What are the goals and objectives of U. S. foreign assistance? Foreign assistance supports a great many objectives. Especially since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, foreign aid has taken on a more strategic sense of importance, cast frequently in terms of contributing to the global war on terrorism. In September 2002, President Bush released his Administration’s National Security Strategy that established global development, for the first time, as the third “pillar” of U. S.national security, along with defense and diplomacy.
Also in 2002, executive branch foreign assistance budget justifications began to underscore the war on terrorism as the top foreign aid priority, highlighting amounts of U. S. assistance to about 30 “front-line” states in the terrorism war. The substantial reconstruction programs in Afghanistan and Iraq — which total more in FY2004 than the combined budgets of all other aid programs — are also part of the emphasis on using foreign aid to combat terrorism.
At roughly the same time that fighting terrorism became the leading concern of American foreign aid, the Bush Administration announced other significant initiatives that have defined and strengthened two additional key foreign assistance goals: promoting economic growth and reducing poverty, and combating the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a new aid delivery concept, established in early 2004, that is intended to concentrate significantly higher amounts of U.S. resources in a few low- and low-middle income countries that have demonstrated a strong commitment to political, economic, and social reforms.
If fully funded, $5 billion will be available by FY2006 to support these “best development performers” in order to accelerate economic growth and lower the number of people living in absolute poverty. Addressing global health problems has further become a core U. S. aid objective in recent years.
Congress created a separate appropriation account for Child Survival and Health activities in the mid-1990s and increased funding for international HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease programs. President Bush’s announcement at his 2003 State of the Union message of a five-year, $15 billion effort to combat AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis has added greater emphasis to this primary foreign assistance objective.
Beyond these recently emerging foreign aid goals, other prominent objectives that have continued since the early 1990s have included supporting peace in the Middle East through assistance to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians; fostering democratization and stability for countries in crisis, such as Bosnia, Haiti, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Liberia; facilitating democratization and free market economies in Central Europe and the former Soviet Union;
Suppressing international narcotics production and trafficking through assistance to Colombia and other Andean drug-producing countries; and alleviating famine and mitigating refugee situations in places throughout the world. Arguably, from the end of World War II until the early 1990s, the underlying rationale for providing foreign aid was the same as that for all U. S. foreign policy —the defeat of communism. U. S.aid programs were designed to promote economic development and policy reforms, in large part to create stability and reduce the attraction to communist ideology and to block Soviet diplomatic links and military advances.
The programs also supported other U. S. policy goals, such as reducing high rates of population growth, promoting wider access to health care, and expanding the availability of basic education in the developing world, advancing U. S. trade interests, and protecting the environment. If these secondary goals were also achieved, U. S. aid programs could be promoted as delivering “more bang for the buck”. With the end of the Cold War, no consensus emerged over what should be the new overarching rationale for U. S. aid programs. Consequently, many of these secondary objectives of foreign assistance are more vulnerable to challenge.
Some may ultimately be discarded, while others are being incorporated into new initiatives, representing some of the emerging foreign aid priorities noted above. The Clinton Administration emphasized the promotion of “sustainable development” as the new, post-Cold War main strategy of those parts of the foreign aid program under the aegis of the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Economic assistance supported six inter-related goals: achievement of broad-based, economic growth; development of democratic systems; stabilization of world population and protection of human health; sustainable management of the environment; building human capacity through education and training; and meeting humanitarian needs.
Early in the Bush Administration these goals were modified around three“strategic pillars”of 1) economic growth, agriculture, and trade; 2) global health; and3) democracy, conflict prevention, and humanitarian assistance. More recently, aUSAID White Paper on American foreign aid identified five “core” operational goals of U. S. foreign assistance: !
Promoting transformational development, especially in the areas of governance, institutional capacity, and economic restructuring; ! Strengthening fragile states;! Providing humanitarian assistance! Supporting U. S. geostrategic interests, particularly in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel; and! Mitigating global and international ills, including HIV/AIDS. 2 Generally speaking, different types of foreign aid support different objectives.
Focusing on any single element of the aid program would produce a different sense of the priority of any particular U. S. objective. But there is also considerable overlap between categories of aid. Multilateral aid serves many of the same objectives as bilateral development assistance, although through different channels. International financial institutions have become the predominant players in Central Europe and the former Soviet Union, serving U. S. economic and security objectives in those regions. Both military assistance and economic security assistance serve U. S. objectives in the Middle East and South Asia.