Joe Biden’s Stance on Foreign Policy
Former Vice President Joe Biden recently announced his candidacy for the 2020 Presidential campaign. Biden served as V.P. from 2009 to 2016 under the 47th President of the United States, Barack Obama. His political career in Congress began in 1973 where he served as Senator of Delaware and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He has the most foreign affairs experience out of all the candidates for President. Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy gives insight into how he will act if the American people elect him to the seat of President.

Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy does not align with traditional principles of the Democratic party. He has been quoted as saying that despite the difficulty and cost, the United States must be the global leader in foreign policy initiatives. He is the standout favorite of the Democratic candidates, not only because of his experience, but also his moderate position on key political issues like foreign policy.

A Question of Priorities

Although Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy demonstrates that he is willing to address global poverty, it is unclear if it is one of his top priorities. His legislative history includes co-sponsoring a bill to eradicate extreme global poverty for the more than a billion people. The strategy developed by the bill was to halve the number of those living on less than a dollar a day by 2015. This effort points to Biden’s recognition of the immediate need to improve living conditions for the world’s poorest through U.S. intervention.

Global Economics and Trade

In a 2016 speech, Biden touted the immense value of foreign trade to the global economy. He promoted selling more products and services abroad, where the vast majority of the world’s consumers reside. The World Bank estimates that about 82 percent of the world’s population is poor. Although those who live in extreme poverty do not currently have the purchasing power to buy American products and services, the potential is still there, should their economic situation improve. Biden’s stance on foreign policy recognizes that small consumers are still consumers and if the U.S. focuses on improving trading relationships and increasing foreign aid, the American economy will benefit greatly.

Outside of Partisan Politics

Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy does not directly align with either Democrats or Republicans. He remarked that Republicans lacked strategy and Democrats were not tough enough when it came to foreign policy. Biden is generally dovish on foreign policy and values the importance of dialogue with all countries, prior to the use of military force. Biden is also a strong proponent of supplying foreign aid to countries in need. In 1999, he voted down a bill to cap foreign aid at $12.7 billion and rather sees a need to increase aid spending to developing countries. Among other bills that Biden supported while in Congress was a multi-year commitment in 2001 to supply food and medicine to Africa.

The Big Issues

Overall, Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy demonstrates that he values peaceful compromises and nonviolent negotiation tactics. He also has a strong record of supporting foreign aid assistance to developing nations. International aid proponents will closely monitor Biden’ statements during his presidential campaign regarding foreign policy and extreme poverty overseas.

Jessica Haidet
Photo: Flickr

Rope isolated on white background
I expect that you, like most Americans, are beginning to ponder who you’re going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. If this is the case, then you might also be causally conversing about or considering the factors most important to your decision. Let me draw your attention to one of the most significant aspects of presidency, foreign policy.

For a President to be successful in foreign policy it is fairly likely that they will need to have foreign policy experience. When you hear the words foreign policy your mind might initially jump to the conflict in Ukraine and the threats from ISIS. The less considered aspect of foreign policy is foreign aid. If a president does not have a good deal of foreign policy experience, as we saw with President Barrack Obama, it is likely that this president may neglect foreign aid and focus only on military conflicts. This is a problem because foreign aid is integral to the United States’ economics and national security.

Foreign aid has been neglected in foreign policy and viewed as “charity” rather than as strategy for a long time. During the Obama administration this neglect grew. According to USAID, the United States’ aid organization, has had about a 16 percent drop in funding since 2009.

Before Obama was elected many concerns were raised, as described by an article in Time magazine, about Obama’s lack of experience in the foreign policy arena. The article stated that perhaps his international experience would prove to be enough.

It appears that this was not the case.

“Obama’s critics see a president adrift, lacking firm convictions or a strategy for dealing with the world,” says an article by Elias Groll on Others such as Dr. Colluci on U.S. News and World Report even go as far as to describe Obama’s administration as a “foreign policy vacuum.” While perhaps this is a little extreme, it is fair to say that Obama did in fact have little experience in foreign policy and that is reflected in his actions abroad as a president.

Obama has focused too much on military conflicts and strategy, and has allowed aid funding to decline significantly. Perhaps if he had had more experience he would have learned an important lesson before becoming president: that the global security that he has been working toward could be better sought through stabilizing countries economically and through building infrastructure.

Foreign aid can both spread democracy, as has been the United States’ goal since the Cold War, and fight terrorism. Perhaps Washington should return to foreign aid as a strategy, rather than continuing to use the military to maintain its sphere of influence.

The Marshall Plan could arguably be listed as one of the United States’ greatest foreign policy successes. This move gave the United States the influence it sought, stabilized countries after World War II, and spread democracy.

In addition, while poverty does not necessarily cause terrorism, reducing global poverty will reduce the human resources of terrorist organizations. Not only that, but reducing global poverty will also prevent at-risk populations from being recruited by these organizations in the future.

The next President should be someone who has had enough experience to realize the importance of foreign aid for these reasons. The president should have had enough military and aid experience to know the value of each, and enough foreign policy experience to know that the military is not the most vital part of our national security.

Even if this president does not know the importance of aid to United States’ foreign policy, I hope that at the very least they will realize that increasing U.S. foreign aid will provide a new job market for United States’ citizens.

– Clare Holtzman

Sources: The Borgen Project, Clingendael, Foreign Policy 1, Foreign Policy 2, Time, U.S. News & World Report

The world is constantly increasing in its global connectivity. Economies, cultures and, most importantly, individual well-beings are interconnected. As such, it is important to acknowledge the ways in which contributing to international aid helps the United States while also benefiting the countries in need. While there are many ways in which this occurs, there are three that I shall be discussing. The first is how global relief efforts help to improve the international image of the United States. The second is how global relief efforts solidify and strengthen ties to other countries. The third is how global relief efforts strengthen the global economy, thus strengthening the United States’s own economy.

There is often an international stigma associated with the United States. Numerous controversies pertaining to international issues, such as the conflicts in Middle East or mass surveillance being performed by U.S. security agencies, have painted the Unites States in a negative light. Recent polling conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014 shows that the U.S. holds an average international favorability rating of 58.88 percent, with the median favorability rating sitting at 65 percent.

While statistical evidence suggests that the U.S. is viewed negatively globally, research published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science suggests that contributing to international aid may be part of the solution. A study researching relief efforts performed in African countries by the United States in response to the HIV/Aids epidemic concludes “that in addition to its potential humanitarian benefits, foreign aid that is targeted, sustained, effective and visible can serve an important strategic goal for those countries that give it: fostering positive perceptions among foreign publics.” These improved perceptions of the country giving international aid were also shown to persist over time. These findings are reinforced by an additional Pew poll, which tracks the public perception of the U.S. by Japanese citizens prior to and following the tsunami and earthquake of 2011 (a disaster to whose relief efforts the United States contributed). The results showed a substantial spike of a nearly 20 percent favorability increase.

While improving global perceptions of the United States is important, it is equally important to strengthen and solidify ties to other countries. Helping to alleviate global poverty through international aid achieves this very goal. One of the most significant examples of this occurring can be found in South Korea. Following the Korean War, the United States contributed significantly to the reconstruction efforts of South Korea. This aid helped to stabilize the economy and greatly aided in establishing South Korea as a strong country. As a result of this aid, it is now one of the greatest allies of the United States and has also become a significant contributor to foreign aid.

By contributing to international aid and reducing global poverty, other countries gain economic independence. This independence strengthens the global economy by adding additional contributors and consumers to it. Likewise, this newfound economic strength opens new markets for the United States. To return to the example of South Korea, one can note that, along with being a major ally to the United States, it is also the United States’ seventh largest trading partner. Just as strengthening South Korea helped the U.S. obtain new venues for trade, contributing to international aid improves the global economy, which in turn strengthens the U.S. economy. The world is connected, and improvements in foreign countries have a ripple effect that causes improvements in the U.S. as well. At the end of the day, fighting global poverty is more than humanitarian charity; it is a strategic investment.

James Miller

Sources: Pew Global, Now Publishers, Pew Global, The Foreign Policy Initiative
Photo: Wikimedia

The U.S. relationship with UNESCO is taking a turn for the worse as the U.S. loses voting rights in the organization. UNESCO voted in Palestine as a member state in 2011 despite U.S. threats of halting funding to the UN organization.

The U.S. boycott resulted in inactivity for two years. As stated in UNESCO’s constitution, two years of member inactivity results in a loss of voting ability.

Formerly, the U.S. provided 22% of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s budget, approximately $80 million a year.  Under U.S. law, organizations that recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as a member state will be denied financial support.

A two-thirds approval vote for membership resulted in 107 to 14 with 15 abstentions, effectively passing Palestine to be the 195th full member. This is differentiated from Palestine’s membership with the United Nations, a bid that Palestine failed to accomplish.

Previously in 2011, shortfall of the $65 million originally pledged by the U.S., UNESCO began emergency fundraising efforts for its 2012-2013 budget. As reported by CNN, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova reevaluated every aspect of the organization from projects to contractual commitments. Currently, the 2014 budget is reduced by $150 million.

Bokova met with legislators in an attempt to change the language of U.S. law, to no avail. Bokova has stated that a second emergency fundraiser from contributing nations is not possible for the following year.

UNESCO establishes heritage sites and propels initiatives that push for education, culture and science worldwide. From education reform, particularly women’s education, to clean water access and tsunami research, UNESCO oversees a wide set of programs.

For its part, the U.S. not only loses soft-power influence through its relationship with UNESCO but misses an opportunity in creating two separate UNESCO sites in the U.S.: Spanish missions in San Antonio and an ancient civilization site in Poverty Point, Louisiana. The ensuing established heritage sites would have increased tourism and established jobs.

U.S. influence and interests are overlooked through inactivity in UNESCO. The U.S.’ relationship with UNESCO began in 1945 through support and funding. A boycott by the U.S. against UNESCO lasted between 1984 to 2003, the former disagreeing with the latter’s supposed anti-Western policies.  Since the U.S. readmission in 2003, the country pushed for greater Holocaust and genocide education.  A mission utilized in Africa to promote ethnic tolerance and educate about nondiscrimination and nonviolence.

In addition to the U.S., Israel has pulled its 3% contribution off the UNESCO budget and equally lost voting privilege. The U.S. criticizes Palestine’s bid for recognition via the UN as a chief hindrance for improving negotiations between Palestine and Israel.

As an organization known for spreading freedom of expression, among others, UNESCO loses a mutually-beneficial donor with its current relation with the U.S.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: CNN, NY Times, NY Times, Al Jazeera, Reuters

China Wins Influence Through Aid
Schools. Roads. Hospitals. For Westerners contributing to foreign aid in Africa, these elements of infrastructure may seem like opportunities for foreign aid to meet basic needs. For China, however, these are strategic investments in Africa’s potential for bilateral trade.

Over the last twenty years, China has dramatically increased foreign aid to Africa. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, China increased funding for aid from $5.6 billion in 1990 to $21.8 billion in 2007. In 2009, China disbursed around $1.4 billion in aid to Africa alone.

Experts say that China’s increasing presence on the African continent is a strategic move to gain access to vast natural resources. For example, China has invested more than $400 million dollars in Zambia alone, where coal mines have provided both employment opportunities and resources. Similar contracts have been made with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which would heavily benefit Chinese railway and mining companies.

While Western foreign aid often addresses basic needs like food, water, shelter, and health, Chinese aid has provided funding for projects that Western aid agencies are reluctant to give money to infrastructure and local projects. Whereas foreign aid from the United States is often accompanied by economic and political conditions, Chinese aid is given without any strings attached.

Much of China’s aid also addresses education, setting the stage for an industrial and manufacturing based Africa. Last year former Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that over the next three years, an “African Talents Program” would offer 18,000 scholarships to Chinese universities and train 30,000 Africans in a number of sectors.

China’s full aid volume remains unclear, as the Chinese government considers this amount a state secret, lack of transparency that stands in harsh contrast with Western aid agencies. Furthermore, much of the aid provided is in the form of loans. Carol Lancaster, the fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes that the pressing question for many is this: “Will Chinese aid discourage needed economic and political reforms in African countries?”

However, for those who are treated at the China-Zambia Friendship Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, one of a number of Chinese projects in key African countries, aid is aid and needs are being met. As for the education programs, assistant dean at Tsinghua University Meng Bo says, the biggest impact is hoped to be for students from politically unstable countries like Somalia. “We believe in the long run [alumni] will all contribute to different academic and professional relations between the two countries.”

According to Lin Jing, Counselor of the African Department at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China’s relationship with Africa is not just economic, but “that of moral obligation.” China’s soft power may present a challenge to the Western world, but China’s increasing influence through aid is an opportunity for East-West collaboration to address global poverty and underdevelopment in Africa.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: BBC,Center for Global Development,Center for Strategic International Studies,Guardian,The New York Times

Foreign Aid is Practical

While some may make the argument that a plethora of domestic issues overshadow the need to invest in foreign aid and that foreign aid should be cut, the fact is aid is connected to US prosperity. Many who support foreign aid cuts, up to 48% of Americans, according to a February poll by the Pew Research Center, might not know that foreign aid only comprises less than 1% of the federal budget, and any cuts would make a very small impact on deficit reduction.

In fact, US investments in foreign aid have contributed to the development of some of our top trading partners such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Poland. By creating jobs and stable economies in developing countries, the US is working to create new markets for their products and services. Making long-term investments in these places results in plenty of economic and structural benefits for the U.S. as well as positive global impact against poverty and corruption.

For those worried if “aid is truly well spent” in places where political and military corruption are common, aid programs have ways to circumvent this and be sent directly to those in need. According to Clint Borgen, the founder of The Borgen Project, “In recent years, experts have developed numerous strategies for bypassing corruption and ensuring that the world’s most vulnerable people receive assistance. The United States even set up a funding program that requires countries to address corruption before they can receive assistance. This ensures that aid coming from the United States goes directly to the people.”

It has already been seen that small investments can give big returns in terms of future trading partners. These investments also help directly reduce global poverty and hunger. In this way, the growth that can occur from foreign aid given by developed to developing countries benefits not only the countries receiving the aid, but those giving aid as well.

– Sarah Rybak

Source: IVN,Huffington Post,The Borgen Project
Photo: Internationalist

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