It’s extremely rare for an organization to refuse funding,
let alone $45 million. But that is exactly what CARE, a
leading international relief organization, did last month when they refused
U.S. government funding for food aid.
According to a recent General Accountability Office report, the U.S.
food aid program is seriously flawed. CARE agreed, finding that it hindered the
development work they were trying to accomplish in the developing world. By
challenging a policy they viewed as detrimental to their mission, CARE has put a
spotlight on potential flaws in this U.S. policy – a spotlight that may
even generate a change in policy.
States gives a tremendous amount of funding to
U.S.-based organizations best equipped to provide aid – including food, health
care and education – to people in developing countries. Like CARE, these
organizations often have the best understanding of the situation on the ground
and the infrastructure in place to help the most people.
But federal funding comes with a price: a laundry list of
rules and regulations outlining how organizations must spend that money. While
these rules and regulations are often an effective way to monitor
U.S. spending, the need for
U.S. funding often trumps an
organization’s desire to challenge – let alone reject – funding because of
flawed policies. When NGOs find that U.S. policies don’t support the work
they are trying to accomplish – in this case, alleviating chronic hunger in the
developing world – it’s time to speak up. In turn, the U.S. government
must support an environment in which challenge is supported, rather than
Sometimes the most powerful decision an organization can make
is the courageous decision to say no to U.S. funding. Many family planning
and reproductive health providers in the developing world have made similar
decisions in recent years, declining much-needed U.S.
family planning funding because of destructive restrictions such as the Global
Gag Rule (Mexico
City Policy). In so doing, organizations like these and
CARE help draw attention to flawed and ineffective U.S.
policies and lay the groundwork for urgently needed reforms.