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When we atHuman Rightsmagazine sought to assess the current state of U.S. foreign aid,we found precisely that: the landscape of aid is a complex, interconnected ecosystem, the bedrock of which is women. The defects of current U.S. foreign aid lie in its failure either to realistically treat the issues facing women or holistically address the interconnectedness of those issues with all others.
The politicization of foreign aid by the Bush administration marks a distinct departure from the past. Large allocations for the war in Iraq dwarf funding for MCC, PEPFAR, Africa, and global humanitarianism.
Americans expect the government to respond when they see suffering. Since 2000, the United States has launched the largest international development effort since the Marshall Plan, nearly tripling U.S. aid worldwide.
In 2006, the Bush administration recognized the new strategic importance of foreign aid programs when it placed development alongside defense and diplomacy as one of the three pillars of the national security strategy.
Through restrictions and funding conditionalities, the United States has ensured that foreign aid programs and policies reflect the ideology of the Religious Right, instead of effectively providing services and enabling organizations to promote women’s health and human rights.
An urgent need exists for the United States to exercise a new collaborative style of global leadership that promotes and protects sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide. Failure to promote these rights has a devastating impact on women throughout the world.
The reauthorization of PEPFAR to date has, in essence, occurred without serious debate and without a full airing of the significant problems it has generated. A compassionate step toward dealing with HIV/AIDS in the places most in need has become an opportunity to advance an extreme social conservative agenda.
The hypocritical heights scaled by the Bush administration— touting democracy and human rights as justification for war; asserting that human rights are a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy while embracing torture and rendition— have hobbled the cause of human rights around the globe.
Unaffected by the financial uncertainty in the rest of the world, microfinance banks like Grameen Bank continue to do well. Owned by its borrowers, Grameen Bank relies on trust and incentive to prosper and has loaned approximately $7 billion since its inception, with repayment rates averaging better than 98 percent.
From its inception through much of the 1990s, the Global Health Council was principally funded by U.S. grants. In 1998 the council’s new leader, Nils Daulaire, felt that the council should be an independent voice. Since 2004, the council took a deeply-respected stand by no longer accepting funds with strings attached.