U.S. foreign aid alone cannot transform a country, prevent crises, or single-handedly reverse the cycles of poverty and poor governance. Our foreign aid, however, can have greater and more lasting impact. Getting the balance right will take a considerable shift in our analysis and our outlook.
First, we need to elevate both development and crisis prevention in our foreign policy formulation and aid policies. This means making long-term development a central focus of our policy formulations, rather than viewing our foreign assistance as an afterthought. The creation of a cabinet level development agency, coupled with the establishment of a directorate in the White House mandated to focus on and coordinate U.S. foreign assistance, are two ways that we can ensure that development is factored into our foreign policy deliberations.
Second, we need to expand our time horizon, and look at aid allocations provided today with an eye not just to immediate gains, but also to long-term goals. By elevating development and creating a department staffed by development professionals and able to sit at the foreign policy table, we can do two things at once: provide the aid that is often needed to buttress our immediate foreign policy goals; and most important, over the long-term, invest our foreign aid dollars in programs that can help prevent and mitigate the crises we face over time.
Finally, we need to educate policymakers, Congress, and the American public about the fact that what is true in our own lives is true on the international stage—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
For more information on this topic, please see:
- The Cost of Reaction: The Long-Term Costs of Short-Term Cures by Andrew Sweet and Natalie Ondiak