No Easy Fix for U.S. Foreign Aid

During a Wednesday speech at the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals Summit, U.S. President Barack Obama rolled out the results of his administration’s long-delayed review of America’s global development policy. The take-away was simple: The United States has to start being picky about how it distributes aid. Gone are the days when Washington can help everyone everywhere. As Obama declared, "We must be more selective and focus our efforts where we have the best partners and where we can have the greatest impact."

Reform of U.S. foreign assistance programs is long overdue. Development efforts have been governed by a messy and often conflicting set of approaches—the administration itself notes that government agencies are today pursuing over 1,000 different development goals, objectives, and priorities. Every Congress and administration for the last five decades has tacked on additional language to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act and other regulations about what aid should look like. The increasing number of agencies now operating overseas has only added to the confusion.

This article was originally published in Foreign Policy.