Foreign Assistance: A moral imperative

The Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development strategy stipulates that development is not only a strategic, economic but also a moral imperative for the United States. “It is rooted,” as President Barack Obama said during the Millennium Development Goals Summit in 2010, “in America’s enduring commitment to the dignity and potential of every human being.” The United States of America has been the global leader in providing assistance and as a result of it the past half century has witnessed more gains in human development than at any other time in history.

Over the last 60 years, America has offered helping hand to people at the mercy of extreme poverty, disease and tyranny in the darkest corners of the globe. Over the past 6 decades, with the help of U.S. international assistance, child mortality statistics have plummeted, literacy rates worldwide have risen 50 percent and household income in the developing countries world has tripled.

U.S.- funded programs defend against global health threats. More than 3 million lives are saved each year through international immunization programs. Infant mortality rates have been reduced by 10 percent worldwide in recent years and child survival programs funded by the U.S government have made a major contribution to that reduction. The average number of children born to couples in developing countries has dropped by about one third, from more than six to less than four, and more than 50 million couples in 60 countries in the developing world are able to plan their families as a direct result of U.S.-funded efforts.

Globally, funding for malaria control and treatment programs soared from $0.3 billion in 2003 to $1.7 billion in 2009, with the U.S. responsible for the lion’s share of the effort. Worldwide, 1 million people died of malaria in 2000, while 860,000 died of the disease in 2008, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). About a third of the people in poor countries that need daily medicine to control HIV/AIDS are now receiving antiretroviral drugs with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the major provider of treatment. U.S. international climate funding programs has helped reduce the impact of carbon pollution.

Despite these positive outcomes, we must also face the fact that progress towards other goals has not come nearly fast enough. The future wellbeing of millions of people in the developing world rests on U.S. foreign assistance. Nearly one billion people endure the misery of chronic hunger—approximately one-sixth of the world’s population. Acute hunger “threatens the stability of governments, societies and borders around the world.” In February, the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global food price index climbed to a record high, above 2008 peaks when high food prices sparked riots in several countries. Foreign aid cuts could create social instability by damaging food security programs in the developing world.

Global health practitioners conservatively estimate that more than 1 million lives could be lost per year if U.S. cuts foreign aid for global health by 40 percent. If support from the United States disappears or suffers a significant cutback, most health achievements face reversal, and “reversal” means deaths.
Cuts to the budget will impact U.S. Global Climate change initiative. It will negate U.S. efforts to help developing countries deploy clean energy, reduce deforestation and adapt to the impacts of climate change. U.S. international climate funding programs help reduce the impact of carbon pollution. Building climate security for the world’s most vulnerable people may help prevent disruptive migration and protect all the development gains already made in health, education and political stability. Climate change has the potential to dramatically reshape future security environments. U.S. funding for adaptation helps to reduce this risk by making countries less vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.

In the light of the above facts, recent budget battles in congress has given rise to a lot of anxiety about whether the U.S has the political energy to push the reform agenda forward and continue assistance. There is a looming ambiguity about U.S. foreign aid measures which in the past have saved millions of lives and helped countries move along a path of stable and responsible growth. With the House of Representatives pushing ahead a bill that includes some of the steepest cuts in history to the international affairs budget, Global Washington feels that the onus lies on the development community. Let’s take action to oppose such deep and disproportionate cuts and fulfill our moral responsibility to build a safer and prosperous world. As President Obama said during the MDG summit “Let’s not abandon those who depend on the U.S. for life saving help and keep our promises and honor our commitments.”

With that objective in mind, Global Washington is hosting a 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 and Kent R. Hill of World Vision. Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith has also been invited. Come and join us to talk about the most pertinent issues.

For more information on the event and to register please click: