Opinions: Traditional Aid Groups’ Roles; ‘Smart Power’ Foreign Policy; Funding For MDGs

Traditional Aid Groups Continue To Play A Vital Role In Disaster Areas

In a post on the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog,” Joel Charny, vice president for humanitarian policy and practice at InterAction, highlights the role traditional aid groups play in disasters around the world, refuting the idea that the 2010 earthquake in Haiti showed that established groups “were becoming irrelevant in the face of a vast array of new aid providers, including corporations, celebrities, citizens groups and the military.”

“Some emergencies capture the imaginations of the global public, especially immense natural disasters that seem to choose their victims at random. … For crises that never have and never will compel the world’s attention, donor government support is vital. But for international relief and development work, the funding situation is turning grimmer,” Charny warns. “[T]he first quarter of this year demonstrates, the fundamental problem is rarely going to be too many agencies and resources. Rather, the core challenge is the inability of the international humanitarian community to reach people in need due to lack of security and funds,” he writes, acknowledging that traditional organizations “may indeed need a new business model in the humanitarian sector.”

Charny writes that the major aid challenges today are “in places far from the public eye.” He concludes: “Those violent places are where the challenges are greatest and where only committed professional agencies, including big NGOs, applying humanitarian principles and standards, are likely to be found” (4/13).

Budget Should Fund ‘Smart Power’ Foreign Policy

In a Foreign Policy opinion piece arguing that the U.S. should focus on what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has termed “smart power” approaches to international relations, Joseph Nye, Jr., a professor at Harvard University, notes that the recently proposed cuts to the State Department and foreign operations budgets “could put a serious dent in the United States’ ability to positively influence events abroad.”

“It is true that the U.S. military has an impressive operational capacity, but the practice of turning to the Pentagon because it can get things done leads to the image of an over-militarized foreign policy. … smart power is not so easy to carry out in practice. Diplomacy and foreign assistance are often underfunded and neglected, in part because of the difficulty of demonstrating their short-term impact on critical challenges,” according to Nye, who applauds the Obama administration’s efforts to integrate America’s soft- and hard-power tool kit.

“The defense budget affects almost all congressional constituencies in the United States; the budgets for State and USAID do not. The result is a foreign policy that rests on a defense giant and a number of pygmy departments,” Nye states. “Congress needs to be serious about deficit reduction, and it also needs to be serious about foreign policy. The events of the past week suggest it is serious about neither,” he concludes (4/12).

To Achieve MDGs, New Funding Sources Must Be Identified

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in a Huffington Post piece, “Last week I traveled through Europe to convey one message: The money governments invest in development is saving millions of lives, and improving hundreds of millions. The most important thing we can do now is build on that progress and continue working toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. To do that, we need more funding and new sources of funding.”

Gates aims to identify more funding sources for global health and development and will deliver the ideas in a report to government leaders at the G20 summit in November. To compile the report, “I’ll be talking with G20 members and other financial, economic and development experts. I’ll have three principles in mind throughout. The first is total transparency around all types of investments. The second is rigorous assessment of the cost-effectiveness of interventions, so we know we’re getting value for money. The third is impact evaluation, so we are clear about results and can learn lessons and improve,” Gates writes (4/12).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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