Our Fate Is Linked to Helping Others
By David Beckmann on August 15, 2012
© The New York Times
This is not the time to cut back on international development assistance. For every dollar our government spends, only less than one cent (0.6 cents) is spent on foreign aid. The return on our small foreign aid investment can be measured in the millions of people we are helping throughout the world, and in our country’s economic well-being and national security.
It may be difficult to relate our current domestic economic problems with those of poor people thousands of miles away. But when President John F. Kennedy established our foreign aid system more than 50 years ago, he stressed our country’s moral, economic and political obligations to promote development abroad. His words then are still true now:
“To fail to meet those obligations now would be disastrous, and, in the long run, more expensive. For widespread poverty and chaos lead to a collapse of existing political and social structures which would inevitably invite the advance of totalitarianism into every weak and unstable area. Thus our own security would be endangered and our prosperity imperiled. A program of assistance to the underdeveloped nations must continue because the nation’s interest and the cause of political freedom require it.”
Of course, President Kennedy’s world was vastly different from today’s. Reform is necessary for the foreign aid system to be modernized to meet the unique challenges of the 21st century. More than 200 development and advocacy organizations and corporations banded together as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network to facilitate these changes and work with the administration and Congress to maximize the impact of our international development assistance.
Successful reforms will make the most of our limited foreign aid dollars. This means improving coordination, increasing transparency and accountability, and ensuring that recipients of foreign aid are accorded more ownership of the development efforts under way in their own countries.
Whether we like it or not, whether we have serious economic problems in our country or not, our fate is inexorably tied to the fate of poor peoples around the world.
The Rev. David Beckmann, an economist, is president of Bread for the World.