Flipping the Foreign Aid Narrative

“Job Creator.”

“Venture Capitalist.”

“Fiscal Hawk.”

Are these words of Congressional jargon in a time of economic distress?  Or key terms in the fight to end global poverty?

According to Oxfam America‘s latest (and very great!) advertising campaign, they qualify as both!  This refreshing strategy pairs DC-insider phrases with decidedly non-D.C. images: a fishing boat in Ghana, an open field in Peru, a farm in Tanzania. The goal? To advocate for sustained foreign aid by featuring real people who are using foreign aid to make really positive changes in their communities around the globe.

Village Chief Kojo Kondua IV of Abuesi, Ghana, is making sure national officials enforce fishing regulations fairly, ensuring his village’s source of jobs and food for the future.

In a recent blog post, Oxfam America’s Jennifer Lentfer highlighted the “stark contrast between what [aid] organizations have in their marketing campaigns and the complex reality of programs on the ground.”

There are some people who can turn “small aid investments into large ones to create a sound future for their nations and their communities” – we feature plenty here on EA.  But their success can often be overshadowed by recipients who use foreign aid for corrupt practices, or politicians in Washington who shirk their public service responsibilities when they succumb to lobbyists.

It’s crucial that those of us involved in development and service work help to flip the overarching foreign aid narrative, and showcase the many examples of aid turning into world-changing outcomes.  Yet at the same time, as aid budgets continue to shrink, we must demand a wide net of ethical responsibility in foreign aid relationships: starting with our own projects.  Namely, we must be responsible for building two-way give-and-take relationships based on ownership, agency, and mutual respect.

As Mayor of San Martin Alao, Peru, Manuel Dominguez is working to better manage his own municipal funds to clean up waste blighting his town.

It’s not enough for foreign aid programs to be “poverty-focused.” To be responsible, they must go a step further to find out why there is poverty, how poverty is currently being addressed, where corruption takes place on either end, what is and is not working in various programs—and why.

EA encourages you to spread the word on Oxfam America’s advertising campaign, and we are interested in hearing your opinion:

  • What DC jargon would you apply to heros involved in your global service work?
  • Who do you know that is using aid investment positively in their nation or neighborhood?
  • What policy changes do you suggest to ensure foreign aid happens ethically on both giving and receiving ends?

Let us know!

Tanzanian farmer Emiliana Aligaesha and fellow farmers formed a successful private company; she now trains other farmers to improve their yields and market access.

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