(In)Direct aid
Religion & Liberty Online

(In)Direct aid

An editorial in today’s New York Times attests to the severely myopic lens through which the editorial board views the world. In “A Better Way to Fight Poverty,” the editorial effusively praises a United Nations program for its work in showing how “direct aid can largely bypass governments, getting money and help straight into the hands of the people who not only need it the most, but also know what to do with it.”

Direct aid? Since when are ANY of the funds the United Nations uses “direct aid”? Perhaps because the aid bypasses the domestic governments…but the aid certainly isn’t direct in the sense that it comes directly from any other nation.

The editorial admits as much when it states, “The United Nations plan, spearheaded by the economist Jeffrey Sachs, seeks to expand the program to the entire district, and then all over Africa. But that will happen only if rich countries make good on their promise to ratchet up foreign aid to 0.7 percent of G.D.P. by 2015. Britain, France and Germany have all put out timetables for meeting the goal. The United States, the world’s richest country, has yet to do so.” That doesn’t sound very “direct” to me.

So the UN aid work is essentially an international bureaucracy, redirecting and redistributing funds from member governments. And if the NYT editorial board thinks that such a supra-governmental body is somehow more immune or less corruptible than national governments, they need a reality check.

The NYT editorial praises the UN for circumventing “corrupt” governments, but fails to recognize the corruption in the UN. Has the NYT editorial board not heard of a little $67 billion snafu called the “Oil-for-Food” scandal?

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.