What’s the value of US foreign aid?

“Why should we care?” “Let them take care of their own problems.” “We have enough problems in our own backyard!”

As of April 2017, 73% of U.S. respondents seek a decrease in funding for foreign aid.

The recently leaked State Department budget suggests how the new administration seeks to cut direct foreign aid.

But modern foreign aid is not charity. It is strategic and an investment in a stronger America abroad. At a cost of less than 1% of our entire federal budget, foreign aid is a bargain, given its ability to bolster our national security:
– By stabilizing vulnerable communities, foreign aid strengthens our national security.
– Illicit trafficking of people, arms and drugs provide safe havens for terrorists and displace innocent people, creating refugees and IDPs (internally displaced people).

Strategic aid promotes economic prosperity while bolstering self-reliance and opening markets and trading opportunities to the United States. For example, South Korea was provided strategic foreign aid after the ceasefire on the Korean peninsula in 1953, creating one of our most important allies and our 6th-largest trading partner. The return has been exponentially higher than the investment.

A real cost calculus actually shows that cutting funds for resilience-building solutions would inevitably sacrifice more with blood, through military intervention, when a conflict hits a boiling point; or toward emergency and disaster response when there are food shortages, refugee influxes, and health epidemics.


Foreign aid or more ammunition?

U.S. military leaders are the first to advocate for proactive and coordinated development initiatives to prevent conflict and war, knowing that our men and women in uniform pay the highest cost in war. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”

According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, prioritizing development would be 60 times less expensive than military intervention and the subsequent assistance required for helping nations rebuild in the aftermath.

Although it’s supported and sensible, this is an understandably difficult strategy to sell because successful prevention does not attract popular attention. There are no videos and photos when a crisis is averted. There are no “hero” awards and higher approval ratings. And we live in an age of instant gratification where mere activity is mistaken for progress.

We cannot continue operating in civilian/military silos or relying on hard power alone. Prevention must be the objective key part of our national security strategy. Then, and only then, will aid no longer be seen as charity — but as an essential, modern tool of US national security, and an investment in our economic prosperity.


UN stresses that humanitarian funds urgently needed in Yemen

Voicing concern over lack of humanitarian access – particularly for medicine and medical supplies – in war-torn Yemen, a senior United Nations relief official has called on all parties to the conflict to ensure urgent and unrestricted access to people in need across the country.

“Giving the UN and humanitarian partners safe and unimpeded access to those in need would be a strong demonstration by the warring parties of their concern for the Yemeni people,” said Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.

According to the statement, administrative delays at ports, checkpoints, and interference with aid delivery have hampered efforts to transport medicine and medical supplies to people in need in a timely manner.

The access is all the more important now given the current threat of famine and outbreaks of cholera in locations throughout the country. Some 17 million Yemenis are battling food insecurity, making it the largest “hunger crisis” in the world.

Also in the statement, Mr. McGoldrick underscored the urgent need for additional resources and called on the international community to fund the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan.

“All commitments made during the pledging conference need to materialize at once,” stressed Mr. McGoldrick in the statement, adding: “While Yemen awaits for peace, humanitarian action is saving lives every day across the entire country.”

[UN News Centre]

Further cuts to Australia’s Foreign Aid budget

In a disturbing trend, Australia’ foreign aid budget is being lowered again by $300 million over the next four years. Earlier this week The Australian reported that the money would be diverted to Australia’s intelligence agencies to boost the war on terror.

John Hickey, the CEO of Baptist World Aid, told Eternity, “We understand that protection and security is important, but the aid budget is vitally important for Australia as a wealthy nation to play it’s [part] as a global leader in helping to address the needs of vulnerable people around the world. … It seems that the government is not taking its responsibilities as seriously as we think it should around caring for vulnerable people around the world.”

With the hunger crisis across parts of Africa reaching catastrophic levels, Hickey says, “we believe it’s time to increase our collective commitment for the sake of people in extreme difficulty, rather than decreasing it further.”

Tim Costello, chief advocate of World Vision Australia, told Eternity, “At a time of the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War Two, yet another budget cut in aid is devastating,” says Costello, referring to the 60 million displaced people across the world. “The war in Syria, and famine in Africa; the only practical hope for them is humanitarian aid and development aid.”

“For Christians who take Matthew 25 seriously, both in their personal giving and lives, and in a nation (Australia) that still is the third richest on earth, to have checked out of sharing the load of desperate people, is really not just a failure of what Jesus teaches, but a failure of the Australian idea of a fair go.”

The CEO of Common Grace, a group of Christians passionate about justice, Scott Sanders, told Eternity, “As Christians, we should be deeply concerned at the latest round of slated cuts to Australia’s aid program. Our government has again chosen to place our self-interest above our responsibility to love our neighbor, to support our region, and to play our part in addressing the injustice of poverty in our world.


Executive Director of humanitarian organization held in South Sudan

Officials with Unity Cultural and Development Center, a nonprofit humanitarian organization, said security operatives arrested its executive director and have yet to provide a reason for his arrest.

An official with the organization said Angelo Bensencio Mangu was detained two weeks ago and his colleagues have been contacting security operatives to try to find out the reason for his arrest. His wife, Leticia Simom Adriano, says she has visited the security detention facility in Wau where he is being held but has not been allowed to see or speak to him.

“UCDC is one of the lead agencies in food assistance distribution in six IDPs sites. … We definitely regret the suspension and the consequences that it is already having on the vulnerable communities that we serve in Wau,” Yhohanna Philip, program coordinator for the organization, said.

Philip said some of the assets confiscated by security operatives in Wau are being used by the military, which is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. “Surprisingly, it has come to our notice that the detained Land Cruiser pickup plate No. SSD 822 G- was seen last Thursday moving in and around Wau town carrying armed soldiers and supplies.”

Stephen Robo Musa, who heads a civil society network in Wau, is … calling on the security operatives to release Bensencio or have him tried him in a court of law if he has committed any crime.

[Voice of America]

A Surgeon in the Village

“A Surgeon in the Village” is the story of neurosurgeon Dilan Ellegala and his key role in a Norwegian-funded mission hospital in the hinterlands of Tanzania. The story neatly unfolds in three parts. The first traces Ellegala’s life from his birthplace in Kandy, Sri Lanka, through an almost natural trajectory to a medical career, which accelerated after his ever-supportive family emigrated to the United States. Ellegala eventually lands in Haydom hospital in Tanzania, where he discovers its austere conditions and unfamiliar cultural terrain. It is here that he meets and ultimately decides to train an assistant medical officer (AMO), Emmanuel Mayegga.

The second part puts Ellegala back in the U.S. where he struggles to balance his “day job” in an Oregon hospital with a persistent pull back to Tanzania. Ellegala soon cobbles together a non-governmental organization (NGO) of sorts in an effort to promote his “teach first” approach, which emphasizes the transfer of skills and knowledge as an alternative to the hand-out-driven paradigm of most global charities.

This story is compelling enough on its own, and author Tony Bartelme tells it very well. Embedded within it are two themes that thoughtfully converge upon the relationship between Ellegala and his Tanzanian counterparts in particular, and between the Western and developing worlds more generally.

First is global health. To get at this, Bartelme pauses occasionally to give the history of Western medicine and explain the basics of neuroscience. What this does is contrast the broader challenges of global health and the hard realities of practicing medicine in the African context. For instance, Bartelme notes that while Ellegala was at Haydom, there were a paltry three CT machines for all of Tanzania, and 70 surgeons for a population of 40 million.

The book’s second theme is anchored in what Teju Cole has elsewhere called the “White Savior Industrial Complex.” Here Ellegala confronts the tendency of Westerners to patronize Africans in order to provide an experience for themselves. For instance, he is driven to madness by foreign medical students sitting in the front row during Haydom’s staff meetings, treating Tanzanians like “the hired help.” Above all, Ellegala is dismayed by the cycles of dependency that seem to plague both large-scale development aid programs and short-term medical missions. Bartelme seems refreshingly aware that even thinking about such things amounts to a self-indulgent validation of privilege in and of itself.

[The Post and Courier]

Ivanka Trump discusses humanitarian crises with US Ambassador to UN

The first daughter, Ivanka Trump, scheduled an unannounced meeting last week at the White House with Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to explore ways to address some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, including looming famines from Somalia to Yemen and aid blockades in Syria.

The collaboration by two of the administration’s most influential women signaled an intent to raise the profile of American support for humanitarian relief around the world at a time when President Donald Trump’s budget advisors have been calling for steep financial cuts in foreign aid.

In an effort to dramatize humanitarian needs abroad, Haley is planning to take a trip to Jordan and Turkey in the near future to highlight the plight of millions of suffering Syrian civilians, including nearly half a million people forced to endure sieges by government and rebel forces.

Aid advocates said while they welcome Haley and Trump’s interest in humanitarian issues, they see the administration moving in a different direction. The State Department, meanwhile, has yet to fill its most senior humanitarian positions, including the director of USAID, and the top posts that deal with refugees, humanitarian affairs, and conflict resolution.

[Foreign Policy]

Millennials are changing charitable giving

Many people think of Millennials as self-centered, selfie-snapping, uber-texting, uber-riding, narcissists. Even some Millennials share this opinion. Johnny Oleksinski, a Millennial himself, wrote in the New York Post:

“This is my number one rule: Do whatever millennials don’t. Definite no-nos include quitting a job or relationship the moment my mood drops from ecstatic to merely content; expecting the world to kowtow to my every childish whim; and assuming that I am always the most fascinating person in the room, hell, the zip code.”

He sounds like he’s loads of fun to be around.

But is this true? Are Millennials really the most selfish generation of all time? Are Millennials only obsessed with the Kardashians and Snapchat?

Millennials care more about others than you might think. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report reported that 84 percent of Millennials made a charitable contribution in 2015.

Read about 6 ways that Millennials are changing the face of charitable giving

Yemen war causing devastating humanitarian crisis

Pope Francis says he is praying for the safe return of a priest kidnapped 14 months ago in Yemen, yet again highlighting his concern for the country which is plummeting into what the UN is calling the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Millions of people continue to suffer in Yemen, a country struggling with military conflict, famine, and a failing health system, with a child dying every ten minutes. Humanitarian organizations are working hard to bring fresh water and medical aid to the people of Yemen, but their efforts are challenged by the ongoing situation in the nation.

“Sana’a airport has been closed since last August. Even if people have money, they cannot go for medical care. …It takes us, for example, three days … to send one person out of Yemen,” said CARE International Country Director Wael Ibrahim.

Ibrahim argues that it is the duty of humanitarian organizations and international governments to help. “Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, at the bottom of the UN development index…Yemen cannot survive on aid alone. There has to be an investment in the development and recovery activities. We would like to see more money going into growing food, building infrastructure, facilitating the opening of the airport, and so forth.”

The Australian government recently announced their pledge to the humanitarian efforts in Yemen, saying they will give $10 billion. Ibrahim hopes this action will show the world that Yemen is important and needs to be addressed.

[Vatican Radio]

5 takeaways from the Asia Pacific Humanitarian Leadership Conference

The inaugural Asia Pacific Humanitarian Leadership Conference, held in Melbourne from April 26 to 28, was an opportunity to discuss and debate the future and direction of humanitarian response. Below are five key takeaways:

  1. Traditional humanitarian leadership styles are unsustainable in the current global environment. More involvement of the private sector, blurring the division between humanitarian and development, smarter use of resources and better engagement with local communities were important factors good leaders need to develop smarter humanitarian responses, said several speakers. Leadership styles should change to reflect changing needs.
  2. Localization and the humanitarian ‘power play’ – Localization was a major theme, with many arguing it will be a key aspect of humanitarian reform — providing greater resources by building capability for local leadership in response. Successful strategies involving localization could involve respect for national decision making, and up to 75 percent of humanitarian funds channeled through local and national organizations within 10 years.
  3. Converting lessons learned into change. Traditional information sharing is an individual-led knowledge management approach. A management-led knowledge management approach was instead recommended. As an iterative approach, new knowledge and lessons could continue to be incorporated into approach, evolving and improving humanitarian responses over time.
  4.  Reintegration is the ‘sweet spot’ between humanitarian and development. Discussions of blurring the lines between the humanitarian and development sectors — a “sweet spot” between the two sectors. Reintegration is a process by which returnees are able to maintain sustainable livelihoods, access safe services and reintegrate into communities within their country of origin. Calvert explained it involved the “poorest of the poor” and amongst the most vulnerable refugees returning to their country or origin — both voluntarily and not.
  5. Despite the changing environments, ethics and principles need to be at the core of humanitarian response. Leonard Blazeby, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Mission in Australia, shared that a humanitarian leader needs to be a known entity in an actual position and an actual person. And that person needs to uphold humanitarian values, principles and ethics.