Helene Gayle

RECENT POSTS

The aid debate continues in the media and on blogs | 

The debate over aid does not want to go away, but it is moving away from general statements about whether it works or not. Regardless of who is right and what we believe, it is promising to see the conversation taking a far more constructive tone. However, the present discussions are not likely to convert people to the pro- or anti-aid camps.

The latest round of disagreement follows on the heels of NYU economist and aid skeptic Bill Easterly’s new book. In it, he argues that technocratic experts have undermined the rights of people around the world. Aid, at times, has been a tool to provide support for leaders that restrict things people can say and do in their countries. In the long term, that undermines advances within a country or region.

Easterly has been making the media rounds to debate whether foreign aid is on the wrong side of human rights. On Wednesday, Easterly joined CARE USA’s CEO Helene Gayle to debate foreign aid on Fareed Zakaria’s television show. Zakaria plays a moderator of sorts who seems a bit of an aid supporter.

Continue reading

After 9/11: How the global humanitarian agenda was changed, or not | 

Flickr, Dimitra Tzanos

Today is the tenth anniversary of the day after 9/11.

We’ve seen a torrent of amazing, compelling and painful stories of the terrorist attack over the past week or so. The narrative of that tragic event has become a touchstone for many of us, a way of explaining our sense of ourselves and of why we do what we do — here and overseas.

I’m interested in what has happened since.

Specifically, I wondered what has happened to our sense of ourselves as global citizens and how Sept. 11, 2001, may have altered matters of global health, foreign aid, development — basically, the global humanitarian agenda.

The short answer: It’s a mixed bag of good and bad, some clear signs of what many see as progress but also some disturbing lessons not learned.

Nearly 3,000 Americans died on Sept. 11, 2001. The world, for a while, rallied around us — including, it should be emphasized, many groups like the Muslim Brotherhood we nevertheless continue to eye with suspicion — as nearly everyone condemned this stunning crime against humanity.

We went to war, in Afghanistan and then Iraq (which turned out to have little to do with the attack or al-Qaeda).

U.S. Army

U.S. Army in Afghanistan

As the New York Times noted in its extensive special anniversary report The Reckoning, the largely military and national security response to this act of terrorism has so far cost us $3.3 trillion — not to mention the cost of lives of some 6,000 American soldiers and at least 100,000 Iraqi citizens.

It’s hard to imagine not retaliating to such an assault, but as The Economist noted, “America has precious little to show for this sacrifice apart from the disruption of al-Qaeda.” The editors add that Osama bin Laden, were he alive, “would have cause to feel satisfied” at the toll the attack has taken on the U.S. … and then suggests, unhelpfully perhaps, that we still need to keep our guard up.

So where are we with the global humanitarian agenda? Continue reading

Global health smarts | 

Flickr, alles-schlumpf

What makes global health smart?

As President Clinton’s former Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre said Monday at a forum on “smart global health,” some of the most effective tactics the military uses today are vaccines, food, water and shelter in a crisis.

“After Sept. 11, our response was anger … fear,” said Hamre, now president of the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. While a military response is obviously sometimes the right response, he said “smart power” is often much more effective than brute force at winning overseas in the long run.

After the 2004 massive earthquake that devastated parts of Indonesia, the U.S. military orchestrated a massive relief effort. Prior to this, Hamre noted, the approval rate for Americans in this predominantly Muslim nation was in the low teens. After the relief effort, he said, 70 percent of all Indonesians ranked the U.S. favorably.

And yet, Hamre noted, the federal government is now looking to cut foreign aid. Continue reading

Global Health as Smart Power | 

Smart Global Health Policy

by Tom Paulson

Smart Global Health Policy meeting

Someday, perhaps it will be enough to say that making people healthy worldwide is just good for all of us.

But, apparently, we’re not there yet.

A blue-ribbon panel called the Commission on Smart Global Health Policy met in Seattle last week and, to a crowd of several hundred people, presented its pitch that global health has political and foreign policy value.

The first sentence of the commission report says:

“As the United States applies smart power to advance U.S. interests around the world, it is time to leverage the essential role that U.S. global health policy can play.”

It goes on to recommend in detail how a more strategic approach to global health  — a so-called “smart power” approach — will “advance America’s core interests.”

I wonder: Is it really a good idea to cast global health efforts as a means to advance U.S. interests? Continue reading