U.S. helps developing countries to help themselves

Five men breaking up farmland with hand tools (USAID/Micah Clemens)
When families from Côte d'Ivoire returned home after fleeing violence, USAID helped them rehabilitate their farmlands. (USAID/Micah Clemens)

The United States is the world’s largest donor of foreign aid, contributing $34.6 billion in 2019, according to figures published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Foreign aid is given to developing countries to help with emergency preparedness, disaster relief, economic development and poverty reduction. There are over 20 U.S. government agencies that manage such programs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plays the lead role.

USAID uses partnerships that help people gain the skills and capacity to become increasingly self-reliant. The approach “emphasizes free and open, enterprise-driven development to build resilient market economies where sovereignty of states and the dignity and rights of individuals are valued,” said Kaush Arha, a USAID expert on strategic engagement.

“This reinforces partner nations’ own efforts to strengthen governance, institutions, rules and structures as respected members of the international community and global economy,” he said.

U.S. foreign aid is in contrast to the “debt-trap diplomacy” pursued by some governments. Those governments offer loans under terms so costly that debtor nations struggle to repay. That traps communities and countries in a cycle of debt that can make them vulnerable to undue pressure. Typically, governments that make such loans also import their own workers for development projects, depriving recipient countries’ workers of jobs.

Working with communities

Two men pointing at boxes marked "USAID" (U.S. Embassy India/Gaurav Dhawan)
USAID delivers 100 ventilators to India. (U.S. Embassy India/Gaurav Dhawan)

USAID’s programs promote food security and global health, two goals especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to providing more than $20 billion to help dozens of countries fight the novel coronavirus, the U.S. recently established four new partnerships under Feed the Future, a food-security initiative.

USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick announced the partnerships on September 17. She highlighted the importance of agricultural innovation in ending hunger. The partnerships “remind everyone of what America stands for — and that is economic prosperity, long and healthy lives, and human dignity,” Glick said.