U.S. Foreign Aid Must Focus On Needs Of Recipient Nations, Will Not Be Successful If Marketed As ‘America First’

Devex: Opinion: ‘America First’ doesn’t work in foreign aid
Eric Bjornlund, co-founder and president of Democracy International, and adjunct professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University

“…We must help our development partners around the world to see how the policy and institutional changes we recommend work for them. It is harder to do that if we argue they should do those things because it will benefit us. In fact, we believe that international development will be of mutual benefit. To achieve the goals of an America First orientation to further the interests of Americans, we cannot sell our efforts as America First. In pursuit of greater efficiency and better alignment of foreign assistance with national interests, the Trump administration has hinted that it may fold USAID into the State Department. This would be a mistake. The State Department should focus on diplomacy and protecting American national interests, such as economic and security interests. At the same time, USAID can focus on long-term development challenges, which are better explained as being in the interests of recipient countries, even as they are simultaneously in the interests of the U.S. … Development assistance can only have an impact, and thus can only serve our long-term national interests, if it is focused on the needs and concerns of the recipients of that assistance. It is not about us; it’s about them. Such an approach is ultimately better both for them and for us” (5/24).