Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press
Release Date January 2009
Though the United States of America faces its toughest budgetary and economic challenges since the Great Depression, it cannot afford to eliminate, or even reduce, its foreign assistance spending. For clear reasons of political influence, national security, global stability, and humanitarian concern the United States must, at a minimum, stay the course in its commitments to global health and development, as well as basic humanitarian relief. The Bush administration sought not only to increase some aspects of foreign assistance, targeting key countries (Iraq and Afghanistan) and specific health targets, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President’s Malaria Initiative, but also executed an array of programmatic and structural changes in U.S. aid efforts. By 2008, it was obvious to most participants and observers that too many agencies were engaged in foreign assistance, and that programs lacked coherence and strategy. Well before the financial crisis of fall 2008, there was a strong bipartisan call for foreign assistance reform, allowing greater efficiency and credibility to U.S. efforts, enhancing engagement in multilateral institutions and programs, and improving institutional relations between U.S. agencies and their partners, including nongovernmental organizations, recipient governments, corporate and business sector stakeholders, faith-based organizations, academic-based implementers and researchers, foundations and private donors, United Nations agencies, and other donor nations.
This report describes:
– A brief lay of the foreign assistance landscape, outlining the current status of U.S. investment in health and development, the global donor panorama, basic needs assessment for poor countries, and forecast needs levels for 2009 to 2015;
– The rationale for continued, robust American engagement in foreign assistance, not just in spite of the economic downturn, but because of it;
– A consensus view of what works, what needs to be improved, and what still needs to be examined regarding how the U.S. planned and executed foreign assistance in fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2008;
– Consensus recommendations for the future of foreign aid under a new presidential administration and Congress.