Aid: The Double-Edged Blade

By Simon Anholt

Foreign aid, in many ways, gives with one hand while it takes away with the other.

I have often commented in the past about the unintended damage done to the international standing and, consequently, the long term prospects of poorer countries by well-intentioned charity promotion, and in particular the negative ‘branding’ of Africa by aid celebrities like Geldof and Bono. Over the decades, with the best intentions in the world, their relentless depiction of Africa as one single, hopeless basket-case has harmed the long-term development prospects of the whole continent even as it has boosted donations. After all, while many people would happily donate money to a basket-case, few will think it prudent to invest in a basket-case, buy products or services produced in a basket-case, go on holiday to a basket-case, or hire somebody born and raised in a basket-case.

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Realizing the value of Foreign Aid

The importance of foreign aid programs in building capacity, empowering foreign populations, and denying physical and ideological sanctuary to our adversaries is finally coming to the forefront. The militarization of America’s foreign policy is more than Defense leadership in informational engagement and propagating a comprehensive approach to stability operations, but in the management of foreign aid for development. As was noted in a conference call with LTG Caldwell this week, the percentage of the foreign aid budget the Defense Department manages has skyrocketed.

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