America and Foreign/Humanitarian Aid

The issue of foreign aid, specifically humanitarian aid, is hotly debated. Since the implementation of the Marshall Plan, which sought to rebuild Europe after the devastation of World War II, foreign aid has been a constant in United States foreign policy. The problems, however, remain constant as well.

Each year the United States government gives billions of dollars in foreign aid, in the form of money, experts, military personnel, medicine and other resources, but the problems facing developing countries - either from natural disasters, man-made crises, or infectious diseases - continue to demand more. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) alone reports managing $13.9 billion in U.S. taxpayer resources in 2008. The United States is unique among first-world powers in that a great majority of its aid comes from private donations, as opposed to European countries, that send most aid through the government. This money is then filtered through various organizations, including churches, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the UN, with mixed results.

While there will always be another tsunami, hurricane or disease, the man-made disasters, such as genocide, war and corrupt government, are seemingly more preventable, and yet trillions of dollars in Western foreign aid, hours of time, and indeed entire lives spent in the cause seem not to have had a great effect. Now, over sixty years later, many politicians, writers and researchers are questioning both the method and the utility of humanitarian aid programs.

Some argue that the reason for so little progress after trillions of dollars spent by the West is that not enough has been done and not enough money and support have been given. Others argue that the support given by the U.S. and the rest of the West is abused by those in power, breeds corruption and dependency, that aid agencies aren't accountable for progress, and that local cultures and politics cannot be changed just by handing out food, medicine, or money. These critics argue that the best thing that could happen for developing countries is for government aid programs to wind down support and allow for organic, privately-led and market-based reform and support efforts to take the lead.


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Quotes on American and international humanitarian aid from politicians, economists, and experts.

Commentary or Blog Post

An examination of remarks made by Jan Egeland, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, criticizing the amount of aid the United States offered for relief after the tsunami and earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004.

Africa's dire need is undisputed, but good intentions aside, could it be that aid actually harms Africans-and that less help would do more good?

A short, funny piece detailing the disparity between the amount of private charitable giving by conservatives and liberals and enumerating on the various causes that either ideology donates to.

"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is allowing U.S. funds to flow to the West Bank and Gaza despite a hold by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a rare display of executive-branch authority that angered the key lawmaker concerned about protecting her congressional oversight role."

"Nine years of United Nations economic sanctions against Iraq have created genocidal conditions and should be eliminated, Denis Halliday, a former UN official, told a Cornell audience last week."

Decades of academic research have failed to show a positive correlation between foreign aid and economic development.

"Investors are cautiously optimistic about their investment plans in developing countries over the next 12 months despite increased concerns about the euro zone debt crisis, a survey by the World Bank's political risk insurance agency found on Thursday.

In a survey of 275 global investors by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), more than half of corporate investors said...

South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, opened the conference stating that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption are creating an environmental disaster that threatens life.

An examination of critiques and support for faith-based humanitarian aid groups in the third world, specifically Iraq. The author comes out in support of these initiatives.

"The alleged attempt by a Nigerian man to detonate a bomb on a U.S.-bound flight has frayed Nigeria's diplomatic ties with its No. 1 buyer of oil: the U.S."

This article briefly discusses the history of technological development in foreign countries. According to Easterly, many nations that currently have advanced cultures were also ahead of the curve centuries ago.

"World Bank has approved US$125 million funding line to help the government reduce poverty through private sector development, a statement from the lender says. The financing is composed of US$60 million grant and a credit of US$65 million from International Development Association (IDA), an arm of the World Bank.

Mimi Ladipo, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda said the focus of the...

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. The organization was able to, seemingly overnight, transform banning landmines "from a vision to a reality." This paper uses that organization as an example to help set the framework for other international organizations which seek to bring prolonged peace.

An article written following the Obama administration's announcement of a $900 Million aid package "to help ease the humanitarian plight of Palestinians in Gaza and to shore up the bankrupt Palestinian Authority."

"All the ire at banks and multinational companies by dangerous communists and anti-globalisation hippies is misdirected. They should reserve their venom for the rustic rich-world farmer living the life of Henry David Thoreau."

An article written following the global G-8 summit in 2005, arguing that simply throwing more money at the problem of Africa will not fix it.

Easterly is better at documenting the failures of planning than analyzing the successes of searching. He examines the problems of post-Soviet Russia but offers nothing about why countries have successfully made the transition to capitalism and democracy.

"The 2012 Top Ten List of emerging Business and Human Rights Issues was published by the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) on International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2011."

This piece represents a left-leaning perspective on U.S. foreign aid. The United States spends billions every year on foreign assistance, making it the largest global provider of aid.

"A U.S. decision to suspend $800 million in military aid will not affect Pakistani army operations, a Pakistani military spokesman said on Monday. But analysts say the move is likely to fray ties and could harm the country's economy."

"The United States seeks to build a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China by expanding areas of cooperation and addressing areas of disagreement, such as human rights. The United States welcomes a strong, peaceful, and prosperous China playing a greater role in world affairs and seeks to advance practical cooperation with China in order to build a partnership based...

"The United States won't join its NATO allies and many other countries in formally banning landmines, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said during his midday briefing Tuesday.

'This administration undertook a policy review and we decided our landmine policy remains in effect,' Kelly said in response to a question. 'We made our policy review and we determined that we would not be...

Countries with too much debt and too little income do not need more IMF debt, and they do not need the lower income that follows IMF austerity schemes.

Chart or Graph

For nearly half a century the policy of foreign aid has been tried and found wanting. Today’s attempt to put old wine into new wineskins—to offer new justifications for yesterday’s failed policies—won’t work.

On average, countries with above-average aid receipts relative to GDP promptly show a political deterioration.

The HRI 2008 findings point to five key inter-related areas where the wealthy group of donor countries that comprise the OECD/DAC, in conjunction with other actors, could focus their efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian action.

Analysis Report White Paper

African businesses are far less productive than Chinese businesses, when 'indirect costs' such as electricity and transportation are accounted for.

Many studies have found that countries with abundant natural resources grow more slowly than those without—a phenomenon often known as the 'resource curse' or the 'curse of oil.' This Note suggests ways to avoid this risk and urges more attention be devoted to it.

U.S.-Tajik relations have developed considerably since September 11, 2001. The two countries now have a broad-based relationship, cooperating in such areas as counter-narcotics, counterterrorism, non-proliferation, and regional growth and stability.

An interesting look at a little-discussed problem, the spread of the AIDS pandemic into the Muslim world, where the people and governments of over fifty nations are ill-prepared to meet the challenges of such a widespread disease.

The second section reviews the economic evidence demonstrating the general failure of foreign aid to promote long-term development. The third section reviews the political science research demonstrating that failing aid agencies are actually 'succeeding' in their political aims.

My analysis suggests that Bauer's pioneering work anticipated the most important results that define the current field of development economics-the potentially harmful effect of foreign aid and the primacy of private property rights for economic progress.

In this article, Bandow examines the rationale behind excessive foreign aid in the past five decades, and its apparent inability to prevent national crises.

Bandow concludes that "there is no reason for South Korea to continue being Washington's ward--much less to broaden and deepen that dependence.

There is an increasing range of health issues that transcend national boundaries and require action on the global forces that determine the health of people.

"This report captures the input of risk leaders in thought and practice, including members of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils. It is also underpinned by the support and guidance of all the partners of the Risk Response Network."

Much media and advocacy attention has been directed toward new discoveries of antimalarial treatment, and relatively little toward the mechanisms for delivering treatments to those in need. A major exception is the proposed Affordable Medicines Facility.

In response to persisting poverty in Africa, representatives from the world's eight leading industrialized nations Scotland, in 2005 and agreed on a three-pronged approach to help Africa.

A very interesting article, wherein Ms. Patterson argues that philanthropy, like most human endeavors, does not lead to the greater good, but indeed does great evil in the name of great good.

The ineffectiveness of aid has little to do with a lack of resources. Its roots lie instead in the complex nature of poverty and the flawed nature of institutions and governments in poor countries.

Haiti—an island [shared with the Dominican Republic] country of 8 million people about the size of Maryland just 600 miles off the coast of Florida—is an extreme case: it has received billions in foreign assistance, yet persists as one of the poorest and worst governed countries.


"One of the twentieth century’s leading thinkers on the relationship between free trade and the economics of developing countries, Lord Peter Thomas Bauer discusses his clear ideas on the effectiveness of government aid and intervention in the Third World."

"Following the 2008 war, the United States has struggled to redefine its relationship with Georgia. While the Bush administration deemed Georgia a 'beacon of democracy' and identified it as a key ally, the new administration has changed the rhetoric, stripping Georgia of its special status even as policy has remained largely the same."

NYU professor William Easterly visits Google's Mountain View, CA, headquarters to discuss his book, The White Man's Burden. This event took on April 6, 2006, as part of the Authors@Google series.

In this AEI video clip, the Center for Global Development's Steven Radelet describes the challenges facing foreign assistance and its importance for U.S. engagement in the developing world.'s Nick Gillespie recently sat down with Michela Wrong, author of It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower, a riveting and deeply disturbing account of John Githongo's tenure as Kenya's anti-corruption czar.

John Stossel discusses the dynamics of world poverty and ways to help with guests Andrew Mwenda and Karol Boudreaux.

Please join us on World Refugee Day as Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey spotlights America's leadership in making this a world where suffering meets a compassionate response, where durable solutions are found for victims of persecution and tyranny.

Primary Document

"EVENTS IN EL SALVADOR assumed worldwide prominence in the late 1970s as political and social tensions fueled a violent civil conflict that persisted throughout the 1980s. The intense controversy and scrutiny accorded this diminutive nation ran counter to the relative obscurity that had characterized it during its colonial and national history. A backwater of the Spanish Empire, El Salvador...

To authorize economic and democratic development assistance for Afghanistan and to authorize military assistance for Afghanistan and certain other foreign countries.

"The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria accounts for over half of West Africa's population."

"In 1783, the Sunni Al-Khalifa family captured Bahrain from the Persians. In order to secure these holdings, it entered into a series of treaties with the UK during the 19th century that made Bahrain a British protectorate. The archipelago attained its independence in 1971. Facing declining oil reserves, Bahrain has turned to petroleum processing and refining and has transformed itself into an international banking center...."

"The United States has maintained a strong interest in developments in El Salvador, a small Central American country with a population of 6 million. During the 1980s, El Salvador was the largest recipient of U.S. aid in Latin America as its government struggled against the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) insurgency during a 12-year civil war. A peace accord negotiated...

"The Act reorganized the structure of existing U.S. foreign assistance programs, separated military from non-military aid, and created a new agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to administer those non-military, economic assistance programs.

"The Obama Administration has provided ongoing support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity."


"The States Parties,

Determined to put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines, that kill or maim hundreds of people every week, mostly innocent and defenceless civilians and especially children, obstruct economic development and reconstruction, inhibit the repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons, and have...

"British influence and control over what would become Nigeria and Africa's most populous country grew through the 19th century."

"The U.S. government considers its strategic relationship with Nigeria, Africa's largest producer of oil and its second largest economy, to be among the most important on continent."

"The 112th Congress has focused on measures to reduce the federal budget deficit. This backdrop may continue to influence congressional debate over a top-ranking U.S. aid recipient, Pakistan—a country vital to U.S. national security interests but that some say lacks accountability and even credibility as a U.S. ally."

"The Partnership for Growth effort aims to rapidly expand broad-based economic growth in El Salvador under an overarching commitment to democracy, sustainable development, and human rights. In order to achieve these goals, the Governments of El Salvador and the United States acknowledge the importance of a well-functioning market economy and the critical role of the private sector in leading...

"El Salvador and the United States have embarked on a new Partnership for Growth (PFG) to mobilize the traditional and non-traditional resources of both governments to remove obstacles and identify opportunities for broad-based economic growth in El Salvador. The PFG is an unprecedented bilateral collaboration based on a focused and deliberate strategy to generate the greatest possible impact...

On March 25, 2003, the President submitted a supplemental budget request to Congress totaling $74.7 billion.

"Tajikistan is a significant country in Central Asia by virtue of its geographic location bordering China and Afghanistan and its ample water and other resources, but it faces ethnic and clan schisms, deep poverty, poor governance, and other severe challenges. Tajikistan was one of the poorest of the new states that gained independence at the end of 1991 after the break-up of the former Soviet...

"The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, is a small, dispersed armed group in central Africa that originated 24 years ago in Uganda. It has drawn the attention of Members of Congress and other U.S. policymakers due to its infliction of widespread human suffering and its potential threat to regional stability. The group is infamous for its brutal attacks on civilians and mass...

George C. Marshall called for American assistance in restoring the economic infrastructure of Europe. Western Europe responded favorably, and the Truman administration proposed legislation.

Address given on June 5, 1947 by Secretary of State George C. Marshall, in which he outlined and proposed what would eventually become the "Economic Cooperation Act of 1948," or the "Marshall Plan."

The North Atlantic alliance created a military and political complement to the Marshall Plan for European economic recovery by establishing a mutual defense pact against possible aggression from the Soviet Union.

"'Welcome to the 10th edition of To Walk The Earth In Safety. Our annual report details the United States' Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Program, a collaborative effort by the Department of State, Department of Defense, United States Agency for International Development, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the Department of Health and Human Services. These...

"Angola has a strong and capable military. Although the country is sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest oil producer and has great agricultural potential, two-thirds of the population live in poverty. U.S. foreign policy goals in Angola are to promote and strengthen Angola's democratic institutions, promote economic prosperity, improve health, and consolidate peace and security. The United States has worked with Angola to remove thousands of landmines and help war refugees and internally displaced people return to their homes."

"El Salvador is a key partner in efforts to dampen the threats posed by transnational criminal organizations and gangs. The country has been a strong, durable partner on security and defense issues. However, endemic crime and impunity threaten El Salvador's progress by undermining the legitimacy of state institutions and impeding economic growth. U.S. policy toward El Salvador promotes the...

"The United States established diplomatic relations with Indonesia in 1949, following its independence from the Netherlands."

"The United States established diplomatic relations with Uganda in 1962, following its formal independence from the United Kingdom. Post-independence, the country saw a mix of tribal rivalries, insurgencies, military coups, dictatorships, and elections. U.S. relations with Uganda were strained by the human rights abuses of several Ugandan governments."

"The United States established diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan in 1992 following its independence from the Soviet Union."

"Unmanned aircraft are commonly called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and when combined with ground control stations and data links, form UAS, or unmanned aerial systems."

The Citizens’ Report provides a summary of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) performance for fiscal year (FY) 2008.




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