Both presidential candidates in
the U.S. presidential election say they want to strengthen the effectiveness of
foreign assistance. One idea is to
consolidate the efforts of the U.S. agencies that deliver aid. Another is to create a new international
organization that could, among other things, act quickly in humanitarian
crises. From Washington, William Eagle
Both candidates favor making the delivery of U.S. aid more
Streamlining the Aid Bureaucracy
The Republican Party platform says
a McCain administration would review the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which
created the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Development activists say the law, which was created during the
Cold War to promote development efforts, needs to be retooled for the 21st century.
"[In the U.S. Government] you have 12
departments, 25 different agencies and more than 50 different offices providing
US foreign assistance," explains Trevor Keck, a legislative
assistant with the Friends Committee on National Legislation in
Washington. "The idea of
reform is to better coordinate [and coalesce] all foreign assistance within one
big structure, USAID, or at least make it more coherent.One proposal is to strengthen USAID,
by providing it with more jurisdictions to coordinate aid across departments
and agencies that also provide assistance, like Treasury and Commerce."
Senator Obama says he would
explore another way: the creation of a cabinet level development agency focused
The Obama campaign has pledged to
promote civilian and military cooperation to help in state building,
counter-terrorism and post-conflict intervention.
The effort would bring together personnel from the Departments of
State and Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development into what
the campaign calls Mobile Development Teams.
An Obama administration would also
create a Civilian Assistance Corps made up of volunteer doctors, engineers and
agricultural specialists that could be deployed to help in reconstruction and
stabilization efforts in states recovering from conflict.
Trevor Keck explains how the plan
would work: "The idea is to have about 5,000
experts. This would be an active response corps of about 250 people made up of
Foreign Service officers from the State Department and USAID.
"They could be deployed within 48 hours on
the secretary of state’s command," he says. "[You’d] also have a stand-by 'response
corps.' They’d be made up of about 2,000 experts made up of foreign service
officers across the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Treasury and
USAID that could deploy within a couple of weeks to back up the first
contingent [of the Civilian Assistance Corps]."
Aid and Democracy
Senator McCain has proposed the
creation of a new world body, a League of Democracies, that could intervene to
assist in humanitarian emergencies and to support struggling democracies.
"It is not supposed to replace the
U.N. Security Council or peacekeeping operations," says Brett D. Schaefer, an analyst
with the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. "It’s a group of countries that
support basic principles on governance and the rule of law. It would be a much
more informal group than the UN and members could create ad hoc coalitions to
promote certain things, like provide election observers or technical assistance
to enhance judicial capacity in [given] countries."
"[The group could] intervene in cases like in Zimbabwe where you
have an assault on the democratic process," he adds. "That could mean African countries
intervening physically or sanctions that they jointly adopt. This is a
malleable and flexible proposal."
Senator McCain says
his administration would help guarantee the effectiveness of aid with greater
He says he’d work to
eliminate the misuse of foreign assistance and increase aid in areas where’s it’s