Foreign aid has always been around in one form or another. But it sure has changed from the olden days—so much so that now we call it “international aid”, or even “global development”. Semantics abound, but in modern times the intent is the same however you label it: nations and organizations help other countries and peoples survive, and even thrive, in difficult times.
Foreign aid used to mean sending your troops to help someone else’s troops. Win or lose, what remained of your troops came home, and the rebuilding of devastated towns and lives was left to whoever was still standing.
During World War Two, the nature of foreign aid changed. Why? Because someone asked if keeping peace in the world needed to include helping those nations whose governments, economies and peoples were in trouble. Are we glad they did.
Fifty-one countries founded the UN, not only recognizing that a nation’s stability and success were interdependent, but that without them, good government, human rights, economic growth, health and well being—the ingredients for a peaceful nation—are all at risk. Organizations like Oxfam, CARE, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were born. The focus of the “battle” has become maintaining stability, security and survival. The weapons include food, water purification technology, medical expertise, schools, and debt relief.
Is international aid without self interest? There’s no question that it’s in the interest of many nations to keep the world’s troubled areas from exploding, and economies from imploding. There are resources, currencies and borders to protect. But there is also peace to keep. Because privation and degradation go hand in hand with conflict.
The system is far from perfect. A peaceful world where everyone has enough to eat is still a dream. But are we glad someone wondered if it would take more than wars to keep the peace? That they wondered if food, shelter, medicine and education could restore hope, dignity and maybe—one day—stability and security in the world?
Sarah and Paul