US Economic Assistance and Human Rights: Why the Emperor has (almost) no Clothes

  • David P. Forsythe
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


We do not lack for studies of US foreign assistance. A computer search of the subject for this essay, covering US sources for the period 1975–85, turned up 410 entries. What we do lack is clarity. There have been a variety of approaches to the subject, concerned with different relationships, yielding a bewildering array of sometimes conflicting conclusions.1 Even on the subject of foreign aid and economic development, which is a core relationship accompanied by measurable factors, a 1986 study argues that ‘More than thirty-five years of aid programs in Third World countries have not yielded any firm conclusions about the relationship between aid and development’.2


Gross National Product Fiscal Year Reagan Administration Foreign Assistance Official Development Assistance 
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  1. 1.
    A concise review is presented in Thomas E. Pasquarello, ‘Human Rights and Other Determinants of US Aid Allocations to African Nations’, paper presented at the 1986 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington DC, 27–31 August. See also John Wilhelm and Gerry Feinstein (eds), US Foreign Assistance: Investment or Folly? (New York: Praeger, 1984).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Robert E. Wood, From Marshall Plan to Debt Crisis: Foreign Aid and Development Choices in the World Economy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986) pp. 2–3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For a summary of Congressional action on human rights in foreign policy, see David P. Forsythe, Human Rights and US Foreign Policy: Congress Reconsidered (Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1988).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    John W. Sewell et al., US Foreign Policy and the Third World: Agenda 1985–86, Washington: Overseas Development Council, 1985 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction) p. 98.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Department of State, Atlas of United States Foreign Relations, 2nd edn (Washington: GPO, 1985) p. 70.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Edward N. Muller, ‘Dependent Economic Development, Aid Dependence on the United States, and Democratic Breakdown in the Third World’, International Studies Quarterly, 29, 4 (December 1985) p. 459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 15.
    Congressional Quarterly, Congress and the Nation, 1981–84, vol.6 (Washington: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1985) pp. 125–73.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    For a 1986 study see Pasquarello, op. cit., at note 1. For an earlier study see Eugene Wittkopf, Western bilateral aid allocations: a comparative study of recipient state attributes and aid received (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage 1972).Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    Caleb Rossiter, The Bureaucratic Struggle for Control of US Foreign Aid: Diplomacy vs. Development in Southern Africa (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    Hunter Farnahm, AID senior relief analyst for Africa, public lecture, University of Nebraska, October 1986. See further Richard L. Hough, Economic Assistance And Security: Rethinking US Policy (Washington: National Defense University, 1982).Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    Lars Shoultz, ‘Politics, Economics, and US Participation in Multilateral Development Banks’, International Organization, 36, 3 (Summer 1982) pp. 537–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 23.
    Robert A. Packenham, Liberal America and the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973).Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    Robert L. Ayres, Banking on the Poor: The World Bank and World Poverty (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  14. 32.
    See especially Caleb Rossiter, ‘Human Rights: The Carter Record, The Reagan Reaction’, International Policy Report, no. 2, Center for International Policy (Washington: September 1984); Stephen B. Cohen, ‘Conditioning US Security Assistance on Human Rights Practices’, American Journal of International Law, 76, 2 (April 1982) pp. 246–79;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Joshua Muravcik, The Uncertain Crusade: Jimmy Carter and the Dilemmas of Human Rights Policy (Lanham, NY: Hamilton Press, 1986) chap. 5.Google Scholar
  16. 33.
    David Carleton and Michael Stohl, ‘The Foreign Policy of Human Rights: Rhetoric and Reality from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan’, Human Rights Quarterly, 7, 2 (May 1985) pp. 205–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 34.
    David L. Cingranelli and Thomas E. Pasquarello, ‘Human Rights Practices and the Distribution of US Foreign Aid to Latin American Countries’, American Journal of Political Science, 29, 3 (August 1985) pp. 539–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 37.
    David P. Forsythe, Human Rights and World Politics, 2nd printing, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985) pp. 35–9.Google Scholar
  19. See also Asborn Eide, Human Rights in the World Society: Norms, Reality and the International System of Protection (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1978).Google Scholar
  20. 39.
    Muller used as his basic index to democracy an article by Kenneth A. Bollen, ‘Issues in the Comparative Measurement of Political Democracy’, in the American Sociological Review, 45, (June 1980) pp. 370–90. This index-rated countries for 1960 and 1965 only. No updated scores have been published, to my knowledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 41.
    The United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights states in Article 11 : The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food ... The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take ... the measures ... which are needed ...’ The Carter administration signed the Covenant and sent it to the Senate along with reservations and understandings. The Senate has never given its consent to ratification, the issue being of low priority to both branches. The international bill of rights is made up of this Covenant, the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All of the industrialised democracies, except the US, are parties to the Economic and Social Covenant. See further Philip Alston et al., The Right to Food (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1984),Google Scholar
  22. and Raymond R. Hopkins and Donald J. Puchala, The Global Political Economy of Food (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  23. 42.
    James N. Schubert, ‘The impact of food aid on world malnutrition’, International Organization, 35, 2 (Spring, 1981) pp. 329–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 44.
    See James R. Walczak, ‘New Directions in US Food Aid’, in Nanda , et al., Global Human Rights: Public Policies, Comparaive Measures, and NGO Strategies (Boulder: Westview, 1981) pp. 29–58,Google Scholar
  25. and Mitchel B. Wallerstein, Food For War—Food For Peace: United States Food Aid in a Global Context (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980).Google Scholar

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© David P. Forsythe 1989

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