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Opinions: PR For U.S. Foreign Aid; African Food Security

U.S. Aid Doesn’t Need To Be Branded

“Foreign aid is a much cheaper way of conducting a country’s foreign policy than the military – and in many cases it can be much more effective, too,” Reuters’ Felix Salmon writes on his blog. He notes a recent quote from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: “We have to fight to get the U.S. government’s label on our material because a lot of our aid workers and our NGO partners are afraid to have association with the U.S. government … So the American taxpayer is looking at this and saying, ‘We want to help those people. That’s a terrible disaster. But they don’t even want to admit that it’s coming from us?'”

“It’s one thing to espouse a generous foreign-aid policy on the grounds that you will ultimately do well by it in terms of domestic security. But it’s something else entirely to try to squeeze every last ounce of PR value out of that foreign aid, even if doing so puts the lives of aid workers at risk,” Salmon writes.

“Let’s hope that Clinton and [U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard] Holbrooke back down on their hard line here, especially since the value of the U.S. branding is so anecdotal and fluffy, while the cost is clear and harsh,” he states. “It might not be particularly American, but sometimes the most noble kind of aid is the aid you’re not always rushing to take credit for” (10/13). 

Climate Change Does Not Doom Africa’s Food Security

In a Christian Science Monitor opinion piece, G. Pascal Zachary, an Arizona State University professor and the editor of Africa Works, argues that climate change will not severely threaten Africa’s food security because the continent is adapting and has the potential for more changes.

“To be sure, climate change complicates an already complex dyanmic in sub-Saharan Africa between land, people and resources. Yet friends of Africa around the world make matters no easier by paying insufficient attention to the potential adaptations that Africans on the ground can make in response to new climate patterns,” he writes. “The growing quality of African farmers, who have been profiting, if unevenly, from rising commodity prices, also should mean that rural Africans possess a growing capacity to make useful adaptations to climate change,” Zachary notes before highlighting the potential for African farmers to start using irrigation, which is “virtually absent from the African farm landscape.”

“Of course, Africans must take the lead in adapting to climate change in their own region. But the situation is neither as hopeless nor impossible,” he writes. “Tactically, the lessons that can be drawn from this analysis seem indisputable. Encourage Africans who are doing the right things to keep doing them. Put international money into ‘adaptation’ funds. Conduct Africa-specific studies of the trajectory of climate change in the region but do so carefully, recognizing that more science, at least in the near term, will only produce more uncertainty,” Zachary concludes (10/13).

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