Development Aid Priorities

The Guardian’s Datablog today has a fascinating map  illustrating global development aid flows over the past decade. They’ve been running a contest for the best map, and today’s entry shows the winner.

The interactive map highlights aid received and given by each country, both in total, over time, by source and by sector. You can also put the map in motion, and see how aid flows have changed over time.

The map provides a compelling way to view the changing global priorities in development aid. You see, for example, the rise of Iraq as a major recipient of foreign aid following the 2003 U.S. invasion. But the map also helps to raise some interesting questions, particularly around the basis on which foreign aid should be distributed. Given the ongoing debate over the fiscal cliff and the pressing desire to cut government spending, it seems clear that foreign aid is going to be expected to do more with less in the future. Yet Americans have always vastly overestimated the amount of foreign aid the country provides. A 2010 survey found that Americans believed foreign aid was one quarter of the total U.S. budget, but believed that it should “only” be 10 percent. In truth, foreign aid comprises less than one percent of the federal budget. The belief that we can balance the federal budget by cutting foreign aid (or public television, for that matter) is simply absurd.

But the broader conversation about the role of foreign aid and its relationship to foreign policy priorities is a conversation worth having.

What do you think? What should American foreign aid priorities be? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

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