Foreign Aid and the 28 Percent Myth

The crew of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) loads boxes of food and water into helicopters during humanitarian aid missions to Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. Image: Tyler J. Clements/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Harvard International Review on 11 March, 2015.

Public opinion on United States foreign aid varies widely depending on who is being asked. However, one domestic opinion on the matter is clear: we spend too much on foreign aid. In a 2013 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans wanted to either maintain or increase spending for almost all US government initiatives. Foreign aid was the only exception. Facing a national debt of more than sixteen trillions while news of humanitarian initiatives in foreign nations proliferate, it is not surprising that so many Americans believe the US should be cutting back on foreign aid. However, much of this sentiment is based on an ongoing misconception — the majority of Americans believes the US government spends 28 percent of its federal budget on foreign aid. In reality, foreign aid accounts for only 0.7 percent. Military aid, which is accounted for separately, makes up another 0.5 percent. » More

The Case for Better Aid to Pakistan: Climate, Health, Demographic Challenges Demand New Approach

Pakistani children play with a toy helicopter at Jabba Farm tent village in Shinkiari, Pakistan, Nov. 21, 2005. Image: US Navy/Wikimedia

This article was originally published on 2 March 2015 by New Security Beat, the blog of the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) at the Wilson Center.

In 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package for a country it had all but abandoned just 10 years earlier. Indeed, if one word can summarize the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, “volatile” might be it. Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has appropriated nearly $61 billion in aid to Pakistan – more than twice what it received since independence in 1947.

Though some remaining funds may still be disbursed, the latest round of aid came to a close last September amid growing dissatisfaction on both sides. The Department of State billed the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (or Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, also known as KLB) as an “innovative approach” to aid because of its attention to Pakistani priorities, its support of visible infrastructure projects, its focus on areas most susceptible to violent extremism, and its whole-of-government coordination. » More

As Crisis in Venezuela Deepens, Maduro’s Iron Fist Tightens

Venezuelan protester, symbolically wearing chains. Image: Carlos Díaz/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 4 March, 2015.

Since the death of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s political leadership has moved from charisma to authoritarianism. Support for Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution has fallen from 65% when the populist leader died to 22% today.

The revolution’s erstwhile steward is Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s current president and Chávez’s hand-picked successor. Maduro lacks his mentor’s extraordinary charm and intelligence – and to compensate, he is resorting to the iron fist.

Who is Nicolas Maduro?

As a teenager, Maduro aspired to have his own rock band, and was a fan of Led Zeppelin. In an interview with the Guardian, he referred to himself as a “a little bohemian”. Although he never finished high school, Maduro was able to build a successful political career. A robust man of 6’4″, he spent the 1980s working as a bus driver in the capital’s public transport system, where he founded and led an informal trade union. » More

“The Response Ulrich Beck Would Have Liked to Hear”

Artistic depiction of New York City. Image: Werner Kunz/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) in the 297th Edition of Opinión on 20 January, 2015.

The death of Ulrich Beck leaves us bereft of that always lucid, special perspective found in each of his articles or in the new publication that arrived on just the day that, for the umpteenth time, we were doubting our own theories or missing someone to lend a hand and help us understand the world. For Beck, as a sociologist, what happened in the world was what happened between people and groups, making “globalised patchwork generations” of their hopes and dreams, their fears, disappointments and frustrations. » More

The Push and Pull of the World’s Most Dangerous Migration Route – What’s Really Behind The Flock of Thousands to Europe These Days?

Migrants arriving on the island of Lampedusa in August 2007. Image: Sara Prestianni/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Politics in Spires on 22 February, 2015.

The  Mediterranean Sea is today’s most dangerous border between countries not at war with each other. Just last week, 300 persons departing Libya on four rubber dinghies have gone missing at sea, after drifting for days without food and water. News reports in the past six months have regularly commented upon the rising number of persons disembarking on Italy’s coastline – benefiting from its search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum. Despite the increase in new arrivals from 33,000 to 200,000, the life-saving mission has now been discarded. Italian policy makers believe Mare Nostrum is as responsible for overcrowded reception centres as it is for the rising number of persons risking their lives at sea. But is it truly to blame for the surge? Because more than 50 per cent of arrivals are either Syrian or Eritrean, news commentators have provided some other potential explanations. Some point to the protracted conflict in the Middle East, whilst others highlight the strain on neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq in continuing to receive thousands of Syrian refugees. “Poverty in Africa” is mentioned occasionally, and for the better informed, an oppressive military regime and indefinite conscription in Eritrea are to blame. Yet these supposed  ‘causes’ of the latest wave in irregular migration to Europe are speculative at most and have in fact been ongoing for many years now. » More

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