FISHERS, Indiana — Foreign aid is often used to alleviate poverty, disease and starvation in underdeveloped countries. These issues tend to take the media by storm with news of starvation and disease widely disseminated throughout online forums and nonprofit websites. However, environmental factors and societal prosperity contain only two of the many components underdeveloped countries generally cope with. While foreign aid helps to eradicate these problems, it is easy to forget such aid may also prevent armed conflict domestically, continentally and internationally. A more humanitarian image typically requires that the international community not forget about war and conflict as symptoms of poverty.
Foreign Aid Enhances Domestic Security
Foreign aid may prevent conflict because it enhances an underdeveloped country’s domestic security. Through these funds, the underdeveloped country could channel more money into its defense sector, which would better secure its borders while securing the lives of the people living within them.
Following the Korean War, South Korea had a devastated infrastructure and economy, causing it to depend solely on the power of its allies to preserve its political order and martial prowess. Since then, the United States has sent billions of dollars to South Korea. It sent more than $13 billion between 2016 and 2019 to maintain its military presence there along with another $39 billion through federal direct investment funds in 2019 alone.
These developments were among a number of factors that helped South Korea to reap the necessary funds for a sizable defense budget of $48 billion in 2021. That accounted for nearly 10% of the country’s total government spending, intended to keep North Korea and other potential antagonistic countries at bay.
With such foreign investment, South Korea can determine its future as a national entity, protecting its people from a large-scale war.
Although this is one example, there are a plethora of other cases depicting the benefits of foreign aid on conflict prevention. If the underdeveloped country has foreign aid to let it develop internally, it can use that money to safeguard lives while maintaining peace. Another benefit of foreign aid includes stemming mass immigration and home displacement.
Foreign Aid Prevents Civil War
Foreign aid may prevent conflict — including civil war — because it stabilizes an underdeveloped country’s government, letting it preserve authority while also permitting humanitarian initiatives. According to the International Organization Foundation, impoverished countries have a higher susceptibility to civil war than well-developed countries. If the underdeveloped country has the economic resources to establish humanitarian programs designed to rid it of poverty, the risk of a civil war decreases.
Ultimately, for every $1 increase received from foreign countries for every 1,000 people, the chance of a civil war decreases by 5%. When foreign aid is channeled into an underdeveloped government’s security programs, it tends to discourage — or even neutralize — revolutionary fervor.
Because Rwanda’s government lacked the economy necessary to maintain a sizable defense budget, it could not resist the coup d’état that toppled its government nor prevent the horrific genocide that followed. Currently, the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development, among other monetary institutions, fund these underdeveloped countries for the purpose of political stability, especially in the wake of the Rwandan civil war and genocide in the early 1990s. In 2020 alone, USAID gave $8.5 billion to sub-Saharan African countries for this goal.
Foreign Aid Prevents Conflict by Creating Alliances
Foreign aid may prevent conflict by creating valuable alliances, which benefit both underdeveloped countries and the countries giving aid. The Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe following World War II, delivered the equivalent of $145 billion in today’s currency. That ultimately developed a closer alliance with Germany and other countries within the communist bloc. NATO and the United Nations, which developed following that global conflict, are the fruits of foreign aid.
That alliance, bolstered through foreign aid, allowed these countries to work together, deterring advances from communist countries like the Soviet Union. Although foreign aid solves humanitarian issues such as poverty, starvation and disease, it is also evident to many that foreign aid prevents conflict and saves valuable lives. If the international body’s mission is global unity and peaceful coexistence with other nations, it may be critical to recognize why foreign aid prevents conflict and how it can lead to a more humanitarian global society.
— Jacob Crosley