Budget Priorities to
Address Global Human Needs
What can and should be done?
Human security flourishes where there is a culture of peace,
a strong economic life, democratic participation, an educated
population, personal safety, healthy families, and a healthy environment.
Yet, in too many places around the world today, we find instead
poverty, oppression, lack of educational opportunity, prejudice,
greed, fear, hatred, environmental degradation and depletion,
and war. Combined, these provide the abused, neglected, damaged
soil from which those who would preach hatred and promote violence
cultivate their following and reap their grim harvest. Such conditions
can easily be found both at home and abroad.
The global challenge
The UN Development Programme's Human Development Report 2001
provides a snapshot of the global population.
* More than 854 million adults are illiterate, including 543
* Over 960 million people lack access to improved water resources.
* Three hundred twenty-five million children do not attend
school, including 183 million girls.
* Eleven million children under five die each year from preventable
* 1.2 billion people live on less than one dollar a day, and
2.8 billion live on less than two dollars a day.
* Malnutrition affects one-half of all children in South Asia
and one-third in Africa.
In Arab countries, employment and economic growth over the
past ten years have lagged in comparison to all but the poorest
countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In Egypt, the most populous Arab
country, 60% of all people live at or below the poverty line.
Worldwide, 40 million people are infected with HIV. Of these,
25 million live in Africa. In some African countries, 20% of adults
are infected. Ninety-five percent of those infected do not have
access to life-prolonging treatments. Millions of children have
At the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, world leaders agreed
to work together to halve global poverty, reduce child mortality
by two-thirds, and achieve universal primary education by 2015.
The UN has also called for a sustained, multi-billion dollar global
health initiative to combat the spread of HIV, tuberculosis, and
malaria. Unless the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the developing world
is brought under control, little progress toward the important
Millennium Summit goals will be possible.
Debate has focused on how to advance the agenda of the Millennium
Summit. The U.S. government has insisted that increasing trade
and investment is the best way. Others governments, primarily
those of developing countries which attract few investors, disagree.
These governments maintain that the first step must be more development
assistance and debt forgiveness. Such measures would allow these
governments to invest more in health care, education, and economic
Private foreign investment and trade are certainly important
in advancing development. In the 1990s, nations with developing
economies received about four times as much money from private
foreign investors as from donor governments and multilateral institutions,
creating much-needed employment.
However, private capital tends to go where conditions are
best, not worst. About 80% of private investment went to only
fifteen developing countries in the late 1990s, according to Oxfam.
Poorer countries that are less attractive to investors need more
aid in the near term to develop their economies and create a climate
that will encourage investment.
Leading the effort for more aid, Gordon Brown, UK Chancellor
of the Exchequer, has called for a new "Marshall Plan"
for the developing world. He has challenged donor countries to
increase their current aid levels to $100 billion per year from
the current $60 billion per year.
Oxfam, however, estimates that, in order to accomplish the
UN goals by 2015, donor countries would have to triple their current
level of giving. They would have to increase their contributions
by $114 billion, not the $40 billion proposed by Gordon Brown.
As large as this increase sounds, it would amount to only about
0.7% of the donor countries' combined Gross National Products
(GNP). Currently, the average level of giving for donor countries
is about 0.22% of their GNP. The U.S. gives less than 0.11% of
The US. has the means but lacks the will
Despite the dramatic growth of the U.S. economy over the past
forty years, U.S. foreign aid has not grown at the same rate.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, U.S.
aid as a percentage: of the GNP has declined steadily, dropping
from 0.58% in 1962 to less than 0.11% in 2003. Although the U.S.
ranks first in the absolute level of non-military foreign aid,
it ranks last among developed countries in the percentage of its
GNP given in aid. On average, governments in the European Union
contribute three times as much of their GNP (0.33%) in non-military
Polls suggest that the majority of people in the U.S. greatly
overestimate the level of U.S. foreign aid. Most persons polled
place foreign aid spending at 15% of the federal budget. In fact,
less than 1% of all federal outlays go to foreign aid. The Center
on Budget and Policy Priorities has calculated that outlays for
all foreign assistance programs in FY 2003 (including economic
aid to Israel, Egypt, former Soviet Republics, Colombia, and anti-drug
programs) will comprise only 0.55% of all federal outlays.
Pres. Bush's FY03 budget would do little to change this. The
President would increase humanitarian and development assistance
by only $0.7 billion, while he proposes to increase military spending
by $46.0 billion. The combined spending proposed for child disease
and survival programs, food aid, refugee assistance, Peace Corps,
multilateral development banks, voluntary contributions to international
organizations, debt relief, USAID operations, and other development
and humanitarian aid does not match the spending on the ballistic
missile shield ($7.6 billion vs. $7.8 billion).
Perhaps a small step in the right direction
On March 14, Pres. Bush announced a new initiative to increase
U.S. foreign aid by a total of $10 billion over current levels.
The new funds would be distributed to developing countries whose
governments demonstrate a commitment to good governance, respecting
human rights, advancing health care and education, opening markets
to trade, and fiscal discipline. We will be interested to see
whether the President's speech marked a real shift in the Administration's
policy with respect to aid.
If the President and Congress follow through with this proposal,
it would be a step in the right direction. However, conditions
placed on the aid may exclude some of the poorest countries from
eligibility. Moreover, the aid increases are not slated to occur
Secrets and Lies