Congress has begun work on the fiscal year (FY)
1999 appropriations for the U.S. foreign assistance program. Each
year, foreign aid proponents take great pains to assure Congress
that the money the United States spends on foreign aid directly
supports U.S. foreign policy goals abroad. Indeed, J. Brian Atwood,
the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development,
told Congress in March 1998,
many respects, [the foreign aid budget] is a bare-boned and
balanced approach to development and humanitarian programs that
will significantly contribute to achieving the administration's
foreign policy objectives.2
There are, of course, aspects of the U.S.
foreign aid program that do support U.S. foreign policy goals;
among them are military and security assistance programs. But these
programs, which are restricted mainly to the closest U.S. allies
abroad, comprise less than 22 percent of the foreign aid budget.
The largest portion of the U.S. foreign aid budget, economic
development assistance, goes to many countries that seldom support
U.S. foreign policy initiatives.
way to measure the U.S. foreign aid program's influence around the
world is to examine the voting records of U.S. aid recipients in
the United Nations (U.N.). Despite the many problems plaguing the
U.N., it remains an international forum in which the United States
seeks the cooperation of other countries in a variety of foreign
policy matters.3 A review
by Heritage analysts of several years of voting records in the U.N.
and U.S. foreign aid spending habits indicates that foreign aid has
little impact, if any, on winning support among recipients for U.S.
policy initiatives in the U.N. In fact, most recipients of U.S.
foreign aid vote against the United States more often than
they vote with it. This casts serious doubt on the claims
from Administrator Atwood and other proponents of foreign aid that
such spending is vital to support the national interests of the
Consider the following facts drawn from
the 1997 U.N. session:
74 percent of U.S. foreign aid
voted against the United States a majority of the time.
This was up from 68 percent in 1996 and 64 percent in 1995. Thus,
nearly three out of every four foreign aid recipients vote against
the United States in the U.N. most of the time.5
U.S. foreign aid recipient votes
against the United States have increased in number in each of the
past three years.
Of the ten largest recipients of U.S.
foreign aid, six voted against the United States more than half
the time (see Table 2). This
is the same level as in the 1996 U.N. session.
The top ten countries voting against
the United States
more than half the time are scheduled to
receive some $230 million in foreign aid in FY 1998 (see Table 3
India, the fifth-largest recipient
of U.S. foreign aid and receiving some $144 million in assistance
in FY 1998, voted against the United States 80 percent of the time.
This marked an increase from 76 percent in the 1996 session. Thus,
India voted against the United States in the U.N. more than Iran,
Libya, and Myanmar. Despite U.S. urging, moreover, India recently
embarked on a series of nuclear weapons tests that threaten U.S.
strategic and security interests in the region.
Pakistan, India's neighbor that is
receiving some $6.7 million in U.S. foreign aid in FY 1998, voted
against the United States in the U.N. 69 percent of the time.
Pakistan, too, has disregarded U.S. requests and begun testing
nuclear weapons in response to India's tests.
Laos, from which President Bill
Clinton lifted a decades-old U.S. restriction on the disbursement
of foreign aid because of human rights abuses, voted against the
United States 82 percent of the time, almost as often as Cuba.
Since lifting the restriction on Laos, however, the Clinton
Administration has sent over $17 million in U.S. foreign aid to
Indonesia and Thailand, both
of which are receiving bailouts from the International Monetary
Fund (IMF), voted against the United States 68 percent and 63
percent of the time, respectively. These two countries together
will receive more than $49 million in U.S. foreign aid in FY
Haiti, to which President Clinton
sent U.S. troops to restore deposed President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide in 1994 and which he now claims is a U.S. ally in the
Caribbean, will receive over $101 million in U.S. foreign aid in FY
1998. This makes Haiti the ninth-largest recipient of U.S. foreign
aid--receiving almost as much as Russia. Despite this assistance,
Haiti voted against the United States 57 percent of the time.
Egypt, the second-largest recipient
of U.S. foreign aid (at some $2.1 billion annually), voted against
the United States 66 percent of the time.
Ethiopia, sub-Saharan Africa's
largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid (at about $114 million last
year), voted against the United States 61 percent of the time.
The Philippines, which received
some $47 million in foreign aid last year despite consistent
progress in economic liberalization, voted against the United
States 67 percent of the time.
Mexico, whose economy was bailed
out by the IMF under U.S. guidance and support in 1994, continues
to receive some $15 million in foreign aid from the United States
each year. Nevertheless, Mexico voted against the United States 62
percent of the time.
There are many reasons for a country to
vote with or against the United States in the U.N. It seems
unlikely that a country would alter its voting habits in the U.N.
solely as the result of U.S. foreign aid funding. One thing is
sure, however: While the Clinton Administration and other
proponents of U.S. foreign aid continue to argue that the program
is vital to promoting U.S. interests around the globe, the evidence
simply does not bear this out.
Bryan T. Johnson is the
former Policy Analyst for International Economic Affairs in The
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis International Studies Center at The