Review: Players and Issues in International Aid

Players and Issues in International Aid
Players and Issues in International Aid
Paula Hoy
West Hartford, Connecticut: Kumarian Press, 1998

Review Copyright © 2000 Garret Wilson — November 20, 2000 8:05 p.m.

Quick, how much does the US contribute to foreign aid, as a percent of its GNP? Two percent? One percent? No. Paula Hoy points out that the amount of US foreign aid is only 0.117 percent of the US GNP. Her Players and Issues in International Aid is a relatively objective primer to who gives money to whom, what organizations are involved, and who has strong opinions one way or another.

In large part, Hoy's book lets the reader decide what the numbers mean. (After all, the US has one of the highest GNP's in the world, one could argue, making it not surprising that foreign aid is so small as a percentage.) The facts are all referenced, and the outline complete; this makes the book interesting reading, but it is by no means something one can breeze through. The overall message seems to be that there is definitely not enough being done to help, but it's not always clear how "help" can be given.

Sometimes (but not as often as might be imagined) political bias shows through in the book by the charged terminology used: "But then came the 1994 congressional elections and the new Republican majority quickly silenced Clinton's idealistic notions for foreign aid. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [Jesse Helms] immediately caught the nation's attention by holding hostage much of foreign policy... to press his own demands for major changes in U.S. foreign policy, including the elimination of USAID" (37).

In most cases, however, issues are thoroughly examined for what they are, bringing to light even shortcomings of NGOs: Many times they "do not differentiate very well among residents of poor communities," overlooking those who are poorest. They many times fail "to understand or even realize the larger context in which they operate," they often go where the money is, and they seldom "challenge each other or engage in self-criticism" (102-103). The book ends with excerpts from others such as Jesse Helms who are less than friendly to foreign aid.

Players and Issues in International Aid is a book that must be read for many reasons. It brings to light the disparities that have long existed, yet remain unknown to (or ignored by) many. It gives a grand overview of what aid is and who contributes, and once in a while makes an effort to investigate the complex issues of how much of aid actually helps. Certainly not the least of this books strengths is its facts, the collection of which should be read and then kept handy for those days when a country might be wondering how to become involved in the world around it. A few of those facts are listed below.