Ten foreign aid goals for Obama’s second term

To improve lives for those in poverty worldwide, World Vision recommends these 10 priorities as the president takes the oath of office for his second term.

By Robert Zachritz, World Vision U.S. senior director of advocacy and government relations
Published January 18, 2013 at 12:00am PST

As the president begins his second term in office, his list of priorities seems endless. But one area of policy that is often overlooked is foreign aid.

Although foreign assistance composes only about 1 percent of the federal budget, it makes an enormous difference in saving lives, reducing poverty, preventing conflict, and creating goodwill.

So what should President Obama’s foreign aid agenda look like? World Vision suggests the following priorities.

1.  Don’t cut aid.

During the next presidential term, there will be huge pressure to reduce the deficit. But it is crucial to preserve global humanitarian accounts.

In addition to lifting millions out of poverty, effective foreign aid helps create a more peaceful and prosperous world that ultimately serves the security and economic interests of the United States. Cutting foreign aid is like shooting yourself in the foot.

2.  End preventable child deaths.

This has already proved to be a quick win. In the 1960s, preventable child deaths were around 23 million. In 2009, this number came down to 9.1 million. Today, the figure is about 6.9 million, despite a growing global population.

The president can accelerate the decline by supporting relatively inexpensive programs that combat the biggest child killers — namely diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria.

3.  Lead the fight against slavery.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPRA) created the first comprehensive federal law to address modern-day slavery. It helps prevent trafficking of children and adults into the sex trade and other forms of exploitative labor, and it enables prosecution of traffickers and protection of survivors. 

Every few years, the act needs to be reauthorized to close loopholes and maintain funding for its enforcement. Last year, this vital piece of legislation expired as a result of congressional partisanship. The president should ensure reauthorization and restore U.S. leadership in the global fight against slavery.

4.  Make poverty history.

In 2000, world leaders agreed to eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that sought the radical reduction of the most extreme forms of poverty. The goals include items such as achieving universal primary education and reducing child mortality.

Great progress has been made, but the goals expire in 2015. Discussions have begun on what comes next. The president should take a leading role in formulating new goals that build on the successes of the MDGs.

5.  Feed the hungry.

At the 2009 G8 Summit in Italy, leaders of the world’s leading industrial nations pledged $22 billion for agricultural development to help ensure the world produces enough food to feed its growing population. The initiative was called “Feed the Future.”

The president should continue this good work and accelerate investment in agriculture and effective nutrition programs — particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, which suffers the greatest food shortages.

6.  Give peace a chance.

Some 1.5 billion people live in fragile states bedeviled by recurring conflict. These states account for 71 percent of under-5 deaths; 77 percent of children not in primary school; and 65 percent of people without access to safe water.

The president must facilitate resolution and mediation of these festering disputes through increased diplomacy and support for local and international mediation efforts.

7.  Combat AIDS and malaria.

President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative  (PMI). President Obama has continued both of these life-saving programs, though funding has remained flat.

The president should bolster investment in both programs, allowing for the expansion of treatment and prevention efforts and the saving of many more lives.

8.  Seek justice.

The president should prioritize the promotion of democratic reforms and functioning court systems. This includes respect for human rights, speedy trials, and trial by jury, as well as prevention of unreasonable seizure of property, excessive bail demands, and cruel and unusual punishments. Peace and stability are fostered when citizens are confident that there are fair systems to protect life and property.

9.  Get more bang for bucks.

Making the most effective use of limited global development dollars is a continuing challenge. The president and Congress should invest in aid programs that demonstrate transparency and good results. If necessary, they should insist on progress toward democracy and reduced corruption as a condition of assistance.

10.  Work together.

Global poverty can only be successfully met by combining resources and expertise. In Zambia, a partnership involving the U.S. and Zambian governments, businesses, and several humanitarian organizations developed a program called RAPIDS that delivered life-saving assistance to thousands suffering from AIDS.

The president should seek to partner with businesses, foundations, universities, humanitarian organizations, and faith-based organizations to meet the world’s most pressing needs.

Three ways you can help

Pray for President Obama. Pray that he and Congress will work together to create a better world for children and families in the United States and around the globe.

Send a message to your members of Congress and the president. Ask them to oppose major cuts to international assistance and work with members of both parties to ensure that these programs are protected. There are few places in the U.S. federal budget where dollars translate so directly into lives saved.

Make a one-time donation to provide help where needed most. Your gift will help us to respond quickly in areas of greatest need, funding critical programs to address needs such as nutritious food, clean water and sanitation, emergency relief, healthcare, clothing, loans for small businesses, and more.