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Sunday, February 20, 2011

FOREIGN AID PRINCIPLES and PRIORITIES

Let us come back to foreign aid.  Ron Paul may be right in one respect about foreign aid: it does deserve our criticism, but not our abandonment!  After all, abandonment of foreign aid would be an undue restriction placed on the constitutional powers granted to the President of the United States to conduct foreign policy: to make Treaties, to appoint ambassadors, to receive ambassadors and other public Ministers.  Taking away that executive power would only serve to enhance the power of Congress in the realm of foreign policy; and we don’t need a contentious Congress trying to decide by Committee deliberation, where, and for what reason, to place a particular piece of foreign aid.

As I said two blogs ago: “We desperately need a new set of priorities for how foreign aid is to be utilized, a well-defined set of goals and objectives, and a system of measurable outcomes that can be evaluated to ensure that our money is being used to enrich others around the globe rather than to exploit them. 

If we’re going to have a set of new priorities, we first have to define our principles on which to base those priorities.  I suggest the following as a beginning for discussion:

1)    Foreign aid shall be distributed primarily to enhance the human rights, dignity, freedom, and well-being (health, education, social services, income, etc.) of individuals and communities throughout the world;
2)    Foreign aid shall not be given to any dictatorial regime that restricts the rights and freedoms of its people, unless:
    a)  measurable actions toward the granting of those freedoms and rights are set forth in a written Plan of Action 
    b)  the benchmarks or measures are met on an annual or 2- year timetable  
    c)  those action steps or outcomes are evaluated every year, or two years, by a group drawn from the UN, the World Court, the Red Cross/Red Crescent, global Human Rights groups, and the US Congress.
    d)  current and future aid shall be based on the report and recommendations of the Evaluating Commission; except that no aid  shall be continued or granted if the country is found to be less than 75% in compliance with its Agreement/Plan.
    e)  in the case of the up-to 25% of actions found to be out of compliance, a new agreement shall incorporate new targets and steps toward compliance, in order to receive continued funding; however, further non-compliance after the first two years shall result in a comparable percentage of aid reduction.
3)    In no case shall U.S. foreign aid be used to enhance the military might of another nation unless:
    a)  that nation is assisting the U.S. in a declared war against a mutual foe;
    b)  such aid will enable that nation to defend itself against outside aggression or internal terrorism; 
    c)  such aid will be used in a mutually defined effort to defeat the forces of terrorism.
    However, all such exceptional military aid as defined here shall be allocated according to specific measurable written guidelines contained within an annual or two-year Agreement which shall be evaluated by representatives of global organizations dedicated to the promotion of peace and prosperity for all nations.  The non-compliance rate found in such evaluation shall result in an immediate comparable percentage reduction in aid.  
    Any use of U.S. military aid to suppress, oppress, or harm a country’s own populace shall be immediately terminated.
4)    No foreign aid shall be loaned, granted, allotted, or given to any country or national entity until:
    a) a signed and approved application has been submitted to the Department designating the general aims, purposes, and intended outcomes for that aid;
    b)  a detailed Agreement/Plan is submitted to the Department defining the exact, agreed-upon purposes, objectives, and measurable outcomes expected for the said aid;
    c)  an effective distribution system is approved and a strict accounting method is in place for the use of said money;
    d)  a detailed plan for evaluation of all designated outcomes is included in the Agreement/Plan 
5)    All taxpayer dollars loaned, granted, allotted, or given to a foreign country or national entity shall be reported on an annual basis to the American people  in a readily accessible and discernible format, especially through electronic means.  All new grants or allotments shall be reported on a monthly basis. All such reports will specify:
    a)  the amount(s) granted and to whom;
    b)  the purposes and reasons for the grant;
    c)  the goals and objectives defined for the recipient country;
    d)  any evaluations or recommendations received for continuation or denial;
    e)  any criticisms submitted by other countries or reputable organizations;
    f)  decisions for continued funding or denial

Other points for discussion and resolution might include:
1)    There must be a national foreign assistance strategy put in place that encompasses the principles, purposes, and objectives for our foreign aid programs.  Part of that national strategy must be the designation of one agency responsible for the coordination of all foreign assistance.  The State Department seems the most likely candidate for this so that all diplomacy and foreign aid can be coordinated, and given equal standing with defense and internal programs.  However, the idea of a separate cabinet-level Department of International Development is also worth considering.
2)    The purpose of every allocation of foreign aid must be made clear so that diplomatic (strategic) use is not confused with development objectives.
3)    Along the lines proposed by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, there should be a permanent Quadrennial Review of diplomacy, of foreign policy, and of  international development efforts carried out under our foreign aid.  The Report of this Review should be made easily accessible to all people.

I do not pretend to have all the answers on distribution of foreign aid.  Far from it.  In fact, I think the Obama Administration has done an admirable job in defining the goals and objectives (their Categories and Sectors) of current foreign assistance.  What is lacking is the strategy for using those Goals and Objectives in determining who shall receive aid, and the use of measurable outcomes, and their intense evaluation, to ensure that the purposes, goals, and objectives are actually met by every entity seeking and receiving our aid.

I do contend that those leaders, like Ron Paul, who criticize without offering detailed analysis or detailed plans for improvements or alternatives, are lacking in depth and in leadership qualities.  There are no easy answers to the dilemmas, conundrums, mistakes,  or problems created by our foreign policy or our foreign aid programs.  However, abandonment of foreign aid is a terrible idea.  Positive reform and remedies are much more difficult, and require a persistence and tenacity that seem sorely lacking in many of our current “leaders”.  Let us hope that the mere musings of a Senior Citizen are not the only result of the Egyptian “revolution” and of Ron Paul’s simplistic criticisms.