The Common Good

Fifty Years of USAID: There is Hope Ahead

Image via USAID
Image via USAID

A lot changes in 50 years.

In 1962, people didn’t have the internet, a cell phone, a microwave oven and many probably didn’t yet have a color television set. JFK was president and no one had been to the moon yet. Steve Jobs hadn’t even invented anything yet – he was only 7 years old.

But one thing that remains is USAID. 2012 marks the agency’s 50th anniversary, and its commitment to global political, economic and social development has been sustained since its foundation in 1961.

USAID has worked across the world to save and improve lives of others, foster stability in conflict-affected areas and driven economic growth. It has fed, clothed and healed millions of people in every imaginable situation – floods, droughts, civil war, natural disasters and pandemics.

President Kennedy was more right than he could have known when he said that “the conquest of poverty is…more difficult than the conquest of outer space.” Extreme global poverty is still a scourge on our planet and our ideals. It flies in the face of what God’s Kingdom is supposed to look like and is an affront to the teachings of Jesus.

We have endured the frustrations and disappointments that Kennedy predicted in that same speech. And yet, slowly but surely, the battle against global poverty is being won. There has been innovation in the provision of development assistance and foreign aid. USAID and other development agencies around the world are tackling these problems in smart and increasingly sophisticated ways. Two such examples are USAID’s Feed The Future program, which seeks to help developing countries adapt to food security challenges and the Global Health Initiative, which is taking huge steps to contain and reverse the spread of preventable diseases such a malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The challenge to end global poverty is enormous and the path is no doubt still littered with frustrations and disappointments. But there is also hope ahead. Hope that the good work that has been done in the past 50 years can be continued so that in 50 more years (or less, ideally), the conquest of poverty will have been achieved.

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Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88. 




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