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2020 election and global povertyThe U.S. remains one of the largest political powers in the world. Countries around the globe pay close attention to the presidential election and are anxious to know who will lead the country for the next four years. From COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts to foreign policies, the future of the nation’s decisions rests heavily on the outcome of the 2020 election. Read on to learn about the connections between the 2020 election and global poverty.

The 2020 Election and Global Poverty: Two Candidates

President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are running as Republican candidates on a platform similar to their 2016 campaign. Running as Democratic candidates are former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). Both candidates have already proposed new policies as part of their campaign platforms. President Trump has proposed reducing foreign aid by 21%, while increasing border security and tax cuts if he remains in office. On the other hand, former Vice President Biden, if elected, would make foreign aid the focus of U.S. foreign policy.

As much as the candidates may vary in their views on foreign aid, however, these differences are not likely to influence the election much. Overall, voters do not consider global poverty to be a core issue. In the 2016 presidential election, global poverty played little to no role in voters’ decisions. Currently, the voters’ top five issues are the economy, healthcare, the Supreme Court appointments, the COVID-19 response and violent crime, none of which are directly related to global poverty. While foreign policy remains in the top 12 issues, it is not a major concern for current voters.

The Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak

The response to COVID-19 has significantly impacted the 2020 election and global poverty reduction efforts. As of October 2020, the U.S. faces five million confirmed cases, 176,000 deaths, a declining economy and restrictions that could affect voter turnout. COVID-19 has accordingly become a major concern for many voters. Indeed, 62% of voters believe the outbreak will play an important role in the candidate they choose.

Many voters are also concerned about the condition of the economy as a result of the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) decreased by an annual rate of 32.9%. Congress has also spent trillions of dollars on unemployment benefits and support for small businesses. Many of the voters who believe that the U.S. government should focus on the national debt worry that this stimulus spending could hurt the economy in the long run.

The Influence on Global Poverty

In 2019, the International Affairs Budget received $52.2 billion for foreign aid. This amounted to almost 1% of the entire budget of the U.S. government. With proposed budget cuts and increased concerns over the economy and COVID-19, global poverty is in danger of remaining an issue considered unimportant to many voters and secondary to policy-makers. Despite this relative neglect, it is important that the government address global poverty. Congress must be reminded to protect the International Affairs Budget as a measure just as important as any other policy. Overall, the 2020 U.S. election will likely have a minimal effect on global poverty, given other global crises. As such, the citizens of the U.S. must communicate the importance of the 2020 election and global poverty support to their national leaders, whoever they end up being.

– Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Success of Foreign Aid
Many misconceptions exist about the federal budget, but perhaps one of its least understood sections is the International Affairs Budget. While Americans, on average, estimate that the United States dedicates nearly 31% of its federal budget to foreign aid, the International Affairs Budget comprised only $57.8 billion of the $4.829-trillion federal budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which is less than 1.2%. Though the perception of money dedicated to international affairs is often inflated, the real success of foreign aid programs often fails to make headlines. The following three USAID programs have managed to make real progress in agricultural development, disaster relief and education, despite a small budget.

Feed the Future

Feed the Future is a USAID program that partners with countries to improve their agricultural sectors and fight hunger. In doing so, it demonstrates the success of foreign aid. The program operates by teaming up with nonprofits, businesses and individuals in order to make an immediate difference in partner countries. However, it also aims to make a long-term difference by empowering participating governments and private sectors to eventually become self-sufficient.

Though the organization works in nearly 12 partner countries, it was particularly active in Sierra Leone and Liberia after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015. When this disease threatened the stability of these countries, Feed the Future helped to stimulate the private sector by distributing cash transfers and hosting agricultural input fairs, where farmers could acquire discounted seeds. In total, more than 14,000 farmers received farming inputs and more than 97,000 households received cash transfers. Ultimately, this immediate action helped to stabilize prices and fight poverty during the crisis.

Currently, Feed the Future is helping Bangladesh endure the economic trials of COVD-19. Through Feed The Future’s partnerships, Bangladeshi citizens have not only adopted healthier diets but also become more self-sufficient in their production of food. For example, Prantojon Argo Enterprise, an agricultural cooperative receiving support from Feed the Future, has given farmers access to a formal milk market by training them and providing refrigeration to 60 small shops. With the support of this foreign aid, hundreds of farmers have been given financial security during the pandemic. And with Prantojon milk sold in 66 local retailers, customers in Bangladesh have been given access to a healthier diet, demonstrating the success of foreign aid.

Baliyo Ghar

Baliyo Ghar is a USAID partnership program with Nepal, designed to aid recovery efforts from a powerful 2015 earthquake. The natural disaster destroyed over a quarter of a million homes, most of which were constructed and inhabited by the rural poor. Although the earthquake itself was devastating, the extent of the destruction was intensified by the construction style of Nepali homes. As described by USAID, “construction workers’ and homeowners’ lack of awareness and training in earthquake-safe construction … as well as the absence of a national curricula, standards, guidelines and manuals for training individuals involved in housing construction” were all factors that left Nepali homes in a vulnerable position.

Focusing both on immediate and long-term recovery, the USAID-funded Baliyo Ghar project provides resources to help homeowners rebuild structurally sound homes and works with the Government of Nepal to improve standardized training materials given to masons and construction workers. Additionally, the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET) has implemented USAID funds to train masons and engineers in earthquake-resistant methods and has prioritized establishing a formal test for mason certification.

The results of these activities illustrate the success of foreign aid: more than 75% of the project’s beneficiaries have rebuilt their homes. Additionally, because of USAID’s partnership with the government of Nepal and other organizations, such as NSET, over 90% of these homes in the project’s operational area were rebuilt in a seismically safe way. In total, USAID has helped hundreds of thousands of Nepalis avoid poverty by providing nearly $200 million in earthquake assistance, supporting NSET in training nearly 4,000 masons and establishing nine Reconstruction Resource Centers throughout Nepal.

Selective Integrated Reading Activity

As the country of Mali looks to lower poverty rates, boosting literacy is a main priority. According to USAID’s website, the Selective Integrated Reading Activity (SIRA) is designed to support the government of Mali in providing reading and teaching materials, improving reading skills, training teachers and school directors and supporting early grade reading outcomes. As measured in 2018, the adult literacy rate in Mali was a mere 35.47%. Partnering with the Education Development Center, the $51 million SIRA project looks to address this low rate and improve education in the country of Mali.

The program’s objectives focus on the education of first- and second-grade children, with a heavy emphasis on providing higher-quality resources to teachers. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the program is its emphasis on community support. By teaching students in their national language and hosting training sessions that instruct parents in continuing education at home, the program has been able to engage parents in their children’s early education. Overall, SIRA has trained over 7,000 teachers, reached more than 264,000 learners and offered coaching to nearly 4,000 school directors, demonstrating the success of foreign aid.

The programs funded by the International Affairs Budget are some of the most visible examples of the success of foreign aid. Whether it be increasing access to nutrition, rebuilding homes or improving literacy, the budget helps to sustain initiatives that play crucial roles in making a difference in communities across the globe.

Michael Messina
Photo: Flickr

2018 USAID Initiatives
The 2018 USAID initiatives included many successful programs to combat global poverty. Certainly, USAID plays a fundamental role in addressing the needs of the developing world through programs that rebuild infrastructure, increase agricultural diversity and reduce crime rates. Here are five facts about USAID’s accomplishments in 2018.

Five Facts About USAID’s 2018 Accomplishments

  1. Food For Peace – In 2018, the USAID Office of Food For Peace provided assistance to 76 million people in 59 countries. It accomplished this through cash transfers, food vouchers, cooperation with regional and local institutions and other services. Food For Peace donated 254,275 metric tonnes of development food assistance. Additionally, the initiative donated 2,244,815 metric tonnes of emergency food assistance. Food For Peace spent $350 million on development programs designed to directly combat poverty. Furthermore, Food For Peace implemented initiatives related to the improvement of agricultural practices and child nutrition in Guatemala.
  2. AIDS Relief – The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) saw great progress in 2018. With the support of the U.S. government, PEPFAR’s work even placed 13 countries with high rates of HIV on the path to controlling their epidemics by 2020. In 2018, the organization expanded vital AIDS treatment to reach 14 million people. Just over six million children orphaned or affected by AIDS received support from PEPFAR. Furthermore, 250,000 health workers received training and were able to go to the countries that needed their help the most.
  3. Access to Assistive Technology – In July 2018, USAID instituted ATscale: A Global Partnership for Assistive Technology. USAID intended ATscale to increase global access to assistive technology like hearing aids and wheelchairs. ATscale’s goal is to provide assistive technology to 500 million people by 2030 through partnerships with the U.N., the WHO and others.
  4. Central America – Another fact is that several 2018 USAID initiatives focused on Central America. Currently, USAID investments are a source of funding for a restructuring of El Salvador’s tax system. Another USAID program provides job training to young adults in Guatemala. USAID cooperates with the State Department to provide community programming that reduces crime rates.
  5. Aid Transparency – In June 2018, USAID introduced its 2018 Aid Transparency Index. This index, run independently of USAID, will make aid data visible to the public. No other development agency has undertaken a measure like this. Consequently, by making data about its spending available, USAID will be more likely to receive increased support for its initiatives, especially ambitious ones such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Overall, in 2018, USAID involvement was a positive force for the citizens of many countries throughout the world. The U.S. International Affairs Budget funded countless 2018 USAID initiatives that served a multitude of purposes. For example, treating AIDS in Africa or assisting farmers in Central America. Although the projects that USAID funds are diverse, they share a common purpose: to create a more peaceful world. To encourage continued congressional support of USAID, U.S. voters can contact their representatives here.

-Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

International affairsThe International Affairs Budget is a crucial investment in foreign aid and development. Fighting diseases and epidemics, providing humanitarian aid and educating children who are most vulnerable to dropping out and not receiving an education are just some of the areas where funding is applied. Those suffering from poverty are less likely to receive aid and proper health services necessary to prevent and cure illnesses.

Thinking about more recent epidemics, such as the Ebola and Zika virus, it can be seen that funding for health-related programs within The International Affairs Budget was crucial to lowering the statistics of those who are affected. Up to now, 16 percent of The International Affairs Budget is dedicated to global health funding. This includes maternal and child healthcare, nutrition and tackling diseases such as polio and HIV/AIDS.

The Polio Virus Around the World

The Polio vaccine is a great example of a threat that could be eradicated with the correct application of foreign aid. Polio, also known as Poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease that causes paralysis and possibly death. According to The Polio Global Eradication Initiative, as of 1988, polio has infected and paralyzed over 1,000 children daily worldwide.

In 1931, Sir Macfarlane Burnet and Dame Jean MacNamara were able to identify multiple strains of polio, which became known as types 1, 2, and 3. In 1955, a polio vaccine was introduced from wild-type poliovirus strains that were killed, therefore inactive. Also known as IPV, this form of the vaccine has been able to eliminate polio from countries such as Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

In 1961, the oral polio vaccine, a mixture of the 3 strains of polio, was introduced. The strains selected are less likely to originate within the body and be spread to others. Due to the high rates of success of the OPV, alongside its low cost to purchase, this version of the vaccine has been key in globally eliminating polio.

Despite these 2 forms of vaccines being available, The Polio Global Eradication Initiative reports that 430 million children are still at risk of contracting polio, mainly in Africa and Asia. As of February 2015, The United States government approved a $228 million in funds to tackle the elimination of polio.

Once a pandemic, now the rates of polio have been reduced by 99.99 percent because of funding that has gone towards research and creating initiatives such as The Global Polio Eradication Initiative to continually fight polio.

The Smallpox Virus Around the World

Variola virus, also known as smallpox, was an infectious disease that caused fever and a specific type of progressive skin rash. While many recovered from the disease, three out of 10 died and, of those who survived, many had large scars left on their body.

Looking back at the history, there had been several global outbreaks of smallpox from China to Africa to Australia. In 1959, The World Health Organization (WHO) started a plan to eradicate smallpox, but it was difficult to obtain funding and countries willing to participate. When The Intensified Eradication Program started in 1967, progress was made in areas such as South America, Asia and Africa. One thing that became clear was that, with the eradication of smallpox, comes lower medical expenses.

For instance, when smallpox was finally eradicated in 1980, quarantine conditions no longer had to be initiated. When combined with the costs of the disabilities of those who had survived the disease after fighting smallpox, the savings were around $1 billion. Therefore, it can be concluded that with funding, comes research and initiatives, which heightens the likelihood of vaccines and lowers medical expenses both domestically and globally.

HIV/AIDS Around the World

Around $330 million of the global health percentage of The International Affairs Budget has been dedicated to HIV/AIDS. Out of these funds, $275 million will be shared with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. According to The Lancet, AIDS-related deaths, when comparing 2005 to 2016, have decreased .9 million. In addition, the rates of new infections have decreased by 16 percent.

One reason for this decrease is because of increased treatments that are available due to an increase in funding. Therefore, if funding is reduced, inversely, there would be a rise in infection rates of HIV/AIDS due to lack of research, services and education about preventing the virus.

As readers can see, The International Affairs Budget is crucial to the progression of global health. Instances such as polio, smallpox and HIV/AIDS are prime examples of how funding can be the key to reduction and even eradication. With increased funding, comes increased research, cures, education and prevention techniques. E-mail your senators and representatives today to urge their support and protection for the funding of The International Affairs Budget.

– Jessica Ramtahal

Photo: Flickr

examples of global issues
The year 2018 has brought many positives with it. Several countries are on pace to minimize poverty. Education movements for girls are spreading like wildfire all over the world. More women in developing countries are gaining access to maternal care. More governments are establishing innovative ways to combat fundamental challenges around the globe. Unfortunately, there are still many global issues that plague the world.

Global issues are matters of economic, environmental, social and political concerns that affect the whole world as a community. These issues disrupt the natural framework of humanity, disturbing economic and social progress. These are 10 examples of global issues that are altering the development of human progress across society as a whole.

Examples of Global Issues

  1. Clean Water
    Water is a basic substance required for all living organisms. Without it, human health inevitably fails. According to a report by the United Nations, there is enough fresh water on the planet for everyone. Unfortunately, 844 million people lack access to it, and one of three people do not have access to a toilet. Millions perish daily from unhygienic diseases due to inadequate water and sanitation. Governments are making efforts to assist those in need but are hindered by declining economics and disorganized infrastructures.
  2. Food Security
    Like water, food helps people lead healthy lives. Globally, 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished. Developing countries struggle with providing an adequate food supply to their people; as a result, nearly 795 million people do not have enough food to meet their nutritional needs. The World Food Programme, a humanitarian effort established by the U.N. to combat hunger and food security, is working to bring relief to developing countries, currently assisting more than 80 countries every year.
  3. Health
    Universal health is a growing concern. Unfortunately, diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, smallpox and polio are still claiming the lives of thousands of people worldwide, mostly in developing nations. The World Health Organization is a global initiative that provides antibiotics and vaccinations all over the world. Since its inception, polio cases have declined by 99 percent, tuberculosis treatment has saved more than 37 million people, and in 2016, zero cases of Ebola were reported in West Africa.
  4. Human Rights
    Every person deserves basic rights, regardless of their race, sex or ethnicity. In 1948, the United Nations created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which today is commonly known as the International Human Rights Law. This declaration promotes and protects human rights civilly, economically, politically and socially.
  5. Maternal Health
    Maternal health is a global human rights issue, making it one of the key examples of global issues. There are an estimated 830 pregnancy-related deaths each day. This is mainly due to lack of maternal care. Women die from infections, postpartum bleeding, blood clots and other conditions. The United Nations Population Fund develops relationships with governments around the world to train healthcare professionals to provide expert maternal care to expecting mothers.
  6. Girls’ Access to Education
    Girls deserve the right to learn. Currently, 98 million girls do not attend school due to barriers like poverty, gender bias, governmental conflict, safety concerns and a lack of educators, classrooms and curriculums. Global Citizen reported that schools are sometimes hours away from where children live, making it unsafe for them to travel alone. Let Girls Learn is a U.S. global strategy targeting an increase in safe access to education for girls and educators. Funds are directed towards curriculums to help girls read and write.
  7. Digital Access
    We live in a digital age where we can find all the help we need online. This luxury is absent in many countries, as more than four billion people do not have access to the internet. Internet connectivity would assist those living in developing countries with finding help and aid. With online options, people in need can contact international aid programs to get assistance faster.
  8. Foreign Aid Budgets
    The world would like to believe it does enough for the poor, but sadly this is not true. In the U.S., the International Affairs Budget only makes up 1 percent of the federal budget. Increasing the foreign aid budget is actually beneficial to the American economy. It helps create more jobs in the U.S. and builds wealth in developing countries.
  9. Women’s Rights
    Women’s rights are human rights. Women suffer discrimination in many areas: laws, the workforce and gender-based stereotypes and social practices. The first conference on global feminism was held in Nairobi in 1985 and involved more than 15,000 non-governmental organizations, encouraging 157 governments to adopt strategies geared towards equality, development and peace for women.
  10. Refugees
    Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their homeland due to war, conflict and abuse. Foreign countries have granted them asylum for thousands of years. Refugees are sometimes denied entry into other countries, leaving them without basic human rights such as food, healthcare, education and jobs. Children make up the largest percentage of refugees. The U.N. Refugee Agency currently provides aid and safekeeping to 59 million refugees.

These 10 examples of global issues are not exhaustive. The world is filled with complex issues that must be addressed. Global strategies must continue to advance to nurture and protect all of humanity.

– Naomi C. Kellogg
Photo: Flickr

Syrian Hospitals Go UndergroundThe Syrian civil war has been and continues to be, devastating. Since its inception in 2011, bombings and raids have displaced thousands upon thousands from the country. However, not everyone has the choice to flee. In fact, some have been rendered unable to leave the country because of injuries caused by warfare. This has placed a new burden on doctors in the area. How are medical staff supposed to effectively treat patients when bombs frequently and intentionally strike the hospitals in Syria? Some doctors have a solution: having Syrian hospitals go underground.

Mahmoud Hariri is a surgeon, born and raised in Syria, who has faced the consequences of war on Syrian healthcare. He reports having once seen a patient pull a tube out of his own body in order to evacuate the hospital he was receiving care in because it was being bombed—again. Hariri spoke of the complications that these forced evacuations cause, particularly for the often unconscious patients in the intensive care units. As many of the hospitals are without elevators, doctors and support staff are left with no choice but to carry these critical patients down the stairs.

To save patients and allow medical workers to provide better care without the risk of bombings forcing evacuations, entire hospitals have been relocated into basements and caves. In essence, hospitals are using makeshift, military-style fortifications so operations can endure the bombs falling above. If a hospital chooses to stay in the buildings above the surface, they are building concrete walls and even creating “sacrificial” floors to take the brunt of the aerial attacks.

As Syrian hospitals go underground and construct protective structures, the question of financing the relocations and fortifications arises. The United States and U.N. grants are largely responsible for making these expensive projects possible. However, as the U.S. considers a drastic budget cut to the International Affairs Budget, worried aid groups are wondering how to fill the potential void caused by reduced funding.

Currently, around 25 underground facilities are in operation. However, each facility can cost $800,000 to $1.5 million depending on what the hospital needs. As a result, doctors have turned to crowdfunding in a desperate attempt to continue the construction of these makeshift facilities before any official aid is lost. Even if aid continues, the regulations on how foreign aid can be spent have caused a few problems. For example, the construction itself is deemed “development,” not a humanitarian expenditure.

The good news is in the last six years, over $1.7 million has been collected by pooling funds. While the U.N. remains the main source of financial support, the French government has provided nearly $500,000 and over $2.5 has been given by private donors and Syrian NGO grants.

Syria has a long way to go. As the civil war is ongoing with no definite end in sight, medical access remains a high priority to those still in Syria. The request for pooled aid in 2017 alone was over $500 million. In order to continue to provide this much-needed care in a war zone, the medical staff is relying on the U.S., the U.N. and all the other donors to continue supporting them. It is essential that Syrian hospitals go underground. Otherwise, proper medical care simply will not be able to keep up with the needs of war-torn cities like Aleppo.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in SenegalSenegal is a West African nation on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. To give an idea of its size, Senegal is slightly smaller than South Dakota in terms of square miles. The population is about 14 million people. Like other African nations, Senegal is considered a developing nation. This means that the country experiences problems that other more developed nations do not face, like a lack of resources such as food and clean water. Food is especially a problem in underdeveloped countries, and Senegal is no exception. If you want to know how to help people in Senegal, nutrition and food security are excellent places to start, and can ultimately save lives.

Good indicators of a nation’s issues with sufficient food are obesity as well as underweight statistics, especially for underweight children. According to the CIA World Factbook, Senegal has an obesity rate of 8.3 percent as of 2014. Among other nations, this ranks them close to the bottom, at 145 out of 191 nations. The percentage of children below age 5 that are underweight is 12.8 percent, putting them close to the top of nations with underweight children (based on percentage).

One organization dedicated to fighting hunger in Senegal is Caritas Internationalis. Caritas is a group that was created to reach out to the poor of the world, regardless of race or religion, and to assist those in need when a disaster strikes. Caritas, inspired by the Catholic church, seeks to take on extreme poverty through the grassroots method, putting people on the ground in impoverished communities in order to lend a direct helping hand.

For Senegal itself, Caritas is “launching an emergency project” to help families that are in urgent need of care. Due to bad harvests, natural disasters and a dramatic rise in food prices, poor families have experienced the harshness of poverty even more severely, which means even less food. One out of five households in Senegal are going hungry.

Caritas seeks to help the Senegalese by providing food, such as rice, millet and oil, to over 1,000 families for at least three months. Their goal is to have these families eating three meals a day. There are also cereal banks throughout Senegal, providing 600 families with regular access to food. There are many other projects as well, including projects to ensure that farmers have proper amounts of seeds and tools.

For the person looking for how to help people in Senegal, helping Caritas might be a great way to assist those in need. One way to help this organization is by donating. Caritas has a very old-fashioned sort of charm, and also operates using older methods (being an organization that has existed for over a hundred years); this means that donating to them is not done directly through the computer. To give to Caritas, a check can be mailed to their headquarters, or you can make a direct transfer through a bank account.

If you are looking to go a little further in helping, Caritas also take volunteers from all over the world, especially those willing to help when disaster strikes. Discover where they work and contact them in regards to volunteering.

Of course, another great way to help can be found on the Borgen Project website, and is perhaps one of the simplest ways of all to help the impoverished. Calling Congress can get bills passed that allocate large amounts of funding to helping the poor and hungry of the world looked at by leaders.

Every call made about an issue gets tallied up by the interns who answer the phone and shown to the representative or senator. All that needs to be said is, “Hello, I’m a Borgen Project supporter and I support protecting the International Affairs Budget,” or whatever bill you choose to support (a list can be found in the link). And that’s the whole phone call. It can be done in an easy 30-second call, and becomes even more effective when one gets their family and friends to do it as well.

Stephen Praytor

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Timor-LesteTimor-Leste is a Southeast Asian country home to about 1.1 million people. The country is currently in a transitional period, recovering from political instability that occurred from 2006 to 2007. Progress has been made: since Timor-Leste’s 2002 independence, infant and child mortality have decreased by 50 percent, gains have been made in health and education and state institutions and democratic processes have strengthened. However, poverty in Timor-Leste is still high, particularly in rural areas. Here are a couple of ways to help people in Timor-Leste during this crucial post-conflict period.

1. Support NGOs working for the people of Timor-Leste
Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) are working to advance social and economic causes. CARE Australia is working to decrease the country’s 35 percent literacy rate and they are also working to improve maternal health in under-resourced rural communities. Oxfam Australia is also working to lift rural communities out of poverty through efforts to improve food security, essential services and infrastructure development. Peace Fund Timor-Leste collaborates and funds NGOs that focus on peace-building activities in the youth development area. Using these organizations as examples, a great way to help the people of Timor-Leste is to research more organizations, evaluate their impact and donate or volunteer your time.

2. Call Congress
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is doing essential work in Timor-Leste. They’ve deployed USAID community police officers to 442 villages to contribute to post-independence stability. USAID is also working to improve the skills of the Ministry of Health staff in reproductive, maternal and newborn health; Timor-Leste still has the highest maternal and under five mortality rates in Southeast Asia. USAID also assists in increasing farm income and improving nutrition for rural households throughout the nation. USAID has been working in Timor-Leste since the early 1980s, with both the government and other development partners; in the fiscal year 2016, the agency spent about $14 million in Timor-Leste. As of now, the 2017 fiscal budget is still under debate and USAID may be at risk of receiving budget cuts. One way to help is to contact Congress and urge them to protect the international affairs budget, particularly for the country of Timor-Leste.

On average, post-conflict countries take between 15 and 30 years to transition into stability. Considering this, Timor-Leste has made excellent progress thus far; however, there is still work to be done. The people of Timor-Leste deserve to live in a resilient nation where economic stability, political rights and social welfare are guaranteed to its citizens.

Hannah Seitz

Photo: Flickr

Arguments for and Against the Overseas Private Investment CorporationSince the Trump administration has taken office, the International Affairs budget has come under attack. Among the many potential items to be cut, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has been singled out by the administration as a particularly unnecessary agency.

As a result, a slew of arguments for and against the Overseas Private Investment Corporation have been published in recent months. This article is an attempt to provide clarity about the role of OPIC and suggest that its overall benefits outweigh its costs.

Established by President Nixon in 1971, OPIC provides loans and political risk insurance to private American companies seeking to invest in developing countries. Developmental financing was conceived as a complement to governmental aid insofar as it facilitated the transference of private capital to developing economies.

Critics of OPIC often argue that, as a public institution, the agency crowds out private banks that should, in theory, be more efficient financiers of international development.

The truth is that, although a robust private market for developmental finance exists, private capital oftentimes averts especially risky and poor countries due to the inevitably high premiums and interest rates.

OPIC, on the other hand, is in a unique position to support investments in these countries.

With the backing of the U.S. government, OPIC has been able to recover over 90 percent of its political risk claims. This fact has allowed the agency to offer affordable loans and political risk insurance in countries deemed too risky by private finance institutions.

Other critics of OPIC claim that it represents a form of “corporate welfare,” citing the fact that the agency gives loans to some of the largest U.S. firms, like J.P. Morgan, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.

Although all American firms are welcome to apply for financing, year after year, more than half of OPIC’s commitments go to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Even if one remains unconvinced about the benefits of OPIC, it is important to recognize that the agency imposes virtually no cost on the U.S. government. While OPIC does require federal backing to insure its $20 billion worth of outstanding loans, the agency has been self-sustaining for almost four decades. In fact, it has used its interest receipts to contribute nearly $4 billion to U.S. deficit reduction.

In the end, while there are many arguments for and against the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the truth is that the agency has a net positive effect on American firms and developing economies alike.

Nathaniel Sher

Photo: Flickr


Negotiations continue with the White House in determining the fate of the International Affairs Budget. Because the White House’s proposed cuts—nearly six percent for 2017, 31 percent in 2018— are so extensive, an omnibus bill has been proposed in Congress.

The White House’s budget cuts could negatively impact African, Asian, Latin American and Caribbean countries. Cuts in global healthcare measures, food assistance programs and foreign developmental assistance programs, for instance, could potentially result in significant setbacks for developing countries.

In response, Congress has proposed an omnibus bill which, if passed into law, would help protect funds for foreign affairs. The bill also widely rejects many of the budget cuts previously suggested by the White House. The bill proposes that $300 million go toward Food for Peace in Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria and South Sudan. Furthermore, the bill provides that $296 million of the International Affairs Budget be set aside for Medicaid in Puerto Rico.

According to the House Appropriations Committee, the fiscal 2017 omnibus bill would contribute international humanitarian relief to countries around the world, including $990 million to prevent and mitigate famine around the world. It also targets funding to “U.S. foreign policy priorities and provides critical humanitarian aid to war-torn and impoverished areas around the globe.“

Countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, such as Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, would also benefit by the omnibus bill’s passage, which reserves $16.5 billion for international programs through the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. Other targeted countries that would receive both economic and security benefits include Colombia, Jordan and Egypt, provided that the latter maintains its peace treaty with Israel.

A final decision is anticipated on this bill by the end of May. If passed into law, the Fiscal 2017 International Affairs Budget would survive the drastic budget cuts previously proposed by the White House. In addition to helping those in need, programs funded by the International Affairs Budget create jobs here at home by opening new markets to American businesses and protect our national security by fighting terrorism and preventing conflicts before they start.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr