Foreign Policy Blogs

Are the British Better at Building Public Support for Development?

The British Department For International Development is partnering with the Guardian to sponsor a journalism competition on international development and reducing global poverty. Only UK residents are eligible, and they have separate categories for true amateurs and freelance writers. The finalists get their articles published and some computer equipment.

This one essay contest isn't going to change the world, but the UK government has also recently funded two programs to encourage its citizens to volunteer in poor countries. One program provides financial incentives to British public servants with relevant skills. The other is geared towards British youth from less-advantaged backgrounds. These programs together start to look like a pretty solid effort to get the British populace engaged in the nation's international development work.

There isn't a lot of direct impact of these efforts, but it has to be helpful for DFID to have the electorates political support when it wants to start a new program, ask for more money, or in any way challenge the existing political-economic balance in Britain. Maybe if USAID had a more programs that directly engaged Americans in development issues it would get more respect in Washington.

Of course, the UK has a stronger tradition of government involvement in private life than the US. We don't rely on USAID to get people involved in development because we have NGOs like the Foreign Policy Association. But I think there is a place for both.



Kevin Dean

Kevin Dean is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in international conflict management and humanitarian emergencies at Georgetown University. Before returning to school in Fall 2006, he spent six years working in the former Soviet Union - most of that time spent in Central Asia. He has managed a diverse range of international development programs for the US State Department and USAID. He has also consulted for several UN agencies and international NGOs, and is fluent in Russian. Kevin is originally from Des Moines, Iowa and studied Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Iowa.