For the last few months, foreign assistance has been one of the most prominent and recurrent topics of discussion. With the skeptics of foreign aid questioning its effectiveness and value and proponents considering it as a model investment to further US interests and address a few of the world’s ills, U.S foreign aid policy has suddenly caught everyone’s attention. The debate centers around whether slashing foreign aid is a viable plan to reduce our country’s deficit.
Foreign aid constitutes only a small portion of the federal budget. Although the average American believes that 25 percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid (according to a January Gallup poll), the reality is that it’s total share in the budget is approximately 1 percent. The U.S. government will spend $39 billion on foreign aid in FY2011, a sum equal to 3 percent of the estimated $1.4 trillion deficit.
In terms of absolute monetary investment the United States is undoubtedly at the top of the foreign aid donors, but in terms of aid as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, we are 19th, right behind Portugal.
Also just 25 cents of each Americans’ entire yearly taxes go towards helping other countries. This implies that ending or deeply cutting foreign aid will not contribute significantly to debt reduction. On the contrary as Sam Worthington, the head of Interaction, says, “If that 1 percent was gone, the only face America would be putting to the world is one of the helmets and boots on the ground. It would deeply impact our image in the world and our ability to relate to other peoples.”
Effective foreign assistance is a prerequisite for our national security. As State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley commented, “Whether helping shape strategically important countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq, fighting narco-criminals in Latin America or battling HIV/AIDS in Africa, we have significant national interests associated with our foreign assistance. Cutting foreign assistance will increase the risk to the American people and reduce our ability to shape regional events and solve global challenges.”
In the light of these reasons, what is germane now is to put an end to all the discussion and discourse on eliminating foreign aid to cut deficit and work towards developing a new approach to development. It’s time to change the way United States does business and as President Obama said during the MDG summit, pursue the vision to ensure “development that unleashes transformational change and allows more people to take control of their own destiny.”
The new U.S Global Development Policy announced by President Obama in September 2010 during the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit is an important step in this direction. Based on comprehensive review of America’s development programs and building in part on the lessons of Millennium Challenge Corporation, it is “first of its kind by an American administration.” It is (The Presidential Policy Directive ) rooted in America’s enduring commitment to the dignity and potential of every human being and is geared towards not just meeting but exceeding the Millennium Development Goals and sustaining them for generations. Let’s work in unison and support the new approach as outlined in the Policy Directive and contribute towards making United States a global leader in providing assistance.
For an in-depth discussion on how we can make it possible, join a Global Washington hosted special discussion of foreign assistance reform, principles in effectiveness and the effect of reform on global development work on August 30 from 3:30-5:30 in Kane Hall of the University of Washington. The event will feature U.S Representative Adam Smith, Kent R. Hill of World Vision, Sophia Belay of Oxfam America, and Paul Weisenfeld, Assistant to the Administrator, USAID. Come and join us to talk about the most pertinent issues.
For more information on the event and to register please click:
For full remarks of President Obama during the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit and to know more about new U.S Global Development Policy, please refer to