Combating Global Poverty
December 3, 2013
Beginning in the 1970s, the United States steadily shifted the focus of its foreign assistance on meeting the basic human needs—public health, basic education, and food security—of the developing world; programs aimed at poverty reduction. This represented a marked shift from the early years of foreign aid when the United States concentrated on improving public administration, infrastructure development, and macroeconomic policy. This support for basic human needs has only intensified over the last 15 years as a series of presidential initiatives have targeted public health spending, basic education, and agricultural development. Governance, in its current form, emerged as a development focus in the 1990s.
Although funding for governance and economic growth is a part of U.S. foreign aid, it remains a relatively low priority in spite of rhetorical pronouncements to the contrary. There is significant reason, however, to reverse this trend and return to a focus on governance to ensure broad-based economic growth across the developing world. In particular, the rise of emerging economies that can increasingly contribute to their own development means the United States could reduce its focus on basic human needs and toward the growth and governance nexus. This will require a shift in how the United States programs its people, time, and money in delivering foreign assistance.