Combating Global Poverty Through Soft Diplomacy

By Caroline Radocaj

Global poverty has always been a worldwide concern, but many argue that the United States does not do enough to combat humanitarian crises. The numbers are staggering, with nearly a billion people going hungry and one child dying every 3.6 seconds from poverty, lack of clean water, hunger, and preventable diseases. COVID-19 is predicted to double starvation to 265 million people this year. If the United States were to increase its funding in the International Affairs Budget, more people living in poverty worldwide will have access to water, food, education, and farming. The money provided for these programs will offer millions a more endurable lifestyle. Conversely, some U.S. citizens believe in employing resources for domestic purposes only and are against availing of countries in need. What they do not realize is that in addition to moral benefits, the increase in global investment would be in the best interest of US national security and domestic economy.

The U.S. Pentagon’s three D’s for protecting the country are Defense, Development, and Diplomacy. Countries that present the largest threats to national security, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, are also among the world’s poorest nations. Poverty substantially impacts governmental institutions and civil societies. Countries in poverty may face weak governance that can lead to extremist groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban denies civilians access to food, burns fertile land, destroys homes, and kills thousands. In response, the U.S. deployed troops in Afghanistan and is still fighting today for the protection of Afghani citizens. Instead of providing financial assistance to Afghanistan to tackle their poor living conditions, the U.S. chose to use hard diplomacy which ended up causing harm to all sides. Using the soft-diplomacy approach instead, such as providing foreign assistance and global development, makes cooperation a more probable outcome over conflict. With security posing less of a threat, the U.S. could spend less money on the military and more on international aid. By the U.S. increasing its foreign aid to tackle poverty, the chances of disputes and violence are minimized, thus protecting national security.

Another beneficial outcome from the U.S. combating global poverty reflects in the economy. By ensuring children are receiving a quality education, they are more likely to earn degrees and contribute to society. Skilled labor advances wages and jobs, and financial stability positively correlates to consumer demand, which in turn stimulates the economy. The U.S.’s international aid pulls people from extreme poverty and the working poor to the middle and upper classes. Those in poverty are essentially prohibited from making choices. Financial stability opens a door to opportunities for spending and investing. If the U.S. were to help the millions move from poverty to the middle class, consumerism would increase, causing our national economy to grow.

Furthermore, the U.S. has a successful history of investment returns through its foreign assistance. For example, in the 1960s the U.S. gave Taiwan $1 billion in foreign aid. Today, annual exports add up to around $30.2 billion. Similarly, positive results are seen after assisting Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey. Not only do the U.S.’s global investments help people achieve more sustainable lives, but the U.S. also profits immensely from an economic standpoint.

The U.S. provided only $40 billion in foreign aid in the 2020 fiscal year, which accounts for a fraction of total spending. Raising the International Affairs Budget is not only imperative for the millions in need of support, but it benefits the U.S. diplomatically and financially. As the world becomes more globalized, the usefulness of hard power declines. Engaging in issues through soft power leads to global sustainability, interdependence, and unity.