Following World War II, US leaders realized that America’s security and prosperity are interconnected with the rest of the world, and that they had a duty to help people in Europe with their recovery from war.
In 1961, Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act in response to President John F. Kennedy’s request to unify all economic aid efforts under the jurisdiction of a single agency, the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
President George W. Bush began a process of rebuilding US foreign aid and introduced several notable reforms: He created the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to better enable countries to meet the needs of their own citizens; he developed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which paved the way for the Global Health Initiative (GHI); and he began to restore staffing levels at USAID through the Development Leadership Initiative (DLI).
Efforts to ensure that foreign aid works to reduce global poverty and human suffering have accelerated under President Barack Obama. In 2010, President Obama announced a new US Global Development Policy, recognizing that governments and citizens in poor countries shouldn’t be merely recipients of aid, but full partners in the process. The policy also outlines new tools for measuring programs to make sure they meet their goals, so both American taxpayers and poor people affected by US policies abroad can see where aid dollars are going and for what purposes.