If you ever doubted whether US foreign aid works, we need to go a few years back when Barack Obama was the President of the United States. In spring, 2014, Obama’s visit to South Korea marked one of the greatest success stories of foreign aid in the history of the United States. At that time, South Korea increased its budget for foreign assistance by 11 percent. Not only would this help the other countries in the region and the world, but the US has gained a valuable ally which improved the country’s economy and security.
After the Korean War, South Korea was devastated. Their entire country needed to be rebuilt, and the USA worked together with the Korean government in the following decades, to bring Korea back from ashes. The US invested around $35 billion in foreign economic assistance which protected this country from the possible attack from their neighbors. Today, South Korea is one of the richer countries in the world, with Seoul being the economic center.
The transformation of South Korea was a victory by the US. It showed the government of the United States and its citizens that this was a smart investment. This state has become the tenth largest export market for the goods made in the United States, and the trade has developed even more in the recent years, facilitated by the US-South Korea free trade agreement signed in 2012. Initially, South Korea was a heavily dependent foreign aid recipient, but the country role has changed for better. They are now a major international donor, and they joined the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), thus becoming the third Asia-Pacific country to do so.
The ways in which South Korea has helped the world are numerous. They donated $680 million to Afghanistan for reconstruction purposes and medical facilities as well as paved roads and police training stations. Furthermore, five years ago they added another $43 million to improve women’s rights and access to medical services in Afghanistan.
Luckily, South Korea’s story from a war-torn country to one of the countries which are providing assistance due to America’s intervention is not the only one in the world. The US also sent assistance to Colombia which had problems with insurgents that threatened the lawful government back in 2001. Thanks to the American aid, Columbia managed to combat the insurgent groups and they have become another major country where the US exports its goods. Since 2000, the profit from the US exports has grown from $3.6 billion to approximately $20 billion today. The US donated around $8 billion in combined military and economic assistance so you can do the math.
A major change happened in 2003 when President George W. Bush established the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. This plan allows the US to support almost 66% of all antiviral treatments for HIV/AIDS in the world. Since the pressure of AIDS dropped in African countries, partly due to American assistance, the economic growth ensued.
Washington keeps taking necessary steps to make the foreign aid more transparent and as effective as possible. In the last decade, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was established by Congress, and the MCC was ranked the top agency among 67 international donor organizations a few years back.
Although some congressmen question the effectiveness of foreign assistance, the fact is that stopping to aid countries around the world would undermine America’s national security and economic growth. The good thing is that more lawmakers are in favor of such aid, which benefits both America and the countries which need to receive much-needed donations.