Saturday, March 19, 2011

3 Voices For Foreign Aid

Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe have stated the importance that foreign development aid has for the US. These three people have very different backgrounds: Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World, George Ingram is co-chairman of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and Jim Kolbe is a former Republican congressman from Arizona who works as a senior advisor at McLarty and associates. But they agree in how relevant foreign assistance is for the US and the whole world.

The most important thing for them is to transmit to the average American citizen true and valuable info and facts about foreign assistance. For instance, a lot of Americans still believe the US spends up to 25% of the budget on aid when it is currently less than 1%. According to these three experts, development aid is a key component of US foreign policy, together with defense and diplomacy. The modest investment in development pays huge dividends in terms of security, prosperity and global leadership.

In the security area, the numbers could not be clearer: "development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers," Secretary Robert Gates recently outlined. The outcomes in stability, governance and moderation of extremisms are much greater than the costs. For economic prosperity, development aid improves conditions in countries, allowing them to trade with the US, thus opening new business opportunities and political ties. Furthermore, aid is not just exporting dollars. Much of what is spent actually stays in the country in the form of wages of contractors or in payments for US made goods to be sent overseas. Finally, programs like vaccination campaigns that save thousands of lives or investment in agricultural development reinforce the image of the US and its global leadership to the eyes of the World.

It is also recommended that the aid has to be more effective and accountable, better measured and evaluated, and also more responsive and adapted to local initiatives and priorities. The role of private and public investors and donors has to be better shaped too. And with all these facts in hand, a honest debate can begin among the American public.

- David Nebreda