Standing Up for Foreign Aid

February 2, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

This morning President Obama spoke passionately at the National Prayer Breakfast about why foreign aid is so important, saying “it’s not just about strengthening alliances, or promoting democratic values, or projecting American leadership around the world, although it does all those things and it will make us safer and more secure. It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these — for the poor; for those at the margins of our society.”   DuPont is also hosting a food security forum this morning—another example of businesses doing good.  DuPont announced $10 billion in research and development for food security and ending world hunger.  Find out more at

Must Reads

Who’s in the News

Levin and McCain: Egypt’s Military Aid Really is in Jeopardy (Josh Rogin, The Cable)

Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking Republican John McCain (R-AZ) both said on Tuesday that a withholding of military aid to Egypt was now on the table due to the Egyptian military’s role in the Dec. 29 raids on several NGO groups in Cairo, including three U.S. government-funded organizations: the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Freedom House.  The anger in Washington at the Egyptian government reached a boiling point this week when it was revealed on Jan. 26 that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s son Sam LaHood, the head of IRI’s Cairo office, had been barred from leaving Egypt by the government, along with five other U.S. citizens.  The issue has already led to a divorce between the Egyptian government and its Washington lobbyists.

Smart Power

Why the Global Fund matters (Paul Farmer, New York Times)

In 2001, very few people — almost none, really — living with H.I.V. in Africa had access to antiretroviral medicines. Today, more than 3.3 million people — more than half of those on treatment worldwide — are on treatment supported by the Global Fund: A true victory for the global community. The fund and the U.S. international AIDS program, Pepfar (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program), are the most ambitious global health endeavors in generations.  Now, 10 years since its founding, the Global Fund is facing a serious financial shortfall, and the fund’s board voted recently not to accept new grant requests until at least 2014. Bill Gates’ announcement of a $750 million contribution to the fund in Davos last week was welcome news — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been among the greatest supporters of the Global Fund since its inception — but will not change the board’s decision.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Thing Again: Microfinance (David Roodman, Foreign Policy)

Microfinance is no silver bullet for poverty, but it does have things to offer. The strength of the movement is not in reducing poverty or empowering women, but in building dynamic institutions that deliver inherently useful services to millions of poor people. Poor people transact in smaller denominations, but they have to solve financial problems at least as tough as yours. They need and deserve such services too, just as they do clean water and electricity. The microfinance movement is about building businesses and business-like nonprofits that mass-produce financial services for the poor — not just microcredit, but microsavings, microinsurance, and micro money transfers too.  The well-meaning flood of money into microcredit distorts the industry toward overreliance on this one, risky service. It is the greatest threat to the greatest strength of microfinance as a whole. That is why the hype about microcredit has been not merely misleading but destructive. And that is why less money should go into microcredit, not more.

GOP Senators to release plan to stop triggered defense cuts (Jeremy Herb, The Hill)

Five Republican senators will release their plan Thursday morning to stop as much as $500 billion in automatic cuts to defense spending slated to take effect in 2013.  The senators — Jon Kyl (Ariz.), John McCain (Ariz), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) — did not release details of their legislation ahead of the press conference Thursday. The bill’s title, “Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2012,” suggests that the bill will change the sequestration cuts for only a short period, and not wipe out the full $500 billion cut over 10 years.   That would follow a similar proposal from House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who introduced a bill in December to undo the first year of sequestration cuts to both defense and non-defense spending by trimming the federal workforce over 10 years by 10 percent.

Panetta moves up end to U.S. combat role in Afghanistan (Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times)

In a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday that American forces would step back from a combat role there as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to come home.  Mr. Panetta cast the decision as an orderly step in a withdrawal process long planned by the United States and its allies, but his comments were the first time that the United States had put a date on stepping back from its central role in the war. The defense secretary’s words reflected the Obama administration’s eagerness to bring to a close the second of two grinding ground wars it inherited from the Bush administration.

U.N. pushes ambitious Afghan refugees plan (Michael Georgy, Reuters)

More than $1 billion in international aid is needed to ensure that conditions are right for millions of Afghan refugees to return to their troubled homeland, the senior U.N. official for refugees said on Wednesday.  “I think there are problems of governance, there are problems of economic development, there are problems of security,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told Reuters in an interview.  “What is important to recognize is that a lot of investment has been made in Afghanistan but that investment has not been concentrated in creating conditions for people to feel they can go back, for that return to be sustainable.”