With riots in Brazil, Turkey, and Egypt blazing across headlines worldwide, the summer of 2013 has certainly placed democracy in the hot seat. Meanwhile, another democratic revolution is taking place in East Europe. Now approaching its one month anniversary, the peaceful protests that continue to fill the streets of Bulgaria echo the sentiments expressed by their counterparts abroad.
“Our protests cannot match [those in Brazil, Turkey, and Egypt] in scale,” writes one Bulgarian commentator, “But we demand our share, however small it might be. It is ideas and determination that unite all these events.”
International aid’s minimal impact on the developing world has put the whole system into a bit of an existential crisis. As the developed world continues to struggle with economic recession, many have come to question the need to divest resources towards foreign countries when there is an abundance of problems to address at home. However, the real problem with aid is that very few people on the giving side actually know what happens with the aid and the impact it has on the ground.
CDA Collaborative Learning Projects (CDA), an American nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness of international aid, conducted a four year investigation into the cumulative benefits of international assistance in 15 different countries – that is, the effect of all aid projects on a certain area, rather than a specific case.
State-led humanitarian aid has long acted as a tool for the United States to engage with foreign countries and the developing world. However, while humanitarian aid has several short term goals, such as disaster relief, it has blended with long term development projects and even counterterrorism strategies.
The global financial crisis has considerably altered American support for foreign aid, as domestic issues consume the political environment. Furthermore, reports of U.S. aid projects abroad have revealed a glaring lack of oversight and the wasteful spending of millions of dollars. While calls for reform have arisen in the past year to reduce inefficiencies, tight budget constraints and special interest groups remain an obstacle to reform. Whether aid fulfills sustainable development goals or even has any meaningful impact remains a constant point of contention. As more careful studies are produced, the results appear grim.
Think tanks help to bridge the gap between research and decision making. Their work often helps not only policymakers but also the public at large to better understand and resolve the problems that most affect their country. However, even in the best of conditions, think tanks struggle to pass needed policy improvements. Obstacles that afflict think tanks in established democracies prove an even greater challenge to those working to advance government accountability in the developing world.
The Food for Peace Act (FPA) was implemented in a period of American agricultural surplus. In the aftermath of World War II, shipping food abroad was the most viable method of addressing global food insecurity for the United States. Today, Food for Peace’s main programs include:
Title I – Trade and Economic Development Assistance, which facilitates private support for food programs
Title II – Emergency and Development Assistance, which channels U.S. agricultural products in response to emergency and non-emergency food aid
Title III – Food for Development, which focuses on government to government grants to support food programs in the least developed countries
Title V – Farmer to Farmer, which focuses on technical assistance between farmers in developed and developing countries