Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs

Immigration - Global humanitarian reasons for current U.S. immigration are tested in this updated version of immigration author and journalist Roy Beck's colorful presentation of data from the World Bank and U.S. Census Bureau. The 1996 version of this immigration gumballs presentation, updated to 2010, has been one of the most viewed immigration policy presentations on the internet. 

Presented by immigration author/journalist Roy Beck.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rich Country Commitments to Foreign Aid

Which wealthy nations are helping poor ones the most?  The Center for Global Development has just posted a ranking. Each year, the Commitment to Development Index ranks wealthy governments on how well they are living up to their potential to help poor countries. The Index scores seven policy areas that affect the well-being of others around the world: aid, trade, finance, migration, environment, security, and technology. Overall scores are the average of all the dimensions.  

To explore the map to find out, click here for the interactive version.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Battle for Hearts and Minds

Robert Kaplan, writing a commentary for Strategic Forecasting, argues for a harder more competitive approach to foreign aid.  Certainly controversial, the full article can be obtained hereExtracts are below...
Geopolitics connotes hard power, concerned as it is with the struggle over control of geographical space, a struggle that is primarily military and economic. Unsentimentality is the order of the day. Geopolitics and realism go hand in hand, therefore. Humanitarian aid would seem to have no place in this worldview. But that, as it turns out, is far too simplistic.
For power is also the power to persuade, and persuasion can take the form of winning friends, one village at a time. A policy that is purely military and economic has no idealistic component, and in an age of global media an idealistic component is required for credibility in the public space. In fact, foreign aid, as it came to be known during the Cold War, was a critical part of America's struggle against world communism. Building schools and roads, and teaching children how to read and farmers how to take advantage of the latest agricultural methods, was not merely altruistic; for it had the ulterior motive of demonstrating the superiority of America's values over those of its adversaries. When in 1961 President John F. Kennedy launched the Peace Corps, though his words were suffused with idealism, realpolitik was not far from his thoughts.
But the meaning of foreign aid has subtly shifted in the post-Cold War years. According to a commonly received narrative prevalent in the media, because communism has been vanquished, foreign policy is finally able to pursue idealistic ends untainted by realpolitik. Henceforth, foreign aid should be purely humanitarian, with minimal concern for whether or not it benefits U.S. national interest.
Ironically, this very altruism that abjures national interest has made America's foreign assistance programs not better but worse. Foreign aid is like any other organized pursuit: It requires a competitive mindset to excel. Aid workers must be aware of the ideological, philosophical and political opposition they will likely encounter in the field and prepare strategies to defeat it. They must learn to compete, in other words...

... because the military thinks competitively and the foreign assistance bureaucracy does not, the military is far more effective than the State Department, with the result being the militarization of foreign policy. Counter intuitively, the way to reduce America's reliance on hard power is to get the foreign aid bureaucracy to adopt a harder, more competitive approach to its own soft power. If the aid community thought competitively, like the military and the intelligence communities do, it would be more effective in the field, and the militarization of foreign policy would consequently diminish. "The imbalance between military and non-military instruments of power is likely to continue unless civilian agencies develop approaches which account for the contested landscapes in which they function," Schadlow explains. She quotes an Australian government aid expert: "Aid is 10 percent technical and 90 percent political."
Aid, in other words, is a form of political warfare, something that America's Cold War presidents well understood. That doesn't mean, for example, that you export democracy-building programs to every non-democratic country as part of a moralistic foreign policy that pays no heed to realpolitik. For there may be a few places where you will want to cultivate authoritarian leaders, and such programs would then undermine your strategic goals. Aid is not some politically neutral tool that operates separately from foreign policy -- rather, aid, as well as seeking to do good, must also advance a state's interests. And the more tough and competitive the aid mindset, the more likely it is to succeed.
We must stop putting humanitarian aid on a pedestal. While the geopolitical interests and moral values of a great power like the United States do not always overlap, most of the time they do, and therefore there is nothing debased or cynical about seeing civil and military power as two inextricable aspects of the same foreign policy machine. Indeed, efficient humanitarian aid requires language and other forms of cultural area expertise, which is also of use to the military. The military, meanwhile, uses operational and strategic planning processes to determine who the opponents are likely to be once soldiers and Marines hit the ground. The aid bureaucracy should do likewise. Each branch of foreign policy can assist and leverage -- and learn from -- the other... 
... Face it: the militarization of foreign policy was not only the result of decisions taken by the younger Bush administration, or even of a State Department starved of funds. It was also the result of the thoroughly undynamic mindset of Foggy Bottom. Rather than have the military become softer, the State Department has to become harder. That's the real road to soft power.

Obtain full article from Stratfor here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pennies from heaven

Giving money directly to poor people works surprisingly well. But it cannot deal with the deeper causes of poverty.  Article from The Economist (link here).

SOME unlikely things combined to change Gabriel Otieno Anoche’s life. A satellite passing over east Africa took pictures of his roof. Some keen-eyed people in the Philippines, monitoring the satellite data remotely, spotted the roof’s lack of luminosity, showing that Mr Anoche lived under thatch (not tin). In western Kenya, that is an indicator of poverty. Then Google and Facebook contributed money to Give Directly, a charity which hands out no-strings-attached cash to the poorest people it can find.

The 25-year-old carpenter knew nothing of this until he came home one day to find that strangers had given his wife a mobile phone linked to a bank account. Next came a $1,000 windfall, which they were free to spend on whatever they liked.

The idea sounds as extraordinary as throwing money out of helicopters. But this programme, and others like it, are part of a shift in thinking about how best to use aid to help the poorest. For decades, it was thought that the poor needed almost everything done for them and that experts knew best what this was. Few people would trust anyone to spend $1,000 responsibly. Instead, governments, charities and development banks built schools and hospitals, roads and ports, irrigation pipes and electric cables. And they set up big bureaucracies to run it all.

From around 2000, a different idea started to catch on: governments gave poor households small stipends to spend as they wished—on condition that their children went to school or visited a doctor regularly. These so-called “conditional cash transfers” (CCTs) appeared first in Latin America and then spread around the world. They did not replace traditional aid, but had distinctive priorities, such as supporting individual household budgets and helping women (most payments went to mothers). They were also cheap to run...

Read the full article here.