World poverty is one of the pressing issues of modernity. Now, where you were born is not up to you; it is something of a lottery in that way. But when someone is born into one of the wealthiest nations, there is a certain responsibility and obligation in caring for one’s brothers and sisters around the world who are less fortunate. The United States, as one of the dominant world powers, must do something to end this crisis and improve the material conditions of the world’s abandoned. The Borgen Project, which I am a part of, offers insight and resources to how the United States can help.
When you talk to the average person, you may hear a mix of reasons why giving foreign aid is a bad idea. One of the common misconceptions is how much the United States gives. The United States, in the 21-22 fiscal year, spent $29.5 billion (about $91 per person in the US) on foreign aid, which sounds like a lot of money. However, that $29.5 billion was part of a federal budget of $7195.1 billion. The percentage of the whole budget going to aid is .41%. For perspective, 13.6% of our budget went to defense spending. The United States needs to lead the world in reducing world poverty; we have the money for it. The results of foreign aid speak for themselves.
It should be noted that engaging in generous foreign aid actually helps the foreign country’s ability to become self-sufficient in the long term. However, in order to make sense of this, we must change our perception of foreign aid. We should think of foreign aid as an investment. By investing in developing nations, we are investing in the future. By bringing
them into international trade, it benefits the United States. The developing nations are now importing and exporting goods to the international market, which benefits all parties involved. Given enough time, just like all investments, we will get more than our original investment. As their market grows, then the need for foreign investment will decrease. Ultimately, the nation will no longer require investment, becoming entirely self-sufficient. By becoming self-sufficient, poverty will decrease along with its harmful by-products. The now-successfully developed nations will start to invest in other developing nations. Trade relations will begin to foster diplomatic relations with more significant economic powers (US, European Union, etc.) and bordering nations. The fostered relationships will have phenomenal outcomes, including new trade unions; take for example, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
Another common critique of foreign investment is the impoverished Americans. Again, the standard argument is that we should prioritize domestic poverty first. Essentially, this argument is that we need to fix our house before trying to fix someone else’s. But the problem with this is, splitting them into two different categories is strange: domestic poverty is part of world poverty. They are not mutually exclusive; we can help the world’s impoverished and help the Americans that are suffering in a similar capacity. The United States has enough money to help all the economically disadvantaged. Granted, we have to advocate differently for domestic poverty than world poverty. For domestic poverty, we can advocate for the state government to make changes; for global poverty, we can only advocate for the federal government to do more.
Now we have discussed why foreign investment is beneficial; now we must understand where the funding goes and what it is used for. The primary agency that funds go to is USAID. USAID’s mission is to improve people’s lives in the developing world. USAID provides the necessities of modernity: inoculation, education, economic stabilizing, establishing diplomatic relationships, and crisis relief (among other things). USAID’s goal is to establish the nation as fully self-sufficient, and then to ultimately dissolve its own efforts, because of the lack of need. USAID is, of course, funded through the government. So, if improving the lives of the world’s most unfortunate is a priority, then the public must pressure the government to increase funding. Electoral pressure, especially recently, has proven to be helpful. In addition, political pressure can come in the form of calling, emailing your congresspeople, and protesting. There are, of course, many limitations to working in the governmental system; however, that’s where other forms of political pressure come into play.
Social media is a great way to promote and educate people to action. Seeing the inhumane
condition on their phone screen may open someone’s eyes. Someone who previously never cared about the issue has become aware of the issue. The next step is acting. We can sit here and type words on a screen, but what does that accomplish besides improving your writing? “Hashtag activism” does have merit and does work in some situations; however, it is difficult to improve the material conditions through words for global poverty. If we make reducing world poverty a voting priority then we can push it to the foreword of American foreign policy.
Often with politics, we feel small, like our opinion does not matter, but that is far from the truth. We, the People, substantially impact politics; after all, we vote these people into office. Calling your congressperson’s office only takes a few minutes; you can also email them, all of which get noted. When public pressure has grown large, the congresspersons will have to act. We at the Borgen Project are advocating for the world’s impoverished. However, the Borgen Project is small and needs your help. As an organization, our goal is to make contacting your Congressperson as easy as we can through our action center. I hope everyone does their part in the fight to end world poverty, because even the small actions matter.