Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD Policy Blogs


Divining (or Inferring) the Objectives of U.S. Foreign Aid

This is a joint post with Rita Perakis.

What are the objectives of U.S. foreign aid programs? Development itself? National security? Improving diplomatic relations? Humanitarian response to emergencies?

One answer to that question comes from what Congress and the Administration say – in the Presidential Study Directive, President Obama’s development speech at the United Nations, what Secretary Clinton said in her development speech last year, and what Administrator Raj Shah has been saying in recent speeches. And of course what the Congress says in authorizing legislation --- but oops the Foreign Assistance Act is 50 years old (and hasn’t even been reauthorized since 1985), as lamented in this 2-minute video.

Jean Arkedis in a recent CGD paper (done when she was seconded from the State Department two years ago) says that the U.S. government isn’t very clear about those objectives – and why not clarify by assigning spending lines in the federal budget to one or more of those objectives above? Recently Connie Veillette has also weighed in.

Chapter 2 Tweaked

I revised chapter 2 last fall. This time through (.docx, .pdf), I mostly worked to incorporate comments from the peer reviewers. In particular, I think I did a better job of summarizing the chapter at the start and end and linking explicitly to the book's main ideas.

Foreign Aid and the Public: Interests and Ethics Redux

Especially in times of budget pressure, the debate over rationales for foreign assistance revive. Last night on PBS’ Newshour, former First Lady Laura Bush, Melinda Gates, and Helene Gayle, president of CARE, spoke eloquently about the importance of Congress maintaining funding for maternal and child health. I was heartened and impressed by their commitment, but also a little discomfited by the emphasis on national security as a key motivation for aid.