Who gives 0.7% of their gross national income to overseas aid?

Under legislation approved in 2015, the UK government is legally required to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance (ODA), popularly known as foreign aid. And Microsoft founder Bill Gates has urged the UK to maintain its promise to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, warning that reducing the commitment would cost lives.

According to the latest figures from the OECD, in 2016 two G7 countries met this target: the UK and, for the first time, Germany. Other countries that spent at least 0.7% were Sweden, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Denmark and Norway.

Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May described the target as a “critical pillar” of the country’s foreign policy. But some Conservative MPs and newspapers have suggested that the figure is too high and should not be maintained after the election.

The top 10 country recipients of UK aid in 2015 were Pakistan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, India and Bangladesh. Humanitarian projects received the largest proportion of aid in 2015.

 [BBC]

Hillary Clinton warns President Trump of ‘grave mistake’ of cutting Foreign Aid

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that she thinks President Trump is making a “grave mistake” on foreign aid. In a speech on women’s rights at Georgetown University, Clinton said Trump’s proposed cuts to international aid in his budget would undermine American diplomacy.

“Turning our back on diplomacy won’t make our country safer,” Clinton said. “It will undermine our security and our standing in our world.”

Clinton’s comments about Trump came in a talk that was largely an impassioned call for advancing women’s rights around the world.

“Advancing the rights and full participation of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the 21st century, she said. “It is not a partisan issue, it is a human issue. A rising tide of women’s rights lifts entire nations.”

[TIME]

Africa has worst hunger crisis in 70 years amid US budget cuts

Africa faces the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, with more than 20 million people facing starvation, and any cut in funding to humanitarian agencies working in famine-affected areas will cause untold suffering, a spokesman for the World Food Program said, responding to questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut $10 billion in foreign aid.

“Any cuts at this time are extremely significant, not just for us but for any U.N. agencies and any aid organization,” said David Orr, WFP’s Africa spokesman, at a media briefing in Johannesburg. “With the magnitude of needs at the moment is it vital that we continue with a high level of assistance.”

The current hunger crisis is in three African countries, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, as well as nearby Yemen.

The U.S. is WFP’s largest donor and was one of the organization’s founders. Last year it contributed more than $2 billion, representing about 24 percent of WFP’s total budget, Orr said.

“The more dramatic cuts in any aid budgets … the more suffering there is going to be,” Orr said.

[Cox Media]

Bill Gates meets Trump to argue for foreign aid

Tech billionaire Bill Gates met with President Donald Trump and highlighted the “indispensable role that the United States has played in achieving these gains,” his foundation said in a statement.

Gates wrote a blog post Friday to argue that the U.S. shouldn’t slash humanitarian aid. Spending on projects overseas helps “keep Americans safe,” Gates wrote.

“By promoting health, security, and economic opportunity, they stabilize vulnerable parts of the world.”

American aid, Gates wrote, helps prevent and eradicate epidemics, citing polio and Ebola as examples.

To illustrate the security benefits of international aid, he praised former President Bush’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS abroad with a program known as PEPFAR. Eleven million people with HIV are alive because of the program, Gates said, and “many more never got the virus in the first place because of the prevention efforts supported by PEPFAR.” What this meant, he continued is that there were more teachers, entrepreneurs, and other workers “contributing to strong, stable societies,” and Gates pointed to a study that showed that political instability and violence in African countries with PEPFAR dropped signficantly, compared to when PEPFAR was not in use.

[CBS]

The Christian case for foreign aid

The Bible is replete with references to caring for the poor in obedience to God. Jesus declares that loving our neighbor — wherever they live — is one of the greatest commandments, a corollary to loving God.

While the U.S. government doesn’t directly share this mandate, it plays a critical role in fulfilling the moral responsibility of all Americans to help those less fortunate. …Yet now, President Trump’s proposed budget threatens to severely cut that foreign aid.

At less than 1 percent of the federal budget — an amount analogous to the “widow’s mite” — foreign assistance promotes our values, our own prosperity and our nation’s security, all while providing a lifeline to the most vulnerable in the world, those Jesus called “the least of these.”

This isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. If the U.S. government isn’t on the ground saving lives and promoting recovery and development — in solidarity with thousands of American aid workers and American allies — then global crises will proliferate and cause destabilization that eventually reaches our shores.

In an increasingly unstable world, this small but vital account is the ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of cure. Former secretary of defense Robert Gates has said, “Economic development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”

[Read full article by Richard Stearns (president of World Vision U.S.) and Sean Callahan (president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services)]

US no longer leads global efforts to mitigate suffering

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the United Nations, which runs agencies such as the World Food Program and UNICEF, come at a time when famine is reaching a crisis point in parts of Africa. The timing of the proposed cuts has sent chills through the international aid community, which fears that a retreat by the U.S. in relief funding could make a bad situation worse.

Just days before Trump’s budget was released, U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien warned that the globe is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. Two years of drought and failed rains across much of Africa have affected 38 million people in 17 countries.

For decades, the U.S. has been the largest supporter of the World Food Program as part of a bipartisan congressional commitment to averting famine and starvation. In 2016, the U.S. paid 24% of the food program’s $8.6-billion budget, or about $2 billion. At present levels, the U.S. also funds 40% of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 22% of the U.N. Secretariat, as well as 28% of the cost of U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Ben Parker, an analyst and editor at IRIN, a news agency specializing in humanitarian issues, said the U.S. humanitarian contribution was large in dollar terms, but in terms of the percentage of its economy, “the U.S. is not very generous.”

Scott Paul, senior policy adviser at the humanitarian agency Oxfam, said Trump’s budget blueprint sent tremors of alarm through the humanitarian community. “The message that it sends is that the U.S. is no longer interested in leading or being part of global efforts to mitigate suffering in the world,” he said.

[Los Angeles Times]

The US spends a lot less on foreign aid than you think

President Trump’s wants a 28 percent cut in America’s foreign aid funding, though some areas would go untouched — U.S. assistance to Israel, for example.

But Trump is playing to a strong feeling among Americans that we spend large parts of our national budget on international programs. That’s a persistent belief.

And a false one.

Guess how much of the U.S. budget is spent on foreign aid. Go ahead.

“When we ask the public to give us their best guess, we find on average they tell us 31 percent,” said Bianca DiJulio, associate director of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The actual amount is 1 percent or less.”   Read more  

What a cut in US foreign aid could mean for this woman’s family

Last September, 19 months after fighting had erupted around her home in South Sudan, Alaakiir Ajok ran for the Uganda border. She found refuge in a settlement called Nyumanzi, where she was living with two of her four children. The other two disappeared in the chaos of conflict.

As of this week, Uganda is sheltering more than 761,000 other South Sudanese.

Ajok and her kids subsist on rations distributed by the World Food Program (WFP), and every month, she said, she would sell a portion of her sorghum for a bit of money to pay her children’s school fees. But when we met, WFP had just cut her rations in half, due to dramatic funding shortages. After that, Ajok had no sorghum to spare—which meant she had no money, and her son stopped going to school.

That was five months ago. On Tuesday, President Trump announced a proposal to cut the US State Department and USAID budgets by 30 percent or more.

The United States is by far the world’s largest contributor to humanitarian assistance in general, and the WFP in particular. International aid workers have been on edge ever since the election.

[Read full UN Dispatch article]

You don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian

Rihanna, the Grammy Award-winning artist — whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty — was in Boston Tuesday to receive Harvard College’s 2017 Humanitarian of the Year award.

At just 18, Rihanna founded the Believe Foundation, which provided support to terminally ill children. And since then, she hasn’t much slowed down.

Her Clara Lionel Foundation — named for her grandparents — tackles a range of causes, from education to health and emergency response programs. And her work with the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project helped convince Canada to pledge $20 million to the Education Cannot Wait fund.

In thanking the university, Rihanna spoke about family, and her grandmother’s losing battle with cancer. She spoke of her upbringing in Barbados, and her childhood dreams of saving the world, one 25-cent donation at a time.

Mostly, she urged students to do their part, to make a commitment to help just one person.

“People make it seem way too hard, man,” she said. “You don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian. You don’t have to be rich to help someone, you don’t have to be famous, you don’t even have to be college educated.

“My grandma always used to say if you’ve got a dollar, there’s plenty to share.”

[Boston Globe]

Rihanna named Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year

Popular singer Rihanna has been named the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year.

“Rihanna has charitably built a state-of- the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” said S. Allen Counter, the Harvard Foundation’s director.

“In 2012, she founded the nonprofit the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program [named for her grandparents] for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries, and supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which provides children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls, and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today. ”

[Harvard Gazzete]

United Arab Emirates $8.8 billion in foreign aid

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Chairwomen of International Humanitarian City in Dubai, called for establishing a data bank to allow governments to document their humanitarian work. 

The Humanitarian Logistic Data Bank will depend on of the use of technology in charitable aid for a quick response to those in need, said Princess Haya, wife of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, during the second day of the World Government Summit.

“We have to move away from conventional ways of providing aid. Innovation is necessary for humanitarian aid,” she said to a crowd of delegates, as she highlighted the role of smartphones in changing forms of aid in developing countries such as limiting the spread of Ebola in west Africa and targeting those in need in a quick manner. Drones and satellites were among the technologies that helped in providing aid.

Princess Haya noted that the United Arab Emirates has topped the list of donors to foreign aid, reporting a 34 per cent increase in 2015, reaching $8.8 billion.

She praised the UAE food bank initiative, recently launched by Shaikh Mohammed for the Year of Giving. “While reports show that current food waste is worth $2.6 trillion, which can feed three times of world’s population including the 800 million hungry people.”

[Khaleej Times]

Canadian view on xenophobic United States immigration and refugee fears

About 300,000 permanent immigrants come into Canada every year. That’s equivalent to about one percent of its population, one of the highest ratios in the world.

Canadians see immigration as critical to their economic success. The nation has invited in so many immigrants that today, one-fifth of the population is foreign-born. And Canadians don’t seem to wrestle with anti-immigrant nativism that has erupted in the U.S. and Europe.

These days, Canadians are taken aback when they look south. They see the climate of fear and anger that has broken out in America toward Spanish-speaking and Muslim immigrants.

“Canada has looked at the United States in many ways as an example of a welcoming society,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. “And it’s disheartening for many Canadians to see the United States be so fearful, to be so xenophobic and not to be more welcoming to other folks in the world.”

Some Canadians wonder if that most American motto – E pluribus unum–”Out of many, one” – has moved north.

[NPR]

Syrian Christian family, visas in hand, turned back at US airport

Two brothers, their wives and children left war-torn Syria with 16 suitcases and crossed the border into Lebanon. They were finally on their way to the United States after working for almost 15 years to join their family members stateside.

But after their flight landed in Philadelphia on Saturday, the two families were told to get on a flight back. It was because President Donald Trump had just signed an executive order denying citizens from seven countries, including Syria, entry into the United States.

Sarmad Assali and her daughter, Sarah, are among the relatives who were waiting to welcome the families to the United States. Sarmad Assali said they received a call from authorities Saturday morning telling them their relatives would not be allowed to enter the country.

The Assalis, US citizens who live in Allentown, Pennsylvania, weren’t able to make contact with their family members until they were already headed back overseas. One of the brothers told Sarmad Assali they were not allowed to make calls or use the Internet while they were held.

According to the Assalis, their family members do not speak English very well and were told by authorities they could either be detained and have their visas taken away, or they could take the first flight back to Doha. Frightened and facing a language barrier, the six family members chose the second option.

The Assalis are Orthodox Christians, one of the most persecuted groups in Syria.

[Read full CNN article]

Dismayed Evangelical groups urge Trump to not block refugees to America

Several evangelical groups have spoken out against an executive order by President Donald Trump which will apparently block refugees from coming to America.

“The lengthy delay imposed in this ban further traumatizes refugees, most of whom are women and children, keeps families separated and punishes people who are themselves fleeing the terror we as a nation are rightly fighting to end,” Scott Arbeiter, World Relief president.

The order, expected to be signed as early as Friday, looks to temporarily block refugees coming to America from Syria, and will halt visas for Muslim-majority nations like Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.  The total refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017 are also set to be capped at 50,000, which is less than half of the 110,000 total that former President Barack Obama had called for.

World Relief said that it “expresses dismay” at the prospect, and pointed out that the U.S. already has a tight security process when it comes to screening refugees, which includes vetting by Homeland Security and other agencies, multiple interviews, biometric scans, and other safeguards.

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said, “Christians and churches have been welcoming refugees for 2,000 years, and evangelicals are committed to continue this biblical mission. Thousands of U.S. evangelicals and their churches have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past 40 years … We don’t want to stop now,” Anderson said.

[The Christian Post]

Who Gives More To The Developing World: Aid Donors Or Migrant Workers?

In a given year, developing countries may get $131 Billion in official aid, and another $431.6 Billion in remittances — money sent home by migrants who are working abroad.

That’s the astounding number in the World Bank’s new Migration and Development Brief. The total in remittances has been going up yearly and is expected to keep rising, the report predicts, though the rate of growth has slowed a bit because of the drop in oil prices, which affects money earned by migrants in oil-producing countries.

The way the money is spent in developing countries is a tremendous boon, Dilip Ratha, lead author of the brief and head of the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development says. A lot of it goes to meeting basic needs, like food, but it also is invested in “child education and health, maternal health, older people’s health” — and in local businesses.

For the family members, the money “is like a lifeline,” Ratha says. It can help break the “cycle of poverty”

[NPR]

8 people have as much money as half the World

Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report published by Oxfam to mark the annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos.

Oxfam’s report, ‘An economy for the 99 percent’, shows that the gap between rich and poor is far greater than had been feared. It details how big business and the super-rich are fueling the inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day.”

Oxfam’s report shows how our broken economies are funneling wealth to a rich elite at the expense of the poorest in society, the majority of whom are women.

The richest are accumulating wealth at such an astonishing rate that the world could see its first trillionaire in just 25 years.  To put this figure in perspective – you would need to spend $1 million every day for 2738 years to spend $1 trillion.

The world’s 8 richest people are, in order of net worth:

  1. Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion)
  2. Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion)
  3. Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion)
  4. Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion)
  5. Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion)
  6. Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion)
  7. Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle  (net worth $43.6 billion)
  8. Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion)

[By Oxfam ]

Utah and Mormons are the most generous givers in America

Utah is tops among all 50 US states in generosity, according to a new report released this week at WalletHub. The report breaks down “generosity” into two main categories–a state’s rate of volunteerism and the percentage of income its people spend on charitable donations.

In Utah, people donate an impressive 6.6% of their income to charity. New Hampshire was the stingiest, with just 1.6% of income given away.

Utah also ranks first in the percentage of people who say they donated their time (56%) and the total number of hours they volunteered (75.6 per person, nearly four times the volunteer hours of the lowest state, Kentucky).

Given Utah’s majority Mormon population it’s not surprising that the state came first in charitable giving. According to social science research, Mormons rank first among all religious groups in the United States in terms of charitable giving, donating 5.2% of income.

That’s barely half of the 10% “gold standard” that Christians are taught to strive for. But it’s nearly two percentage points higher than the next-most-generous group, Pentecostals who give 3.4%, not to speak of Roman Catholics (1.5%), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (.9%).

The nonreligious average 1.1%.

[Religion New Service]

Refugees: “They are just like us”

A few weeks ago, I scrambled to evacuate my area with the only five items I could grab–my phone, passport, water, money, and medicine–in the 30 seconds before I had to flee.

Many of the roughly 65 million refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people around the world today have had to make panicked choices like these. But my own “escape” was far away from that. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had organized the Forced From Home exhibit. The aim was, in part, to put the staggering numbers of the crisis into tangible terms for those of us who don’t have to contemplate actually being forced from home.

We got on a raft like the ones in which so many have risked, and lost, their lives in recent years–though this one stayed on dry land–and later, we were detained at a fenced border where our various legal classifications determined our future. At each stop, hardships from the journey forced us to give up one item, until we were left empty-handed in front of staged refugee tents–where in real life another series of ordeals await those who make it that far.

MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, the international aid group and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is touring the exhibit through five U.S. cities this fall, with a series of West Coast stops planned for next year. With the Forced From Home exhibit, MSF is trying to communicate, in concrete terms, the reality of people fleeing.

Tatiana Chiarella, an MSF nurse from Brazil who has been touring with the exhibit, explained: “For people living in the U.S., or even my people in Brazil, we are so far from the situation that you may hear their stories but you don’t realize it could happen to any one of us.” The people she treated “were just like us, they were doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers, and suddenly this happened–they have war in their countries and they have to flee for their life and for their families–and they lost everything.”

On the tour I took, I met a student from Charleston, South Carolina, who said: “It pains me to see how unaccepting communities can be of refugees especially when a good amount of people in the U.S. can trace their ancestry to people who left their home because of economic or political issues.”

[Anna Diamond, The Atlantic]

Trump thoughts on Humanitarian Aid

No one knows what the Trump administration has planned for U.S. foreign aid programs and other global initiatives that fight poverty and disease. But the president-elect has commented on a number of global issues. Here’s some of what he has said in speeches and interviews.

In an interview with The New York Times in March 2016, Trump said he was in favor of providing humanitarian aid — the umbrella term for food and disaster assistance — depending on how friendly a country was to the U.S.

But he would also redirect some aid dollars to domestic issues, reports Humanosphere. “It is necessary that we invest in our infrastructure, stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us and use that money to rebuild our tunnels, roads, bridges and schools.”

Clean water: “Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water,” Trump said in an interview on science, medical and environmental issues with Chemical & Engineering News in September 2016.

Syrian refugees: At a rally in Minnesota on Monday, Trump said he would suspend the Syrian refugee program. According to The Guardian, he said: “We will pause admissions from terror-prone regions until a full security assessment has been performed and until a proven vetting mechanism has been established.”

[NPR]

Which 10 countries host half the world’s refugees?

Ten countries accounting for 2.5 percent of world GDP are hosting more than half the world’s refugees, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

Fifty-six percent of refugees are being sheltered in 10 countries.

“A small number of countries have been left to do far too much just because they are neighbors to a crisis,” said Amnesty Secretary-General Salil Shetty, presenting the report titled “Tackling the global refugee crisis: from shirking to sharing responsibility.”

Amnesty said the top refugee hosting country was Jordan, which has taken in more than 2.7 million people, followed by Turkey (more than 2.5 million); Pakistan (1.6 million) and Lebanon (more than 1.5 million).

The remaining six nations listed in the top 10 each hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees: Iran (979,400); Ethiopia (736,100); Kenya (553,900); Uganda (477,200); Democratic Republic of Congo (383,100), and Chad (369,500).

Amnesty said many of the world’s wealthiest nations “host the fewest and do the least.”

“It is time for leaders to enter into a serious, constructive debate about how our societies are going to help people forced to leave their homes by war and persecution,”said Shetty.

“If every one of the wealthiest countries in the world were to take in refugees in proportion to their size, wealth and unemployment rate, finding a home for more of the world’s refugees would be an eminently solvable challenge.”

[AFP]