Report: US Must Return to Multilateral Approach to Aid
The United States cannot afford not to revisit a multilateral approach to development assistance. So contend Nancy Birdsall and Alexis Sowa in an op-ed published in the Guardian on October 17th, 2013. There they argue that despite its position as the single largest donor of overseas development aid, constraints on giving have handicapped the effectiveness of its overseas programs. Instead, the US can give more effectively through collaborating with multilateral institutions.
The recent government shutdown brings into relief some of the political constraints on the US government as various departments aim to assist in international development efforts. Risk aversion in bureaucracies, short-term thinking in budgeting, and high costs of contracting with outside firms compound the issues the US faces in spearheading development initiatives. And while it remains the largest donor to such efforts, its share of total aid has fallen sharply over the past few decades.
Birdsall and Sowa argue that the US needs to reorient its leadership towards cooperation with other emerging powers, including China, India, and Brazil among others. It should channel more US aid through multilateral development banks, UN agencies, and other bilateral donors. And at the same time, the US ought to provide leadership on a number of global issues, including trade, immigration, climate, and illicit financial flows.