InterAction Chief Outlines Development Challenges

The development landscape is shifting from an environment dominated by government dollars to one where non-governmental and nonprofit organizations are increasingly reliant on private-sector funding, according to Sam Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction, the largest coalition of NGOs focused on reducing global poverty.

In 2006, private giving grew to represent 1.5 times the amount given by the U.S. government, Worthington said at an Oct. 3 "roundtable" organized by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. This continues a trend that began in the beginning of the decade, he noted.

This shift can be seen in the response to recent disasters. For instance, according to the International Herald Tribune, American corporations gave out $90 million following the earthquake in China earlier this year, compared to $3.1 million given by the U.S. government.

This was one of many challenges faced by the aid community, according to Worthington. Other challenges he mentioned include managing growth, dealing with government regulations, creating boundaries between civilians and the military, and creating partnerships. But, given the news on Wall Street recently, corporations are likely to cut charitable giving as the markets sour, as we have noted. At the same time, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has lowered expectations for his pledge to double foreign assistance.

There may be a lot less development money to go around - at a time that sees the U.S. Defense Department implementing an increasing number of aid missions.

Worthington's comments about the importance of maintaining the line between civilian aid and military aid are important. Devex correspondent David Lepeska wrote last year about the controversy surrounding the U.S. military-led aid mission to Africa, and those concerns still remain: Aid will have a military face, not a civilian one. This may send the wrong message to aid recipients.

Whether or not the United States can assuage these fears is yet to be seen. It's clear, however, that the questions surrounding AFRICOM - and the funding of aid - will not be easily answered.

About the author

  • David Francis

    David is a Washington-based journalist and former Devex staffer who spearheaded Devex's "Obama's Foreign Aid Reform" blog. He has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post Gazette,, San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Policy magazine, and the Washington Monthly. David holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Georgetown University.