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The Future Of Foreign Assistance

"There should be an annual Development Review," said Clemons, "foreign aid is a national security issue -- it should be treated as such."
by Ambika Behal
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 02, 2006
A changing world environment is a driving force in the U.S. government's need to rethink an aging foreign assistance strategy, say analysts. "Development does not take place in Washington, DC. Development takes place in the rest of the world," said Andrew Natsios, former administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

Natsios discussed the shifting locus of American national interests moving away from Europe and towards developing nations. "I don't think the foreign aid budget at a national level is sustainable -- developing countries want to be seen as an ally rather than a basket-charitable case," he said, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, earlier this week.

"The real threats to the U.S. are non-nation based," which according to Nastios is "the darker side of globalization" -- posing a threat to America's national interests in the form of drug trafficking and drug cartels.

In light of this twist in the global environment, security interests need to be accounted for more than ever, according to Representative Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. The need is to "make developmental assistance sustainable by itself," he said, questioning how legislators can maintain support within America and efficiently budget foreign aid money in Congress.

"We have to talk about opening markets," he said, adding that giving developing countries access to American markets is the "single most important thing we can do rather than appropriate more money."

In January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had outlined a reorganization of the way the U.S. government directs foreign assistance. "America's foreign assistance must promote responsible sovereignty, not permanent dependency," she had said.

Rice had also announced her intention of creating a new position -- a Director of Foreign Assistance, who would be responsible for developing strategies and country-specific assistance operational plans.

"I think we're headed into a period of some difficulty when it comes to foreign assistance," said Kolbe, citing fatigue in Congress.

As faith-based groups show their prowess in delivering services where they are needed on foreign shores, the U.S. government may be inclined to take a closer look at how these groups are doing it, said Kolbe.

"I think evangelicals are playing an increasingly larger role," said Kolbe, "they demonstrate they can deliver efficient services with relatively low overhead costs."

Global economic development "cannot be left to evangelical do-gooders," said Steven Clemons, Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at New America Foundation in Washington DC.

"A key component of aid and development is building competencies abroad in a collegial way rather than a hierarchical way," that appeals to the faith-based charitable side of giving, said Clemons.

America needs to think about developing nations "and determine what they would need to do to build their economy, rather than approach the task in a U.S.-centric way," he said.

Washington is currently in partial uproar about how foreign assistance budgets are being allocated. Last year the U.S. government's foreign aid expenditure was $27 billion. USAID complained that they had only spent about half of this total amount.

Advocating a "Quadrennial Development Review" along the lines of the Department of Defense's "Quadrennial Defence Review, Nastios said that lacking at present is direction for the long-term. His proposed QDR "would drive internal programming and budget assistance," directing the federal government's spending for the next five years.

"There should be an annual Development Review," said Clemons, "foreign aid is a national security issue -- it should be treated as such."

Weaving together of aid, development, and national security programs should be carefully considered, as it demands serious attention, according to Clemons.

The British government has brought together all the components of the Foreign Office, eliminating inter-departmental confusion and disagreement over budgetary allocations. While Nastios stated a belief in the efficiency of this method of governmental organization, Kolbe disagreed that such a setup in the U.S. government would "solve the problem."

"Countries do not develop based on sectors, they develop based on the level of development they are at," said Nastios. He cited Ghana as one of the best-governed African nations at present and the fact that its level of development is different to that of countries such as Liberia and the Congo.

At present, the U.S. government treats all three countries as the same in terms of doling out foreign assistance. "I think that's a mistake," he said, "We need to move towards more developmentally based distribution."

Source: United Press International

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