By Rohit Sudarshan
The future of traditional foreign assistance is in a precarious situation. Over the past five years, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries that contribute the largest share of international aid—namely Australia, France, and the U.S.—have seen a downward trend in official development assistance (ODA) as a percentage of gross national income (GNI). Additionally, the United Kingdom’s development agency, DFID, is currently handling a surge of fraud investigations regarding their foreign aid. Countries that are global leaders must promote other financial means for international development. Few options are as important and efficient as remittances.
Remittances are payments made by immigrants to families and friends in their country of origin and represent an effective method for those in developing countries to continue to improve their standard of living. While ODA requires the coordination of government agencies as well as policymakers from many countries, remittances do not face that same constraint. The difficulty in ensuring accountability has meant that governments have misused and absorbed aid money. For these reasons, remittances can be an appealing alternative; they can move expediently and directly to a recipient that needs it.
By Anna Applefield
In 2010, President Obama committed $3.5 billion over three years to global food security programming. This commitment became USAID’s flagship initiative on food security, called Feed the Future (FtF), which over the last four years has been committed to reducing food insecurity in its 19 focus countries.
In the eleventh hour of the 113th Congress, a bi-partisan bill to continue funding for FtF, introduced by Representatives Smith (R-NJ) and McCollum (D-MN) passed the House of Representatives and went to the Senate for consideration. The bill was not passed by the Senate, so it will be left to a new Congress to decide the future of food security programming.
FtF has been a major priority for USAID, but without authorized funding the budget is vulnerable every year, which weakens the program’s overall ability to function. Because Obama has spearheaded the effort and refocused USAID’s priorities heavily on this program, many people have politicized the initiative, which further jeopardizes its ability to gain sustained funding.
Regardless of the political dynamics, FtF has revitalized the U.S. commitment to agriculture abroad in a way hasn’t been seen in decades. Although there are certainly ways that FtF can and should be improved, there are several key reasons we should be thinking about how we can cement long-term success by continuing to improve and expand programming, rather than cutting back on food security funding at this critical time.
A farming community in Tamil Nadu, India. Photo obtained via Parthan’s flickr photostream under a creative commons license