The US has a moral responsibility to keep its foreign assistance strong and stand in solidarity with those suffering. Now is not the time for global powers to cut their aid.
While many countries around the world face a deadly convergence of extreme poverty, food insecurity, and violent conflict, large economies are cutting foreign assistance funding.
Millions of people around the world rely on life-saving aid. According to the World Food Programme, in 2023, more than 345 million people face extreme food insecurity—twice as many compared to 2020.
Unfortunately, this trend is on course to continue. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2022 States of Fragility Report identified 60 fragile countries, which is the highest number ever in the report. Fragility is a driver of violent conflict, which is the primary driver of extreme food insecurity.
"The US cannot turn its back on the international community, regardless of other nations’ actions."
For the world’s most vulnerable, widespread efforts to cut foreign assistance spending represent a matter of life and death. Now, current Congressional debates threaten to exacerbate this concerning trend.
Impacts of the U.K.’s aid cuts have already materialized. Nick Hepworth, of Water Witness International, asserted that aid cuts to a Malawi-based sanitation program contributed to the country’s failure to mitigate a cholera outbreak that killed over 1,000 people this year.
In the US, Congress is currently contemplating a bipartisan budget agreement negotiated by President Biden and Speaker McCarthy that would keep non-defense spending at FY23 levels in FY24 and increase funding by 1% in FY25. While this agreement avoids a devastating debt default, it limits programs aimed at meeting human needs, while continuing to expand the Pentagon’s sky-high budget. Still, some Republicans maintain that this agreement doesn’t do enough to cut non-defense spending and are disappointed that major tenets of the House-passed Republican budget legislation, which proposed cutting non-defense discretionary spending by 22%, have been left out.
The Republican-proposed cuts would deliver a significant blow to the relatively miniscule amount of funding that currently goes towards foreign assistance, which makes up less than 1% of the budget. However, with the US alone providing over 27% of all development assistance in 2022, cutting these funds would have a devastating impact on communities struggling to survive.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power discussed the human impact of these proposed funding cuts in a recent congressional hearing. She warnedlawmakers that if 22% is cut from USAID’s budget, 80 million fewer people will receive assistance globally. Power estimated that a reduction of this magnitude would lead to 19,000 maternal and newborn deaths, and 13,000 fewer children receiving vaccinations.
The US has a moral responsibility to keep its foreign assistance strong and stand in solidarity with those suffering. Now is not the time for global powers to cut their aid. Rather, it is critical to protect and invest in foreign assistance.
Protecting foreign assistance is ultimately in the interest our national security and strategic investments. In the long run, investing in foreign assistance is cost-effective, saving $16 on the cost of conflict for every $1 invested in prevention. Additionally, strong foreign assistance bolsters American trade and diplomatic partnerships. As the leading donor of foreign assistance globally, the US must uphold its commitments to our partners in need and lead with our values in the face worsening global crises.
International aid and civil society organizations are fiercely pushing back on this global trend. The Friends Committee on National Legislation, along with the Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance, are some of the many organizations leading advocacy efforts to deter cuts to foreign assistance.As President Biden has said many times, “Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.” The US cannot turn its back on the international community, regardless of other nations’ actions. We must uphold our shared values of respect for human rights and the promotion of peace.