Posted by: bklunk | February 12, 2007

The .7% Solution?

Les Relations Internationales discusses a critical issue in dealing with poverty in the Global South. The Bush administration has substantially increased US development assistance, but the US is far short of the .7% of GDP goal.

Myth: More US aid will help the hungry

“In 1970, the United Nations General Assembly declared that each economically advanced country would dedicate 0.7 percent of its GNI” (Leiserowitz, Kates, and Parris, 2005) to the Official Development Assistance Fund. However, the United States, the wealthiest and strongest nation in the world, is barely contributing .15 percent of its GNI to help alleviate this global issue. This article suggests that with the minimal amount of aid that the U.S. does provide, it is intended to foster U.S. foreign policies, rather than wholeheartedly assisting the poor. The U.S. and other wealthy nations should devise ways for underdeveloped countries to develop and not create bumps for them to hurdle over.

On the same note that foreign aid is used as a political tool, former Secretary of State George Stultz, asserted “‘our foreign assistance programs are vital to the achievement of our foreign policy goals.’” During the decades of the Cold War, a large portion of U.S. funding went to assist authoritative leadership in countries that appeared to have been advantageous to U.S. economic means, despite the fact that they were dictatorial. More money was spent on keeping dictators in office than was toward the efforts of global poverty. For instance, the U.S. forcefully removed Mossadegh from power, only replacing him with a dictator who was friendly toward U.S. interests. The same situation occurred in Chile, when President Allende was deposed of and replaced by the harsh Pinochet. Little money was spent on infrastructure, and when they were, it was only to gain popular support to keep these dictators in power. Aid was never directly focused on helping the poor but more on satisfying U.S. relations and interests with others.

“Defining our national interest as opening markets for free trade lines up our nation’s might — with our tax dollars and our country’s good name — against the interests of the hungry.” It is still our responsibility as world citizens to help the impoverished, but the means to do so and the policies implemented should be scrutinized.

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  1. I think it’s silly that the US is only contributing .15 % when 0.7 is being asked. I am aware that we ( the US) are not made of money, although sometimes I do wonder simply because of all that is going on, and all the money that is being spent, but that ‘s not the point. This aid that is being asked of us to feed people, to really save a life or a hundred more, and we cannot help, yet here we are sending aid to many other countries for different causes. Yes, I’m sure they have their levels of importance, possibly not between life and death of eating, but they have some kind of limitations or disadvantages hanging over them. What I’m curious to know is how we can send money to aid wars, like for instance in Columbia, to supposedly reduce the drug trafficing when percentages have obviously risen since we have started aiding money, but yet we cannot find it in our budget to keep funding schools in our own country, much less save the lives of hungry children around the world.

  2. Even more disappointing than the meager .15% contribution to foreign aide are the constraints that the US and much of the western world puts on developing economies. These barriers principally are agricultural tariffs and artificially high food prices created by agricultural subsidies. Developing economies are predominantly dependent on agriculture as it often times comprises the majority of those goods of the lowest opportunity cost. But these economies don’t stand a chance because the US, France, Japan and others like them are paying their farmers to produce. This affords them the opportunity to charge a higher price than the market would demand leaving those countries without subsidies no chance to compete. In turn the US dumps the aforementioned seemingly inadequate amount of aide into the very same countries whose economies are being strangled by our tariffs and subsidies. Even more important than increased aid in many cases is the goal of creating sustainable economies and eradicating agricultural subsidies and tariffs would better serve that goal. It would also allow for better use of the aide money that is given.

  3. I cannot believe that the United States, the wealthiest country in the world, is not contributing more that .15 percent of our GNI. We should be setting a better example to other countries by contributing more than .7 percent. We are always discussing how important it is to help out the poor but we aren’t leading by example. How can other countries be expected to contribute when we ourselves are barely giving anything. Also the fact that we are only contributing aid as a political tool is terrible. I would like to think that the United States would be more than willing to help out the poorest countries, but this is sadly not the reality.

  4. In light of the US’ recent undertakings in world affairs, and how it has drawn less than favorable sentiment towards the United States, one would think that recognizing our position of power and reaching out to the world’s impoverished population would seem to be a “good idea.” Especially after the United States launched a military campaign under the premise of recognizing our global responsibility, it seems as though a meager .15% would not be impossible, especially since the President’s new budget included a near 20% increase in Pentagon spending. It sends a contradictory message to the world if we spend all this money on bullets and so little on the impoverished. Also, this whole notion of simply contributing this aid as a political tool is problematic, as it sends another poor message to the world community. It makes one, and the rest of the world, wonder where the United States’ priorities lie.

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