Most Generous Donor Countries
The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development has released their list of the world’s most generous countries in terms of granting foreign aid. The list is topped by European countries, even though the amount of international giving among European Union member countries has continued to fall for the past three years.

The countries are listed by the highest percentage of aid given compared to each country’s Gross National Income (GNI). The most generous countries on the list are Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and The Netherlands. Luxembourg was easily the most generous, giving 1% of the country’s GNI. Switzerland and France tied for tenth place, each giving 0.45% of their GNIs.

The United States did not even come close to being placed in the list of the top ten. The United States gave only 0.2% of our GNI in the past year. One of the common misconceptions about U.S. foreign aid is that we give a massive amount of foreign aid. This list of top donor countries shows how untrue that is. With less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget set aside for international aid and development we, as a country, could certainly do better and make a bigger, more positive, difference in the world.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: 24/7 Wall St.
Source: CRW Flags

United States Continues Aid to GhanaThe United States Ambassador to Ghana, Scott DeLisi, has stated that the United States will not be cutting the foreign aid given to Ghana. Some donor countries have backed out of Ghana after accusations of the misuse of aid money by the local government but DeLisi claims that U.S. aid dollars have not been misused and that the office will continue to stand against corruption in the local government’s use of aid money.

DeLisi said that since U.S. aid to Ghana is not part of a direct budget support system, the money does not go to the local government to spend on anything; the money is easy to track and has not been misused. DeLisi also spoke about raising wages for regional health workers in order to retain well-trained workers.

The United States gives an annual $430 million to Ghana, a country with great potential for growth, especially in the energy sector. Some of the main programs that receive U.S. funding in Ghana focus on treating TB, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. This is a great example of how the United States’ aid money is being carefully monitored as the country’s aid organizations continue to stand against corruption, assuring taxpayers that American aid goes to helping the poor and building national infrastructure. Learn more about our donor history with Ghana. 

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: allAfrica
Photo: Flickr

EcoZoom Provides Accessible Cookstoves
EcoZoom works to empower local work forces, economies, and women throughout the developing world. The company provides accessible cookstoves and has earned B corp status. “B corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair trade certification is to coffee.” This status reinforces EcoZoom’s commitment to social and environmental performance.

The company strives to create “financially sustainable markets.” EcoZoom is more than mere kitchen utensils. Their slew of cookstoves use different types of biomass fuels. From burning wood to corncobs and cow dung, these premium stoves use nearby resources to cook food. The stoves produce 70% less particulate matter and smoke than open-fire cooking. These revolutionary products improve respiratory health and food quality. Individuals in developing countries have reported using the stoves for over 6 hours a day.

The Z+ program is a “buy-one-invest-one program,” much like that made popular by TOMS shoes. For each stove sold, EcoZoom allots a stove for projects in developing countries.  These are the same models sold in the US and Europe.  The company partners with international aid organizations and ships packages to developing countries for every 1,200 stoves sold.

EcoZoom believes that “people of any economic status should have access to beautifully designed cooking products that will improve their health, income, and environment.” The team recommends that people check out the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The alliance educates people on the need for improved cookstoves. Cookstoves are often overlooked, but everyone has a right to prepare food safely.

– Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: EcoZoom Stoves

USAID Funds Partnerships for Women's LeadershipUSAID funds partnerships with Higher Education for Development (HED) to encourage women’s leadership throughout a number of developing countries, including South Sudan, Rwanda, Paraguay, and Armenia. As part of the new Women’s Leadership Program, five American universities will partner with universities and colleges throughout the select countries.

The partnership between universities aims at encouraging women’s status in a number of vital sectors for economic development, including agriculture, business, and education. The goals of the program also fall in line with previous goals laid out by USAID as part of the Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy, which was released in 2012.

HED will be in charge of administering the programs, which will total one in each country and two in Rwanda. Funding for the program from USAID will total $8.75 million.

Some of the more specific goals of the Women’s Leadership Program will include increased access to higher education and advanced degrees for women, increases in foreign universities research on women’s leadership, and encourage women’s leadership through advocacy in struggling communities. The American universities that are participating in the program are Arizona State University, Michigan State, Indiana University, UCLA, and the University of Florida.

USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, Carla Koppell, said “USAID is very excited to be collaborating with academic institutions in the United States and abroad in advancing women’s leadership. These partnerships offer a meaningful and important opportunity to ensure women are empowered and advance in economies and societies globally.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID

Opposition-Led Northern Syria Lacks Foreign AidOpposition-led northern Syria, which is controlled by rebels, are receiving little to no aid. Most of the aid is going to territory controlled by President Bashar al-Assad, thereby creating resentment and tension with those who are designated to receive the aid. Unfortunately, the U.N. adheres to al-Assad’s rules, which restrict access to territories run by the opposition. Although Syrian refugees in government-controlled areas are receiving ample aid and are cared for by the U.N., those in opposition-led areas lack food, fuel, blankets and medicine. However, the U.S. is using independent non-profit organizations to contribute generously to help deliver these necessities to the opposition-controlled areas.

According to a U.S. diplomat involved in Syrian policy, U.S. involvement through these non-profit independent groups must remain confidential to protect staff in Damascus who are still working under al-Assad. Thus, many Syrians living in opposition-led areas have no idea that the West is contributing to their aid. In the struggle to deliver aid to these areas, eight U.N. aid workers have been killed, demonstrating the complexity of fully providing aid where it is needed. The unfortunate reality is that Assad’s government is still recognized by the U.N. and is supported by Russia.

A Syrian director of the aid office in Sawran asserted that aid should be given to the people, not to the government. Many officials from these non-profit groups are arguing that as the conflict is getting worse, it is getting harder and harder to deliver assistance to opposition-controlled areas. There is also a huge amount of aid coming into Syria from Gulf countries but, again, the majority of it is to aid the Syrian opposition in its war against Assad and not to meet humanitarian needs.

In times of such desperation, many people are sleeping “crammed in leaking tents without heat or electricity. They crowd like cattle in metal chutes.” They receive two meals a day, sometimes one, or none at all. Children are said to “slosh through muddy puddles” in big sandals, so big that they fall off their feet. Recently, during a shoe donation campaign, the refugees ended up burning the shoes as firewood while desperate for heating fuel.

The medical group in Syria is requesting the international world to cross the Turkish border and deliver aid. Currently, the Turkish government is providing a refugee camp for Syrians outside of the Northern rebel-controlled border. These camps are equipped with heat, electricity, and other necessities. Additionally, schools with therapists are provided for refugee children to help them deal with post-traumatic stress.

Leen Abdallah

Source: New York Times

The Risks of International Relief and DevelopmentDr. Arthur Keys, founder and CEO of International Relief and Development, has given out $3 billion in aid in his career. Because the places that need aid most are also often the most violent and conflicted, he has flown in personally to countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan to help ensure the money reaches the right people. Keys founded IRD in 1998 and it has grown to be one of the largest U.S. non-profit agencies. Before that, he worked for the United Church of Christ’s Board for Homeland Ministries in the United States. He believes his lifelong commitment to helping people through his religious organizations has sparked his dedication to international aid.

Keys got his start on an international level in Mumbai. He supported the poor of Mumbai in their conflict with outsider interests that attempted to turn their land into expensive commercial high rises. His group provided latrines and helped the citizens to retain their property rights. Now, the situation in Mumbai is much better. The outside interests, including the World Bank, have learned that they must work with local community groups rather than strictly local government to do what’s best for the region.

Currently, International Relief and Development specialize in helping communities around the world that are recovering from conflict or natural disasters. The 4.000 staff members, 90% of whom are hired locally, develop community stabilization, infrastructure, health, agriculture, democracy and governance, relief and logistics. Only a tenth of the donation dollars they receive goes to overhead and the rest supports impoverished communities directly. In Iraq, for example, his teams worked on renovating schools, sanitation systems and water systems as well as job training.

The main goal of International Relief and Development in any of the areas where it operates is stabilization, which means getting things back to normal. Members strive to achieve this goal by working with local community groups to ensure that the people’s best interests are prioritized. Despite the constant dangers of the job, IRD continues to take on projects in potentially risky areas. This follows the spirit of founder Arthur Keys and his commitment to helping the less fortunate around the world under any circumstances.

– Sean Morales

Source: Huffington Post
Photo: NPR

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

The Social Impact Bond model of international aid is a relatively new way of helping foreign countries; many call it a “pay for success” model. Social Impact Bonds, or SIBs, are based on outcomes, rather than intentions. Despite the name, they do not fit the average definition of a “bond,” which would imply those receiving the investors’ money are obligated to return it no matter what happens. Rather, in a nutshell, the independent investors will only get their money back (plus interest) if the program succeeds. The social impact bond model of international aid is meant to be a preventative course of action to benefit society; only those programs that have the most chance of success will be funded.

Due to the existence of private investors, the social impact bond model of international aid does not threaten public funds or rely on the United States (or any other country’s) federal budget. SIBs could also provide a huge benefit to foreign aid if the right programs exist. Rather than merely expecting those wealthy enough to donate their cash to these causes, they are investing in them, and like any other investment, there is a chance of failure. Still, if they invest wisely, not only will they reap the rewards, but so will those who have received help from the various nonprofits.

Although there are certain flaws to SIBs, because not all programs will be able to gather funding (such as pilot programs, because they have not proved they can be successful), it certainly would help in some cases. Moreover, it will protect the U.S. budget and, if successful, will benefit a large number of people across the globe, including investors in the U.S.

Instiglio is an example of a nonprofit organization that deals primarily with social impact bonds.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: McKinsey, US News
Photo: Tech

According to the Council on Foreign Relations’ website Americans, in general, want our country to supply more non-defense related international aid. A study of the 2011 federal budget and public opinion found that defense and military spending made up about 20 percent of that year’s budget while non-defense related aid was less than one percent. The study noted that the amount of humanitarian, non-military aid has been increasing over the last decade but has yet to reach even one percent.

One proposal to build more support for increased international aid is to fight misconceptions about how foreign aid is distributed and to educate the public about how non-defense related spending helps U.S. economic interest abroad, but the author of the study worried that such a money-driven portrayal of international aid programs may not attract positive attention from voters who support increased international aid from a strictly altruistic stance.

One way or another, support has seemed to be slowly building over the last ten years and that’s a positive sign. While that trend in opinion is encouraging it does seem to work in competition with the large amount of funding running toward military spending. Even over the course of the last ten years in which we have executed one of the largest military pull-outs in history defense-related spending is still the Goliath to the David that is humanitarian aid, but perhaps this trend in public opinion and vocal supporters could help turn the tide.

– Kevin Sullivan

The Council on Foreign Relations


The conflict in Mali is not about terrorism; it is about poverty. Media outlets like to try and make subjects flashy and provocative, so labeling the conflict in Mali solely as a fight with Islamic terrorists makes for better news headlines. The rebellion is bigger than this, and focusing just on these radical Islamists does a disservice to the people of Mali and helps to perpetuate the problem.

The crisis in Mali is rooted in the tensions between a secular movement of ethnic Tuareg people and the central government in Bamako. This particular group of Malian Tuaregs has fought with Bamako for decades, even attempting to establish their own independent state (called “Azawad”). The chief source of the Tuareg animosity toward the government is about a lack of economic opportunity, and lack of assistance from the government for their hardships due to drought and famine. The Tuareg have been marginalized and neglected, so their frustrations have turned more violent.

Tuareg groups have banded together into separatist groups, mainly the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). After the MNLA launched attacks to drive out the Malian army from the northern regions in early 2012, Malian armed forces then overthrew the central government in a coup, angered by Bamako’s failure to suppress the Tuareg rebellion. It was only AFTER this point that radical Islamists were able to co-opt the secular Tuareg rebellion, now turning Mali into a new stage for the “war on terror.” The international impact is the deployment of French and African soldiers into Mali, and their solicitation of added support of American, Canadian and European intelligence, weapons and financing.

“At its core, the current upheaval in Mali—a country that was until very recently one of the most stable African democracies—is not about religious extremism or global terrorism. It is about extreme poverty and an absence of any means to rise above it. Indeed, this could be said about any number of countries that have had vast swaths of territory usurped by militant groups, Islamist or otherwise. We have seen all over the world in recent years that extremism is thriving because large populations of uneducated, poor, frustrated and powerless young men all of a sudden find themselves very powerful once given weapons and a target upon which they can unleash their frustrations,” says journalist Daniel Skallman. He also warns, “If the military forces leading the charge don’t go beyond bombing campaigns and ground assaults—that is, if they don’t stay for the long and arduous haul of helping to rebuild livelihoods after the dust settles—then Mali could very well become Afghanistan 2.0.”

– Mary Purcell

Source: Global Poverty Project