The Guardian examines the uneasy, risky, issues involved when we too closely try to combine foreign aid with foreign policy in the context of what’s happening now in Egypt.
Over the last two weeks, images emerged from Egypt revealing foreign aid as a crucial protagonist in the ongoing protests…. What the development economist William Easterly had called “the dirty secret” of the international aid system – the nonchalance of donors in the face of government repression in recipient countries – is now (nearly) front page news.
To be sure, US aid in Egypt has gone to fund programs focused on health, education and trade, but the vast majority of the multibillion-dollar US aid package to Egypt has been spent on military and domestic security initiatives. Whether intentional or not, foreign aid to Mubarak’s regime is widely seen to have strengthened the government’s ability to confront popular movements.
The British news organization also has this story on a report by Oxfam contending military goals are distorting foreign aid priorities and also endangering aid workers.
As I’ve noted here before, there’s a push by the Obama Administration, specifically Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to “re-invent” foreign aid. This push is aimed at making it dovetail even more with our foreign policy and security issues, which in Egypt is widely viewed as having been about propping up a dictatorship.
Perhaps it’s worth considering re-inventing foreign aid so that it is focused less on our international political and military agendas and more on simply providing assistance to those in need.