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Benefits of Foreign Aid Policy
In less than a decade, Europe suffered severe destruction and was quickly torn apart due to World War II. Soon after that, a huge foreign aid policy package known as the Marshall Plan helped European nations recover, seek a path of democracy and sustained peace.

Today, The U.S. continues to invest in foreign aid to advance its security and global leadership. This has played an indispensable role in strengthening U.S. strategy as well as economic and moral obligations.

Foreign aid policy can strengthen national security by cutting the roots of terrorism. It also helps in stabilizing weaker regimes, promoting regional security and long-term stability. Foreign aid helped nations such as South Korea and Colombia recover from instability.

Nations who receive aid could serve as potential markets and attract investors. Presidents like George W. Bush and Barack Obama emphasized such points. Also, President Reagan was a strong advocate of aid. He also argued strongly against those who claimed that national income was being wasted.

However, the success of the past decades is facing an uncertain, and perhaps unpromising future. The foreign aid budget planned for next year is only $34 billion. This number is expected to decrease further in the coming years.

Furthermore, there have been more conflicts in the twenty-first century that gripped the attention of the U.S. War in Afghanistan and Iraq coupled with a rising global trend of terrorism are some of the factors that challenge foreign aid programs. Hence, there comes a greater target zone for aid programs and more communities to address.

Such challenges make the process of development and the execution of programs a lot harder. Agencies are put under pressure as they have to provide support for a lot of people in short time. Political dilemmas and conflicts complicate the tasks of agencies to access data and effectively manage aid programs.

With all the modern challenges of the twenty-first century, the U.S. aims to make the process of foreign development programs more transparent, accountable and effective.

Over the last decade, the U.S. has succeeded in creating new standards and metrics as part of foreign aid reform. Such transparency and accountability reforms can be expanded into developmental programs such as delivering aid packages and managing educational programs.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) understands the modern challenges standing in face of foreign aid policy. It aims to address such challenges by aligning resources with goals to achieve transforming development.

USAID also tailors programs according to need and opportunities. The agency has also adopted the policy of increased selectivity in allocating resources. Despite the disappointing voice, aid programs are improving in their capability of dealing with all the modern challenges.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr

fragile states index
Every year, The Fund for Peace – which is supported by the United Nations Foundations – publishes the Fragile States Index, which ranks 178 countries according to their stability. Stability is quantified by taking the measurements of 12 main indicators, mainly regarding the areas of political, social and economic status quo. The Fund for Peace has created the Conflict Assessment System Tool, which couples social science methodology and an analytical software to deliver the results of the FSI.

The FSI not only gives rankings but also provides valuable insight into the general stability of the world, evaluating what regions are in highly pressured conflict and why they are in that state. Oftentimes, peace is the result of stability within that government.

Therefore, measuring how vulnerable a state is essentially involves measuring the strength of the institutions established by a government. As a humanitarian crisis unfolds, whether it is due to a natural disaster or violent conflicts, the response to that calamitous event oftentimes reflects the strength of the government.

For a more technical understanding of how the FSI gives the rankings, each country is given a score out of 120 points. The points are gathered from scores in each of the 12 overarching categories, which include: demographic pressures, refugees and internally displaced persons, uneven economic development, group grievance, human flight and brain drain, poverty and economic decline, state legitimacy, public services, human rights and rule of law, security apparatus, factionalized elites and external intervention.

These 12 indicators are further broken down into sub-indicators, including factors such as food scarcity, displacement, discrimination, migration per capita, and so on – and there are more than 100 sub-indicators. After the data on the sub-indicators is gathered, the data is fed into CAST which the Fund for Peace created to fit their own search parameters and algorithms.

It is important to note that a strong government does not mean that there is stability. Many times, the government can be strong, but this can mean that they are also repressive.

Top 5 Most Vulnerable Countries in the World:

1. South Sudan, score: 112.9

2. Somalia, score: 112.6

3. Central African Republic, score:110.6

4. Democratic Republic of the Congo, score: 110.2

5. Sudan, score 110.1

As the FSI has been publishing their data annually, the greatest advantage of having such a large data set has been the ability to see the long-term trends and even predict the direction that certain countries are going as a result of their current events. There is no answer for establishing solid and transparent governments, but identifying the indicators is one imperative step in trying to build governments.

– Christina Cho 

Sources: The Fund for Peace 1, The Fund for Peace 2, The Fund for Peace 3
Photo: ViktorPersson


Poverty in Zimbabwe seems like a fact of life. However, Zimbabwe used to have some of the best health and education statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa.  However, political and economic crises in recent years have exacerbated poverty and brought with it a host of social problems.  Between 1990 and 2003 the poverty rate rose from 25 % to 63%.  Deterioration of infrastructure has isolated rural communities and led to a high poverty rate in these rural areas.  This isolation has also contributed to a decrease in farm income and production as a result of inaccessibility to markets.  As such, food shortages  in the country are rising.  HIV infection, though declining, remains at 18 percent, one of the highest rates of infection in the world.

As a result of the poverty in Zimbabwe, which is concentrated in the Matabeleland North where 70 percent of inhabitants are classified as poor, migration of male heads-of-household has increased the number of female-led families.  Since women typically have less access to economic opportunity and credit, these households are incredibly disadvantaged, as many of them are also in arid areas without irrigation.

Before independence and the shift towards smallholder agriculture in the country, Zimbabwe relied upon two sectors of agriculture: large scale commercial cash crops and small scale food production.  But land reforms by the government have forced a transition to small scale agriculture across the board, which has led to much unemployment and a difficult changeover process.  Capital investment is almost nonexistent in Zimbabwe because of sanctions and economic crises, further hindering economic growth.

One key to fighting poverty in Zimbabwe is stimulating agricultural growth through investment in basic infrastructure.  Nearly 40 percent of the country’s roads are in poor condition; fixing them will provide rural areas with better access to water, seeds, fertilizer and other basic agricultural supplies. Such a move would also give the country’s farmers better access to markets.  Other infrastructure investments along this line could include irrigation systems, water sanitation, and railway access.

Like several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe needs to become more politically and economically stable if any progress is to be achieved in the region.  Ultimately, if political stability is achieved there, new investments in infrastructure could be made, stimulating economic growth and helping to decrease poverty rates. Western markets could also begin to reap the benefits of raw materials from one of the most resource-rich regions in the world.

– Martin Drake

Source: Rural Poverty Project, World Bank
Photo: Action Aid

Indian Business Model Can Minimize Food Insecurity in Africa

The US Agency for International Development is attempting to replicate the success of an Indian business in Africa. The effort is part of a three-year program called Africa Lead, which is associated with the US government’s Feed the Future initiative. Africa Lead aims to train Africans in innovate ways to tackle food security issues in their communities. USAID is sending Africans to Fazilka, a border city of Punjab in Northern India, to train with Zamindara Farm Solutions (ZFS). The company attempts to serve as an all-needs agricultural supply company, and its business model is unique and groundbreaking.

ZFS leases farm equipment with trained operators. This allows the owners of smaller farms, which are extremely prevalent in both India and Africa, to avoid taking out loans to make unnecessary investments in expensive equipment. As a banker from Uganda who took part in the training program, Nicholas Abenda, observed, “Owning machines in not mandatory” for smaller farmers in Africa. The company also sells new farm equipment and provides maintenance and parts. It also offers education on the most efficient farming methods and on farm economics. It currently has operations in roughly 500 villages in India.

The ZFS business model has multiple advantages. It allows small farmers to avoid going into debt to purchase expensive equipment. Many farmers who make these types of investments are ultimately unable to repay their loans, and become overwhelmed by debt. The ability to have access to the equipment without going into debt improves farmers’ financial stability. This allows agricultural production to become cheaper, which can increase farmers’ profit margins and decrease the price of food. Additionally, this business model encourages more farmers to use yield-boosting technologies that they otherwise may not have access to. USAID sees this business model as an innovative way to minimize food insecurity in underfed African communities.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: The Hindu, The Times of India, Africa Lead
Photo: The Hindu

peacecorps23_opt

In 1961, John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps to “promote world peace and friendship.” Whether the Peace Corps stands more for a political strategy or for genuine friendship and goodwill, it has three main basic goals: helping countries meet their needs of trained men and women, providing and promoting a better understanding of Americans abroad (establishing a positive image), and helping Americans understand others.

Why is the Peace Corps worth it? Well, when it is effective, it saves American lives and money. People who volunteer for this organization serve to promote a positive American image while battling global poverty, thereby benefiting American national security by reducing threats. More success on the part of the Peace Corps volunteers equates to less money spent on military and less soldiers risking their lives. Thus, the Peace Corps also helps Americans spend less taxes on foreign conflicts and instead on foreign development.

Almost two weeks ago on March 1st, the Peace Corps celebrated its 52nd birthday. The American public was encouraged to take part in the Peace Corps Week celebration while taking into account that the Corps is an idealistic tool that pursues a safer and more stable world.

Leen Abdallah

Source: Policy Mic