In the debate between quick impact projects and long-term development, it’s not an either-or option for U.S. development policy. InterAction’s Sam Worthington says it’s about striking a balance between these two modes of aid delivery.
Long-term investments, which hinge “on the premise that developing the capacity of, and working through, indigenous civil societies,” work and lead to “a more effective” use of U.S. taxpayers’ money, according to the president of InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based aid groups.
“What has not been encouraging is that the U.S. government is increasingly opting for a shorter-term approach in areas deemed crucial to U.S. national security interests. Much of this is under the banner of “winning the hearts and minds” of a local population with quick-fix projects,” Worthington writes in Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense’s blog “The Will and the Wallet.”
An example of this focus on quick impact projects is the U.S. counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan, where Worthington fears “this vast flow of cash reduce funds available for longer-term efforts [and] may even fuel corruption and upset the power dynamics in some communities.”
On the other hand, he acknowledged that there are cases “when short-term goals have to trump the long-term.”
“In Afghanistan, we recognize that long-term success is dependent on the security of its people and government. And we recognize that short-term projects are sometimes well-conceived and very helpful to communities,” Worthington writes.
He adds: “But if slow, steady development efforts are neglected, sustainable security will never be achieved. What’s needed is a commitment, hard-wired into the U.S. foreign assistance architecture, to balance immediate and long-term development goals in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.”