April 17th, 2014
11:26 AM ET

Does foreign aid work?

Fareed speaks with Helene Gayle, president of CARE USA, and Bill Easterly, professor of economics at New York University and author of The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, about whether foreign aid is effective. Watch the video for the full discussion.

So the context here is Bill Gates did his annual letter in which he argued that our foreign aid has been astonishingly effective and that people should stop attacking it.  One of the people who has attacked it and whom Gates mentions by name often when he makes this point is Bill Easterly. So, Bill, what is your response to Gates' basic argument?

Easterly: Well, you know what sends me at the moment is that foreign aid is really on the wrong side of the debate that we see going on right now in the world between freedom and autocracy.  And we see, too often, the aid agencies and the philanthropists, like even Mr. Gates himself, siding with the autocrats in many poor countries against the poor people who are rising up, seeking their own freedom.  But aid is not on their side.

Well, but that's not fair.  What he's arguing is that  the aid given to any country, particularly if it's aid for public health, which is a lot of what Helene does...I should let you.  You make the case...

Gayle: I think the case has been made that aid is very effective and that being able to provide resources in the right way makes a difference.  It saves lives.  It educates children.  It helps to feed people.  And I think we know that, for instance, rates of poverty have decreased dramatically over the last decades.

And so I think the numbers are there that show that, clearly, aid has made a difference. I think the debate is really around how can we make aid more effective.


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Topics: Aid
January 25th, 2014
12:49 PM ET

The myths of foreign aid

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

I’m in Davos, Switzerland, the site of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. I usually use our “What in the World” section to give you my thoughts about something that struck me. But I’m going to cede this space to someone else today – Bill Gates.

His annual letter is out. It debunks three myths about fighting poverty and has gotten attention for its claim that by 2035, there will be no more poor countries in the world (using today’s definition of poor, of course).

But what caught my eye was myth number two: foreign aid is a big waste. Actually, this might not strike many as a myth. Lots of people believe that what we send abroad doesn’t really help countries alleviate poverty and develop. Well, Gates does a very nice job carefully explaining why foreign aid has in fact been a pretty spectacular success. The largest piece of evidence for this is literally the life-saving effect of aid.


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Topics: Aid • Development • United States • What in the World?
World must back stability in Somalia
September 24th, 2013
11:51 AM ET

World must back stability in Somalia

By President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is the president of Somalia. The views expressed are his own.

The deadly attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi has reminded the world that terrorists don’t respect national borders, and people everywhere have a stake in stability and security in East Africa.

As my government marks its one-year anniversary as Somalia’s first democratically-elected administration in more than 20 years, we have made considerable progress, including driving the terrorist al-Shabaab network out of our capital, Mogadishu, and major cities and towns all around the country, as well as reforming our public financial management systems.

But the terrible assault in Nairobi underscores why the international community must continue to support state-building in Somalia. This is the message that I am bringing during my visit to the United States, including meetings with senior administration officials and members of Congress, as well as an address to the United Nations General Assembly.

In many important ways, our nation is pulling itself together after two decades of civil war. With the assistance of the African Union’s brave peacekeeping troops, we have weakened al-Shabaab while making great strides toward resolving inter-clan disputes and sharply reducing offshore piracy.


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Topics: Africa • Aid • Somalia • State-building
Why Africa still needs aid
April 5th, 2013
09:04 AM ET

Why Africa still needs aid

By Bob Geldof, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bob Geldof is a member of the Africa Progress Panel, chaired by Kofi Annan, and a musician, businessman and campaigner against poverty. The views expressed are his own.

With the U.K. becoming the first G-8 country to spend 0.7 percent of its gross national income on overseas aid, the government’s recent budget was an exciting moment for the international development community.

But with extreme poverty falling all around Africa, and the continent’s mineral resources providing more revenue now than international aid, some observers are asking whether international aid is out of date.

Africa needs trade, not aid, they say. In truth, however, they still need both.


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Topics: Africa • Aid
A Thanksgiving agenda for U.S. foreign aid
November 21st, 2012
12:03 PM ET

A Thanksgiving agenda for U.S. foreign aid

By Sarah Jane Staats, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Sarah Jane Staats is director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program at the Center for Global Development. The views expressed are her own.

This Thanksgiving, President Barack Obama should invite one more guest to his national security table: the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Aside from pardoning Cobbler or Gobbler from this year’s turkey dinner, giving USAID a permanent seat on the National Security Council is one of three stroke-of-the-pen decisions he could take before his second term begins that would be good for U.S. global development policy.

From Kabul to Khartoum, development is a critical tool to advance U.S. foreign policy and national security. Obama says the military can’t confront these challenges alone. Nor can the military and U.S. diplomats. Obama promised during his first term to strengthen U.S. development alongside defense and diplomacy. But development is still at the kids’ table while the “adults” – State Department, Defense, Treasury, Homeland Security, and others – make the “important” decisions.


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Topics: Aid • United States
Why USAID is leaving Russia
September 20th, 2012
10:31 AM ET

Why USAID is leaving Russia

By Matthew Rojansky, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Matthew A. Rojansky is deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The views expressed are his own.

According to the U.S. State Department, the Russian government has decided to end the activities of USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, in the Russian Federation. For the past two decades, the USAID mission in Russia has channeled U.S. foreign assistance totaling almost $3 billion to organizations, causes and projects intended to support “social and economic development” in Russia. In that time, USAID has done some real good, but considering the two sides’ fundamentally different views about the purposes of U.S. assistance, and the Kremlin’s acute sensitivity in the midst of widespread opposition protests, the decision to shut it down is no surprise.

From the Kremlin’s perspective, the very notion of Russians receiving foreign assistance is unacceptable – an affront to Russia’s national dignity. As the world’s largest country, a nuclear superpower, and the hub of one of history’s great civilizations, Russia finds it hard to accept any kind of assistance from abroad, no matter how necessary or useful it might be. While the high cost of the post-Communist transition permitted Russian officialdom to swallow its pride for a time, with a fast-growing Russian economy now buoyed by high global energy prices, there is no such excuse for accepting handouts, especially from the West.


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Topics: Aid • Russia
How food aid undermines Kim Jong Un
An undated picture of Kim Jong Un released by North Korea's Central News Agency on March 4, 2012.
April 15th, 2012
10:33 PM ET

How food aid undermines Kim Jong Un

Editor’s Note: Gordon G. Chang is a columnist at Forbes.com. He is the author of The Coming Collapse of China and Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World. Follow him on Twitter.

By Gordon G. Chang - Special to CNN

On Friday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner announced that after North Korea’s failed but highly provocative long-range missile test, the U.S. would not provide “nutritional assistance” to the troubled state as contemplated by an agreement announced February 29. The operating assumption in Washington is that food aid helps the regime now headed by Kim Jong Un.

In some ways, that assumption is correct. Aid, after all, is fungible. Every dollar of food assistance means Kim’s government can devote one less buck to lowland agriculture and one more to improving the obvious defects of its long-range missiles.

There are many things that the Obama administration should be doing to stop North Korea’s missile program, but refusing to feed hungry and victimized people is not one of them. FULL POST

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Topics: Aid • Food • Military • North Korea
Sachs: Breakthrough leadership for the World Bank
March 27th, 2012
12:32 PM ET

Sachs: Breakthrough leadership for the World Bank

Editor's Note: Jeffrey D. Sachs is Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals. For more from Sachs, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

By Jeffrey D. SachsProject Syndicate

Last month, I called for the World Bank to be led by a global development leader rather than a banker or political insider. “The Bank needs an accomplished professional who is ready to tackle the great challenges of sustainable development from day one,” I wrote. Now that US President Barack Obama has nominated Jim Kim for the post, the world will get just that: a superb development leader.

Obama has shown real leadership with this appointment. He has put development at the forefront, saying explicitly, “It’s time for a development professional to lead the world's largest development agency.”

Kim’s appointment is a breakthrough for the World Bank, which I hope will extend to other global institutions as well. Until now, the United States had been given a kind of carte blanche to nominate anyone it wanted to the World Bank presidency. That is how the Bank ended up with several inappropriate leaders, including several bankers and political insiders who lacked the knowledge and interest to lead the fight against poverty. FULL POST

February 17th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

U.S. leverage over Egypt: Use it or lose it

Editor's Note: Gabriel Kohan is a former Israel Government Fellow and Mark Donig is a former Dean’s Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya’s Program for the Diplomatic Corps. The authors can be followed on Twitter at @TheMidEastBeast.

By Gabriel Kohan and Mark Donig - Special to CNN

In 1967, after the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Sinai Peninsula abandoned its position as Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser postured toward armed conflict with Israel, then-Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., Abba Eban, compared UNEF to “an umbrella that is taken away as soon as it begins to rain.” The international community, rather than use its leverage, willingly cowed to Egypt, and war soon followed.

Today, Eban’s sentiments could be aptly applied to America’s reticence to use its own leverage over Egypt. Just over a year after President Mubarak’s ouster, U.S.-Egyptian relations are in crisis as 19 American NGO workers face trial in Egypt for their work to promote democracy. And yet, American aid still flows to Egypt unabated as Cairo continues to undermine U.S. interests. FULL POST

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Topics: Aid • Egypt
February 7th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

Lindsay: Should the United States still give Egypt foreign aid?

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

What if you want to give foreign aid but the intended beneficiaries say they don’t want it? That’s the dilemma the Obama administration faces right now in the Middle East.Two weeks ago, the State Department announced it planned to provide “more immediate benefits” to the Egyptian people. Washington would redirect non-urgent aid originally earmarked for other countries to Egypt to fund quick-impact projects. The idea is to help the most populous and influential country in the Arab world make the difficult transition from autocratic rule to a successful and prospering democracy.

According to a Gallup poll just out, however, most Egyptians don’t want America’s help. Seven in ten Egyptians say they oppose U.S. economic aid to Egypt; three-quarters oppose Washington’s efforts to fund Egypt’s civil society (i.e., pro-democracy) groups.  But Egyptians aren’t flatly opposed to foreign aid. By a margin of five-to-four they favor taking aid from international institutions, and they favor taking aid from other Arab countries by nearly the same margin that they oppose American aid. FULL POST

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Topics: Aid • Egypt • United States
Patrick: Dispelling myths about foreign aid
(Getty Images)
January 25th, 2012
06:50 PM ET

Patrick: Dispelling myths about foreign aid

Editor's Note: Stewart Patrick is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security.

By Stewart Patrick, CFR.org

Unsurprisingly, foreign aid has once again become a political football in this year’s primary season. Today’s GOP presidential candidates regularly bash it, echoing “Mr. Republican” Robert Taft—who dismissed overseas assistance more than six decades ago as “pouring money down a rat hole.”

But public opposition to providing foreign aid is one of the hoariest misconceptions in U.S. foreign policy.

In fact, U.S. citizens support foreign aid, particularly when it is targeted to alleviating poverty and humanitarian suffering. This is remarkable, given the magnitude by which Americans consistently overestimate the percentage of the federal budget actually devoted to foreign aid. These findings emerge from a newly updated digest of U.S. and international pollingon global issues developed by CFR and the Program on International Policy Attitudes. They suggest that bashing foreign aid—as most of the leading GOP candidates for president have done—is a campaign strategy of dubious value. It may provide red meat to the Republican base, but it ignores the generous impulses of the American majority. FULL POST

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Topics: 2012 Election • Aid
Should U.S. aid be used to promote gay rights abroad?
Supporters take part in an annual gay pride march in Manila, Philippines. Saturday is Human Rights Day.
December 7th, 2011
06:59 PM ET

Should U.S. aid be used to promote gay rights abroad?

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter

By James M. Lindsay

The Obama administration announced this week that it would use U.S. aid to promote gay rights abroad. President Obama issued a memorandum laying out the new policy, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva that “gay rights and human rights are… one and the same.”

Rick Perry was the first GOP presidential candidate to criticize the new policy:

Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.

But there is a troubling trend here beyond the national security nonsense inherent in this silly idea. This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong. FULL POST

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Topics: Aid • Foreign Policy • Sex • United States
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