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Opinions: U.S. Foreign Aid Effectiveness; Faith-Based Groups’ Work Abroad

Foreign Aid Is A Smart Investment

Although “foreign assistance is a very small proportion of the overall budget, its effectiveness is both measurable and priceless,” Sheila Nix, the executive director of ONE, writes in a Roll Call opinion piece. “These investments are helping shape a world where no one dies from malaria, no more children are born with HIV and families are able to feed themselves and others through the use of sustainable agriculture techniques. But this future reality is possible only with continued strong support from the United States,” according to Nix. She adds, “In addition to transforming lives, smart investments in the developing world also help prevent political strife. This clearly enhances our own national security.”

Nix writes: “The United States has always been a leader in efforts to improve the lives of the more than 1.4 billion people in extreme poverty. We have done this through smart investments in global health and development. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s not allow disease and despair to replace tangible progress. Congress and the president should work together to continue to fight global poverty. It is an investment with tremendous ability to make the world a more human and healthy place” (3/18).

Faith-Based Groups’ Experience Is A Good Investment For U.S. Taxpayers

In a Washington Times opinion piece, columnist Julia Duin writes about faith-based aid. Duin interviews Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, who served a term on President Barack Obama’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. According to Duin, Stearns’ committee recently sent along some recommendations to Obama, including one “to drastically increase the percent of foreign humanitarian monies to private voluntary organizations (PVOs) that are carrying a major load of humanitarian work worldwide.”

While USAID’s budget has been reduced, “groups such as CARE, Bread for the World, Habitat for Humanity, … others have shouldered much of the load. At the same time, the monies to these groups have shrunk from 33 percent several decades ago to 10 percent today, with the difference going to the Department of Defense and for-profit contractors. Neither of these have much experience in humanitarian aid,” Duin writes. Stearns told Duin: “PVOs have decades of experience working internationally on these issues … A lot of very specific knowledge about malaria protection, orphan care, water sanitation, safe childbirth, education and micro-finance is in this community. … When the U.S. government partners with World Vision or Catholic Relief [Services], they get all the benefit of that knowledge for the taxpayer dollar they invest” (3/18).

Federal Government Should Continue To Partner With Faith-Based Groups To Serve Those In Need 

“Faith-based charities have a proven, decades-long track record of effectiveness while serving the poor, the sick, the elderly and children-at-risk in America and throughout the world,” the three faith-based organization leaders from Obama’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships write in a Hill opinion piece. The writers outline why they disagree with those who argue that faith-based groups that prioritize hiring staff of the same faith “should be excluded from partnership with the U.S. government.” They go on to discuss how faith-based grantees use public funds.

“Simply put, ‘faith’ is what makes faith-based organizations what they are. Don’t all mission-driven organizations recruit and hire those who embrace their values and mission? Non-faith-based examples would include Planned Parenthood and the The Nature Conservancy,” according to the authors. “The President recognizes we must use every resource available to serve those in need.  Faith-based organizations, whether Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim, compelled by their shared mandate to serve the down-trodden, are at the forefront delivering social services around the globe. They don’t discriminate against those that they serve – so let’s not discriminate against them,” they conclude (Diament/McKenzie/Stearns, 3/16).     

Foreign Aid, Development Projects Are A ‘Vital’ Component Of National Security

“[I]t is vital that Congress support smart U.S. development and global poverty-fighting efforts as a key part of our national security strategy,” according to a Miami Herald opinion piece by Will Bennett, a technical sergeant who supported Air Force peacekeeping and wartime missions for 12 years. “Having served in the combat zone, I have seen firsthand the importance of foreign aid to our national security. … U.S. development efforts that are saving lives, building opportunity and adding to our security should not be cut. They need to be maintained and strengthened,” Bennett writes, noting the “great returns” from sanitation services and other development projects he witnessed in Iraq.

“Effective development, working hand-in-hand with accountable leadership and local communities in places like sub-Saharan Africa works to stabilize volatile areas and reduce the risk of regions becoming a security liability for the United States. Foreign development aid is critical to our national security strategy and must continue to be funded,” he concludes (3/16).