for Al Qaeda and terrorist attacks dropped by half in Indonesia  (the largest Muslim country in the world). Even two years after, 60% of Indonesians continued to have favorable opinions of America.
  • After the U.S. Navy ship Mercy, fully equipped floating hospital, docked for several months in local ports in 2006, provided medical care to the people of Indonesia and Bangladesh, nationwide polling in Bangladesh found that 87% said the activities of the Mercy made their overall opinion of the US more positive.
  • Indonesians and Bangladeshis ranked additional visits by the Mercy as a higher priority for future American policy than resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • After the US war in Afghanistan, and the drone strikes inside Pakistan, anti-American attitudes in Pakistan were among the strongest in the world. However, on a local level, where USAID had been active after an earthquake – there was still significant trust in the US, even four years after.
  • Even more dramatic change in public opinion can occur when American aid is targeted and focused on directly helping people in need and not foreign governments.

Humanitarian aid saves lives and helps to improve living standards during horrible disasters. It builds allies and strengthens our national security by doing so. It changes public opinion toward the US and can lead to significant changes in values. It can increase understanding across borders – lessening inter-tribal, religious, and regional conflict, and enhance support for free markets, trade, and democracy.

In this time of limited government funds, the effectiveness of American foreign humanitarian help must be protected. A full understanding of humanitarian aid shows that it helps donors and recipient nations alike.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Brookings Institution
Photo: Truth-Out

Emerging Powers Stepping Up Humanitarian Aid for Syria
In a recent UN donor conference for Syria, a 1.5 billion dollar donation was pledged to help provide humanitarian aid for Syria, of which two-thirds came from the non-western world powers. Last year, contributions coming from Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Middle Eastern Gulf countries only made up about 5% of all contributions to Syria. This marks a shift from the historically Western-dominated world of humanitarian aid as non-western world powers begin to make more of an impact.

Contributions from non-western countries have more often than not come from less traditional avenues of humanitarian aid that are not transparent and hard to track. These channels allow these countries total control of their contribution and all credit for their actions. The recent development in donations from non-western countries has resulted in tension between the emerging powers and the West in terms of who will ultimately get credit and gain influence for these donations. However, if this recent trend leads to a proper dialogue that reevaluates some of the current flaws in humanitarian aid, it may be a boon for all parties involved.

The Western states and emerging powers both have valid reasons for being wary of the others’ operations. The West believes that their established humanitarian system has worked well to help people around the world and that other countries should funnel their money through them, lest the funds get lost or misused due to inexperience. On the other hand, the emerging powers do not want to give their funds to Western humanitarian agencies that they have no control over and that do not completely reflect their own interests.

The recent donor conference to provide humanitarian aid for Syria is a step in the right direction for all parties involved. This is not only because of the important support it provides for Syrian refugees in the short term, but also because it brings many countries which often oppose each other into a dialogue to support a common cause.

The Western countries have a system of humanitarian aid that needs to make itself more inclusive toward the emerging world powers as well as restructure some of the ways that it uses its funds. Non-Western countries would benefit from joining a system that is more structured and includes themselves in the group of already established powers. Despite the fact that the donor conference in Syria is a positive action for both sides, the most important factor is not to lose sight of those in need of humanitarian aid due to political issues.

– Sean Morales

Source: AlertNet
Photo: The Independent

UN Central Emergency Response FundIn December of 2012, the United Nations had called for financial support for the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which has financed humanitarian programs that saved millions of lives. Donors pledged $384 million for 2013. On January 21, the United Nations announced that $100 million was to be allocated to 12 poorly-funded crises around the world.

Since 2006, the UN CERF has helped speed up relief efforts by collecting donations to ensure that programs providing life-saving assistance receive adequate funding. Since then, the Fund has managed to secure a total of $900 million to address crises. In 2012, CERF allocated a total of $465 million to programs delivering humanitarian aid in 49 countries including Syria, South Sudan, Haiti and Pakistan, the highest amount allocated in a year.

On December 11, 2012, in a statement at the high-level CERF conference, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, praised the Fund’s work in aiding those affected by crises. “CERF’s support has been critical to saving the lives and livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world,” Amos said. “It has bolstered the transformative agenda, which aims to strengthen humanitarian response, and our efforts to have a robust and well-coordinated UN-led humanitarian response in support of national efforts.”

Amos reviewed CERF’s work in supporting Syrians in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, refugees in South Sudan, and disaster response in Haiti and Cuba post-Hurricane Sandy. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had also praised the fund’s range of services: “From flood zones to war zones, CERF stops crises from turning into catastrophes.”  Ban Ki-Moon emphasized the Fund’s ability to mobilize funds “in stubbornly under-funded situations” through its “quick, targeted support” mechanism.

CERF supports the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen. CERF selection criteria include humanitarian needs and analysis of funding levels. These situations include the Sahrawi refugee operation in Algeria, life-saving programs in Eritrea and agencies working in Afghanistan.

The objective is to target ‘forgotten’ or ‘neglected’ emergencies. A second round of allocating funding will follow in July 2013. Amos reiterated that the CERF continues to help millions of people “after the media spotlight fades.” She hopes more governments will cooperate with CERF in providing funds to those trapped in “hidden emergencies.”

“CERF is more than a message from the international community – it is a real help for the most vulnerable members of our human family,” concluded Ki-Moon.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: UN NewsUN NewsOCHA