Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Development Cooperation: Threatened but Supported by a Durable Consensus

December 10, 2019

In December 2019, Senior Fellow J. Brian Atwood wrote an article on foreign assistance for the Georgetown Journal of World Affairs titled, Development Cooperation: Threatened but Supported by a Durable Consensus, in which he makes the case that the program continues to have bipartisan support despite the Trump Administration’s effort to cut it by 30%. Atwood suggests that part of the reason is the support Carter and Reagan gave to human rights and democracy promotion, soft power initiatives that reflect American values. 


The Trump Administration has proposed major cuts in the budget for foreign aid over the past three years, yet Congress on a bipartisan basis has restored most of the US Agency for International Development's budget. A former Administrator of the Agency offers an historical perspective on how that consensus formed and why it continues to this day. While the roots of this support lies in a broader definition of national security, there is also an element of humanitarianism. The author sees the initiatives of Presidents Carter and Reagan as two sides of an American desire to promote its values. Carter promoted human rights and Reagan democracy. Despite their ideological differences, these two presidents thus created a new bipartisan consensus that survives to this day.

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