< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: Global Poverty and Development Aid

Friday, August 12, 2005

Global Poverty and Development Aid

As leaders of the G8 recently agreed to raise aid levels and cancel the debt of Africa's poorest nations, global poverty remains a huge obstacle to human rights. An interesting perspective on how the world can combat global poverty comes from Professor Jeffery Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of An End to Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. Sachs wrote an article in Foreign Affairs in March of this year about how the American public (and public officials) believes the country gives significantly more development aid than it actually does. In the "Development Challenge" Sachs gives the example of American aid to sub-Saharan Africa as he writes:

The case of sub-Saharan Africa-the poorest region of the world- shows how dangerously skewed U.S. aid priorities are. The prevailing image in the United States is that Washington gives Africa vast sums of money, which corrupt officials there then fritter away or stash in offshore accounts. But this image, fueled by inaccurate stereotypes, badly misconstrues the truth. In fact, in 2003, the United States gave $4.7 billion to sub-Saharan Africa in net bilateral ODA. Of that sum, $0.2 billion went to a handful of middle-income countries, especially South Africa. Of the remaining $4.5 billion, $1.5 billion was apportioned for emergency aid and $0.3 billion for non-emergency food aid. Another $1.3 billion was designated for debt forgiveness grants, and $1.4 billion went to technical assistance. This distribution left only $118 million for U.S. in-country operations and direct support
for programs run by African governments and communities-just 18 cents for each of the nearly 650 million people in low-income sub-Saharan Africa. This figure represents the total U.S. bilateral support, beyond aid in the form of technical cooperation, for investments in health, education, roads, power, water and sanitation, and democratic institutions in the region that year.

Sachs then offers solutions to increase developmental assistance to combat poverty, which he argues would increase our security in addition to helping those in poverty around the world. The above links provide good information about global poverty as well as lectures and talks by Professor Sachs.

For more information on global poverty and the UN Millennium Project click here.

--Tom Hayes


Blogger centurion said...

U.S. African policy is not misunderstood. Sachs is simply hypothesizing that more and more aid will produce results. However no evidence exists at all to suggest that would be the case, given the huge increases in aid and FDI for Africa over the past decade and the noticable lack of any results.

The United States provides aid on a primarily bilateral basis as a result of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which forms the basis for current U.S. policy. Elgibility for a "generalized system of preferences" is established on a case-by-case basis as individual countries meet requirements in reforms, human rights, and establishing market-based economies. There is no reason to provide additional aid to fractured African states that do not meet these requirements if we are to indicate our seriousness about these governments getting their acts together. U.S. foreign policy only parallels the programs of the IMF and World Bank which also operate on a country-by-country basis. Throwing dollars at these weak and collapsing African states has not paid off no matter how much the aid increases by and there is no reason to suggest that it would.

In his book "The Obligation of Empire: United States Grand Strategy for a New Century," James J. Hentz highlights the question of Sub-Saharan Africa as mainly a problem of regional stability, created by the economic over-dominance of South Africa within the Southern Africa Developoment Community (SDAC). South Africa's dominance is partially the result of a U.S. policy using it as a regional "anchor state" The second part of U.S. current policy is to continue pushing for a Free-Trade Area in the region, which Hentz clearly shows would lead to even more economic disparity between South Africa and the remainder of the region.

Does this mean that we should ditch the policy held both currently and by previous administrations of using South Africa as an "anchor state" to try to better provide aid to the other regional states? Not necessarily.
The partnership between South Africa and its neighbors has to be strengthened through the partnership between South Africa and the U.S. South Africa needs to take regional leadership in bolstering the surrounding states and helping to shore up concerns of poverty and underdevelopment. Eventually, either those problems will spill over and weaken South Africa, or else the strength of South Africa will spill over and improve its neighbors. Whichever way the pendelum swings will be the result of how the United States understands the problems of Africa and works with South Africa on solving the regional instability. Improving regional security means reshaping the multilateral parnterships within the region, not increasing involvement by the U.S. and the West.

1:11 PM  
Blogger JB said...

How can you deny that U.S. African policy is misunderstood? Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans believe their government spends way more on foreign aid than it actually does. If that isn't a misunderstanding of African policy, then what is?

Obviously you are correct when you write that giving money to corrupt and ineffective African states would just be throwing money "down a rat hole" as Jesse Helms said. But people like Sachs are advocating increased aid to African states that have made some headway by effectively using the aid provided to them, like Mozambique and Ghana. These countries provide the evidence that you write "doesn't exist" to show that more aid can produce results.

Your comment that the "strength of South Africa" will (perhaps) "spill over and improve its neighbors" is laughable. South Africa refuses to put any sort of pressure on Robert Mugabe, the horrible tyrant of Zimbabwe whose policies have wreaked havoc on the human rights and economy in Zimbabwe. South Africa’s support of Mugabe shows that it isn't willing to use its strength to "improve its neighbors," unless you consider support for fraudulent elections, human rights violations,and a lack of free press an improvement.

3:38 PM  

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