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Issue No: 251
August 19, 2006

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Human Rights Monitor

Playing Politics With Aid

An unholy trinity in the war on terrorism

In light of recent changes in the way U.S. administers foreign aid, the Oakland Institute's new policy brief, "Playing politics with aid: The unholy trinity of defense, diplomacy and development in the war on terrorism", challenges Bush administration's efforts to bring the administration of aid under the control of the State Department and tie foreign assistance to U.S. strategic military interests. At a time when the U.S. foreign aid has been made a central team member of the Bush administration's war on terrorism, the policy brief advocates that it is in the interest of the United States to ensure that each dollar of development aid is invested in building self-reliant societies abroad instead of subjecting them to its short-term foreign and military policy goals.

"The 9/11 Commission Report recommended that the U.S. government should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treating people humanely... and be generous and caring to our neighbors. Unfortunately, foreign assistance as the third pillar of U.S. national security policy, along with military power and diplomacy, is shifting aid away from poverty-focused assistance to poor countries," said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Institute and the author of the report.

Today development assistance constitutes only 30 percent of the U.S. foreign aid budget, while military and economic aid for strategic allies constitutes more than half of the same budget. The 2007 foreign operations budget further reduces poverty-focused development assistance programs, including cuts in child survival and health fund, development assistance, disaster and famine assistance, by over $400 million.

Playing politics with aid: The unholy trinity of defense, diplomacy and development in the war on terrorism evaluates the recent overhaul of the U.S. foreign assistance programs, including the centralization of foreign aid, "forward deployment" of diplomats which will relocate hundreds of foreign service positions from Europe and Washington to the Middle East and Asia in an effort described as transformational diplomacy. "The unstated implication of these moves is that the pro-Bush administration policy advocates will replace the more traditional aid experts and coordinate closely with the U.S. military through political advisors," said Mittal. "The end goal being, to ease the process of aligning foreign assistance programs with foreign policy goals."

The policy brief proposes that it is time for Bush administration to step back and rethink its development strategy and the role of foreign assistance in the war on terrorism. Properly targeted aid can benefit people by improving healthcare, education, electricity, clean water, help fight disease and poverty, and address growing inequality, thereby helping build strong democracies. In other words, well-targeted foreign assistance can make the world a safer place for all of us.

Compiled by Law Desk.


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