Skip to comments.American Generosity is Underappreciated
Posted on 12/30/2004 2:56:11 PM PST by Alex Marko
The tragic loss of life from the earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean now exceeds 100,000 and may eventually double that, due to disease, civil unrest, and other factors. In response, the United States and other nations have pledged millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to aid the survivors and assist affected nations in recovering from the disaster. Unfortunately, some in the international aid business cannot seem to shake their reflexive criticism of America despite ample evidence of its generosity.
The U.S. government initially announced that it would provide $15 million in humanitarian aid and send experts to help affected nations recover. Jan Egeland, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, criticized the U.S. commitment as stingy despite the fact that the U.S. pledge far exceeded those of all European nations. He quickly apologized and said that he did not mean to single out the United States, but the transcript of his comments clearly identifies the U.S. as the primary target.
Rhetoric vs. Reality Mr. Egelunds criticism was based on his belief that America is not providing enough development assistancespecifically, aid as a percentage of its gross national income (GNI). According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. is dead last in aid as a percent of GNI at 0.15 percent. Mr. Egelunds native country of Norway has a ratio of 0.92 percent. There are several problems with this approach:
Actual dollar contributions reveal that the U.S. is the worlds largest donor. The OECD calculates U.S. development assistance (based on bilateral assistance, humanitarian assistance, and contributions to multilateral institutions like the International Development Association of the World Bank) in 2003 at $16.2 billionmore than double the amount given by France, Germany, or any other European nation. Japan is second at $8.9 billion.
Private aid is ignored. These numbers do not include private assistance. This is not a major factor for most other nations because private charity is not large in most countries. It is a gigantic oversight when calculating Americas aid ratio, however, because the U.S. Agency for International Development estimated that private assistance was $33.6 billion in 2000. Therefore, the calculations upon which Egelund based his criticism severely shortchange the generosity of the United States.
It demonstrates an inappropriate focus on inputs rather than outputs. Development assistance should help recipients develop, but the evidence demonstrates that many recipient nations are actually becoming poorer. This is particularly true for sub-Saharan Africa, which is the region of the world most desperately in need of development. Despite hundreds of billions in development assistance, sub-Saharan Africa has performed dismally. Of the 45 sub-Saharan African countries for which per capita GDP data are available from 1980 to 2002, most experienced zero or negative compound annual growth in real per capita GDP (constant 1995 U.S. dollars). Sub-Saharan Africa as a region saw a decline in per capita GDP from $660 in 1980 to $577 in 2002 (in constant terms). Instead of focusing on the amount of assistance, donors should focus on maximizing results through economic freedom, bolstering the rule of law, and adopting strong institutions. Foreign aid cannot replace domestic will to adopt good policies, without which long-term development is impossible.
Americas central role in humanitarian efforts is ignored. Egelunds criticism becomes patently ridiculous after an examination of U.S. assistance for disaster and humanitarian reliefthe type of aid needed in the Indian Ocean. Data from the OECD reveal that the U.S. gave nearly $2.5 billion in emergency and distress relief in 2003. All other countries combined gave $3.4 billion, including $475 million from France and $350 million from Norway. Moreover, the U.S. contributed nearly 70 percent of all food assistance.
America is a key donor to U.N. relief organizations. The United States is a major donor to international relief organizations, including the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Egelund oversees, to which the U.S. is second largest donor (nearly 14 percent in 2003). America is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget at 22 percent, or $317 million, in 2004. It gives over 56 percent of the World Food Program budget and $72 million and $94 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, respectively. Conclusion
The United States is the worlds largest source of humanitarian aid. By nature, humanitarian aid must be tailored to individual crises: Every single famine, earthquake, flood, or other disaster is unique and requires different types of aid and different strategies. As death tolls climbed in the wake of the disaster in Southeast Asia and the needs of the survivors became clearer, the United States upped its humanitarian aid commitments to the region to $35 million, and expectations are that total U.S. contributions will continue to increase.
Criticisms of Americas generosity, such as those made by Egeland, fly in the face of reality. International aid experts do their organizations no credit to criticize American largessespecially since following through on their good intentions would be impossible without it.
I wonder if the world calculates american soldiers lives, US defense spending, technology sharing into the equation of bettering the world?? Cause my by estimates...its the rest of the world that is stingy about world peace and health.
I would like to see the president say, "I personally give this much to help. How much do you want to give out of your own pocket." to the others in the UN.
Even the good Samaritan was thanked by the man who "fell by the wayside". Nobody should turn the other cheek to be spat on again. That having been said, all power to the real helpers that get out there and do it.
The US government gives 40% of all of the humanitarian aid given in world ~ get a grip!
That's not counting private donations.
This is no time to bitch about who gives how much. It is a time for free countries to contribute to help those in need.
Hey, i'm just curious....How much international aid came from europe to the US for our hurricanes or earthquakes in the past 25 years? I do recall the US sending aid to italy and turkey for past earthquakes.
We are a so called "Superpower" - we take care of our own.
It's not so much underappreciated as taken for granted.
The US has given so much to other countries over the years that the world now has its hand out, and thinks it's "entitled" to American aid.
The % of GNI argument is bogus... it assumes GNI is independent of economic policy and taxation. U.S. per capita productivity is 50% higher than the EU. this is due largely to 3 factors: technological innovation, lower unemployment and higher hours worked per employee. 1) technological innovation is expensive and the risk aversion of a tightly regulated economy does not lend itself well to rapidly implementing new technologies (thus the GROWING gap in productuvity growth of late between the US and the EU). 2) lower unemployment is complicated, but needless to say, socialist-leaning welfare states do not have high worker participation. 3) overly progressive taxation removes the incentive to build wealth, and thus the incentive to work long hours chasing that wealth. A handful of eurpoean countries are more productive than the US when measured on a per hour worked basis... only problem is, their system guarantees lower workforce participation and lower hours worked per participating worker. the end result is a LOWER GNI and less expendable income (such that nearly all foreign aid is through public channels). so... assuming the U.S. GNI were reduced by 1/3 to be in line with EU per capita economic productivity due to employing their socioeconomic policies, and holding our 'stingy' offerings steady would put the U.S. at .625%. not too bad. but wait a minute... the U.S. also takes in 3.5 immigrants per 1000 (per the CIA website)... a much higher rate than EU countries; there is no value associated with this in any of the estimates, but certainly should be considered as some form of 'foreign' aid. should it not? and then there are the personal remmittances abroad of those participating in the U.S. economy (approaching $30B per year about now, mostly to impoverished countries of south and central america) that are not included in these estimates. sounds like we have a pretty generous system in my opinion.
We've sent ours to the Salvation Army since the Red Cross seems to be the most publicized; but it appears from their website that the Salvation Army is really organized and already on the disaster scene with aid, too.
Hi anonymoussierra, I've been busy with Christmas and company and haven't responded to any pings lately.
By Jamie Lyons, PA Political Correspondent
United States President George Bush was tonight accused of trying to undermine the United Nations by setting up a rival coalition to coordinate relief following the Asian tsunami disaster.
The president has announced that the US, Japan, India and Australia would coordinate the world's response.
But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN.
"I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up," she said.
"It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers."
Ms Short said the coalition countries did not have good records on responding to international disasters.
She said the US was "very bad at coordinating with anyone" and India had its own problems to deal with.
"I don't know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system," she added.
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