SEATTLE, Washington — In recent months, people all over the world have taken to the streets to demand that U.S. leaders address racial disparities and civil rights infringements. Lessons from an evolving civil rights movement stress the importance of responsible allyship both in and outside of the United States. Being a good ally and supporting those in need strengthens the collective. In a highly globalized and unequal world, allyship extends beyond domestic borders.
Global institutions and individual citizens have an opportunity, even an obligation, to act as allies for those enduring social injustice around the world. Tulane University’s School of Social Work provides a multi-faceted definition of allyship through three characterizations: self-examination and critical thinking, awareness and education, and lastly, action. This definition applies to the large-scale framework of global allyship for the world’s oppressed. Taking into account the three facets of allyship, what follows are three reasons why foreign aid provides an avenue for global allyship.
Self-Examination and Critical Thinking
Responsible global allies think critically about their country’s power and privilege. As Tulane University reports, “You have to dig into your own oppression and privilege to understand the oppression and privilege of others.” Despite internal inequality, the U.S. possesses significant economic ability relative to other developed countries. In fact, the Harvard Business Review asserts that the United States produces more real gross domestic product (GDP) “per person than most other advanced economies,” attributing its economic prosperity to various factors, such as top-tier research universities, cheap energy sources and a cultural emphasis on hard work.
Despite the privilege of economic means, in 2019, the United States spent less than 1% ($39.2 billion) of the federal budget on foreign assistance. Moreover, the U.S. spends around 0.2% of its gross national product (GNP), compared to fellow wealthy nations. For example, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and the United Kingdom spend more than 0.7% of their GNPs. The U.S. undoubtedly possesses power via economic means. As global allies, institutions and citizens should actively challenge the government to leverage privilege for good, starting with increasing foreign aid.
Awareness and Education
By nature, foreign aid promotes awareness and education because community-informed initiatives require collective action between two parties. For example, the work of USAID fosters various partnerships between the U.S. and foreign governments. In Uzbekistan, for example, USAID works with the Ministry of Public Education to promote educational reform. Over a four-year period beginning in 2019, the U.S. pledged $19.5 million to carry out a number of targeted goals, such as improved skills in Uzbek, English and math. One thousand schools and 12,000 teachers stand to benefit from this form of global allyship. This also increases awareness between the two partnering countries.
Additionally, smaller-scale projects enable individuals like six-year-old Ryan Hreljac, to interact with communities abroad and witness the suffering of impoverishment first-hand. Upon learning about sanitation issues in Africa, Hreijac mobilized his community to fund a well in Uganda. His work led to the creation of the Ryan’s Well Foundation that builds wells and provides education throughout 17 developing countries.
Projects range from constructing wells to providing community members with sanitation training. The scope and method of a project vary based on the needs of the host country, but the far-reaching impact of Ryan’s Well Foundation is undeniable. For example, a project in western Uganda plans to provide better water access for more than 3,500 people. In Ghana, a different active project provided improved water access for more than 38,342 people.
Global allies carry out actions through two channels: activism and advocacy. As activist allies, citizens can fight international injustice by speaking with friends and family about pressing issues or attending protests to bring awareness to global affairs that may otherwise go unchecked. To advocate, global allies can get involved in electoral politics, send emails to their congressional leaders or donate to reputable organizations like UNICEF or Save the Children.
Notably, powerful institutions like Congress can act as global allies legislatively, passing laws to alleviate various facets of global injustice. For instance, China has dedicated resources and funding to support the global south since the 1970s. Via foreign aid, China has lifted an estimated “700 million people out of absolute poverty,” a testament to the power and reach of a governmental body aiding in global allyship.
Evidence provided by National Public Radio, suggests that foreign aid bolsters the standard of living in developing countries, often through health and education. For instance, a malaria initiative sponsored by the U.S. government safeguarded six million people from the disease. Thus, in keeping with the “action” behind global allyship, all global allies should participate in both activism and advocacy. Government leaders in particular should use their legislative power to support foreign aid for the world’s oppressed.
Self-examination and critical thinking; awareness and education and action are the three tenets that capture the key components of a responsible ally. However, in a world full of inequality, a truly responsible ally is a globally responsible ally.
— Maya Gonzales