U.S. humanitarian efforts trumped by foreign policy objectives, political scientist says

It may be America’s largest organization for international aid, but the U.S. Agency for International Development’s humanitarian efforts are “strongly influenced, and often trumped by its mandate to advance American foreign policies,” according to a new book authored by a UWindsor political science professor.

“It’s no surprise that foreign aid from a government to another government, or to a group of people or a society elsewhere, is going to come with strings attached,” said Jamey Essex, an associate professor and author of a booked called Development, Security and Aid: Geopolitics and Geoeconomics at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“But the actual way in which it happens, and what are the strings that are attached, and what is the geopolitical strategy of giving aid, has become much more explicit in the case of US AID in the past 10 years or so,” he added.

Dr. Essex, whose areas of expertise include development, geography, agriculture and food, said that traditionally, diplomacy and defence were the ways the U.S. thought about national security, while development was seen as something secondary to those.

“They’ve elevated that in the last 10 years so that it’s actually become a plank of national security strategy,” he said.

US AID administrator Rajiv Shah once said that today’s aid recipients are tomorrow’s strongest trading partners, but the question of whether using aid as a method of creating new strategic allies is fundamentally objectionable is one that’s still up for debate, Essex said.

“That’s always the domestic political discussion around aid and how it’s managed and distributed,” he said. “Are we giving it to those who might be our enemies? Is it being wasted? Is it propping up dictators?

Essex will appear today on Research Matters, a weekly talk show that focuses on the work of University of Windsor researchers and airs every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. on CJAM 99.1 FM.