USAID Branding: Dangerously desperate for love?

Is the U.S. government so desperate to get credit for helping people, it’s willing to put aid workers at risk?

This is the logo for USAID.

The U.S. Agency for International Development requires that charities and non-governmental organizations which receive USAID funding display this on all their assistance supplies and material.

A number of charitable and foreign assistance organizations such as World Vision, Save the Children and Oxfam are asking USAID to abandon this self-promotional requirement, the BBC reports.

Many charities say the USAID logo puts their workers in harm’s way — in parts of Pakistan, for example, that are hostile to U.S. policies — and it also undermines their obligation to remain politically neutral. Most say they don’t even put their brand on their own stuff. The following are snippets from the debate:

Here’s a great perspective on this from Sam Worthington, head of Interaction:

Overtly branding our efforts as sponsored by the U.S. government — as the Obama administration wants us to do — only makes our jobs harder and more dangerous

Mohammed Qazilbash, Pakistan country director of Save the Children, is quoted by Rob Crilly in the Telegraph saying:

“We understand the need for branding but it must be done in a way that will ensure the safety and security of our personnel and the beneficiaries as well as our local partners.”

The USAID’s Mark Ward contends the logo is “required by law” and that aid recipients “have a right to know” who is helping them. Says Ward:

“In fact, many Pakistani people often criticize USAID for not being more aggressive when it comes to branding our aid. The USAID handshake is an enduring symbol of America’s support for Pakistan.”

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.