The Foreign Service Journal, September 2006

Donor Difficulties Many of the fine articles in the June focus section, “Realigning For- eign Assistance: The Future of USAID,” made apparent the complex difficulties donors encounter in fos- tering economic development and emphasized that long-term efforts may be required to overcome them. Barely alluded to in these discussions were the intangible and seemingly intractable societal attitudes imped- ing the development process in many, if not most, developing countries. A partial list would include: denying equality of opportunity to all citizens, resisting wealth redistribution, under- valuing a work ethic, tolerating official corruption/nepotism/tribalism, prefer- ring authoritarian (“strongman”) gov- ernments, etc. One of your authors cited the suc- cess of several Asian countries, from Japan to India, in achieving signifi- cant levels of economic development. Notably missing from that list was the only Asian country to have “benefit- ed” from a half-century of American colonial administration: the Philip- pines. Was American tutelage there during the first half of the 20th cen- tury insufficient to erase the attitudes and values acquired during centuries of Spanish domination? Why does that country continue to lag behind its regional neighbors despite sub- stantial assistance? Despite the adop- tion of an American-style constitution and other forms of government, the Philippines seems constantly plagued by a restive military, political violence, an oligopoly-dominated economy, per- vasive corruption and grinding pover- ty (not to mention serious problems with a Muslim minority). No matter how many donor resources are made available to address a country’s prob- lems, can sustainable economic devel- opment occur in such a place absent a change in key societal attitudes? The foregoing notwithstanding, let us optimistically assume that some gradual progress is possible. Do our own domestic attitudes toward foreign aid really support the idea of external donor assistance beyond the provision of short-term humanitarian aid and emergency relief? In this context, it is interesting to note that schoolchildren from Scandinavia to Japan receive instruction in developmental issues, the role of foreign assistance in their government’s budget and the work of such specialized United Nations agen- cies as UNICEF and UNDP. Here at home, in contrast, Con- gress has banned USAID from using its resources to educate the public regarding America’s foreign assis- tance efforts. Nor is there much interest in this topic among any but a miniscule group of specialized educa- tors at any level. Is it any wonder, then, that foreign aid as a federal budget line item, and the United Nations as an international organiza- tion, have become whipping boys for politicians seeking federal elective office? Under these circumstances, one wonders whether USAID can ever be reconstituted so as to once again take a leading role in interna- tional development forums. If in- deed the agency is to have a future, are we not obliged to recognize and rectify our own dysfunctional societal attitudes towards foreign aid? Fred Kalhammer USAID FSO, retired Stateline, Nev. USAID Reform The June articles by Tom Dichter and James Fox on USAID reform are the most insightful and provocative I’ve read in a long time. They are particularly relevant to me in my cur- rent, post-USAID job with Bread for the World, where I’m working on for- eign-assistance policy issues. Kudos to the authors, and to the Journal for seeking out and publishing them! Charles Uphaus USAID FSO, retired Fairfax, Va. Lessons Not Learned Thanks for your June articles that commented on both USIA and USAID. I served in USIA from 1962 to 1965 and in USAID from 1966 to 1980. I then went out on short-term assignments until about 1990. When I left USIA, I was debriefed by almost every office in the agency. But when I left USAID, I was not even asked to come back to Washington, despite the fact I had served so much longer there. I did not leave quietly; I wrote long memos to give my views on how for- eign aid should be improved, but they never evoked a response. My depar- ture fromUSIAmade a lot more sense to me than my departure from USAID. We had a lot to learn in both L ETTERS 6 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 6