A new outlook for international assistance in 2022

Looking back on 2021, which international event left the deepest impression on you? Was it Biden taking office to become the 46th president of the United States? The UK officially parting ways with the European Union as the arduous Brexit process was finally concluded? A giant Taiwanese container getting stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking all shipping traffic through the trading route for weeks on end? No matter which event caught your eye, the world’s power and economic structures have metamorphosized in the past year. For the community that has long been following international development assistance, our focus remains on how this field has been affected by the changing global situation. Therefore, this issue will discuss how in 2022 different countries have adjusted their foreign aid policy in response to global trends, and the impact of these adjustments on international development assistance, under the theme “The rise and fall of national foreign aid budgets and the resulting impacts on international development aid work.”

The pandemic has caused a severe recession in the worldwide economy over the last two years. Prior to Covid-19, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) had been launched and we were progressing very smoothly. Now, that progress is actually being reversed for some of the goals, and we believe many people are keen to ask: “What is our next step for the SDGs?” In her article “International development assistance in 2022 from an SDG perspective,” Professor Yu-Hsuan Su from the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University, writes that 2022 will be a pivotal year for countries to rethink and readjust their aid measures. As the 2030 deadline for the SDGs approaches, the direction of global international development assistance is bound to align more closely with the SDGs. Professor Su further suggested that, in addition to incorporating and emphasizing the SDGs in every layer of Taiwan’s foreign aid work, the Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) of various cities can also demonstrate Taiwan’s efforts to keep pace with the international community

In 2021, Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump to become the 46th President of the United States. After taking office, he reversed the unilateralism of Trump’s “America First” rhetoric and reverted to the multilateralism that prioritized international harmony. But is the United States’ foreign aid policy being adjusted accordingly? Professor Wen-Yang Chang from the Department of Diplomacy at National Chengchi University may have answered this question in his article titled: “A Preliminary Study on U.S. Foreign Aid Policy During the Biden Administration.” He says that U.S. foreign aid policy has been in place for many years, and the content and implementation methods of the policies differ only in degree, not in substance. However, from the content and budget of the Biden administration’s foreign aid in the previous year, it would appear that the U.S. has indeed readopted a positive attitude towards foreign aid. Furthermore, building on sturdy foundations from the past and seizing the opportunities of the current epidemic, the administration hopes to reshape the role and standing of the U.S. in foreign aid.

Japan, which is geographically closer to Taiwan, has long been an important player in international development assistance. Since the United States proposed the Indo-Pacific strategy, Japan, as a solid ally in the Asia-Pacific region, has also taken this strategy into account when formulating and promoting its own foreign policy. For this quarterly issue, we invited Professor Hsien-Sen Lin of the Department of East Asian Studies, National Taiwan Normal University to contribute an article titled: “Current Situation and Prospects for Japan’s ‘Official Development Assistance’ Policy.” Introducing Japan’s foreign assistance from a historical perspective, Professor Lin goes on to analyze how the Japanese government will use ODA to achieve its own strategic goals in the face of external changes in 2022, concluding: “Japan believes that the strategic use of ODA is an indispensable policy tool for achieving its ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ strategy.”

Beyond the United States and Japan, the European Union and other European countries enshrine human rights as a core value of their diplomacy and play a pivotal role in global humanitarian and development assistance. The article “Current Situation and Prospects for EU Humanitarian and Development Aid Policy in 2022,” written by Chia-Ching Cheng, Executive Director of the EU Centre in Taiwan, points out that despite the COVID-19 pandemic raging, the Syrian refugee crisis, and the situation in Ukraine escalating, the EU’s humanitarian and development assistance has in no way fallen behind accordingly. Instead they have doubled down and walked the extra mile. In addition, Europe intends to play a more active role in global humanitarian and development assistance under the framework of the “Global Gateway,” initiated by the EU.

After learning about the outlook for the major nations’ aid policies, readers must be curious to know how Taiwan will respond to challenges with its own foreign aid policies in 2022. That’s why this issue will feature interviews with Dr. Chih-Cheng Lo and Dr. I-Hsin Chen, who are legislators from the ruling and opposition parties of Taiwan, on the topic: “Prescriptions and Expectations for Taiwan’s Foreign Aid in the Face of the Global Pandemic.” Here, from the different party perspectives, they will share their concerns about the potential hardships that Taiwan’s foreign aid policy may encounter in 2022, as well as their expectations and outlook for the future.

“Diplomacy is an extension of domestic affairs,” goes a classic saying in political science. This is especially true when it comes to foreign aid policy in the age of globalization, where all countries share weal and woe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a strong sense that by assisting other countries in pandemic prevention, we are also protecting the health of our own people. In the past two years, the economies of many countries have been shut down due to lockdowns and city closures. Taiwan’s economy has also took a hit; however, due to the success of the government’s anti-pandemic measures and the cooperation of the Taiwanese people, the impact has been minimal compared to other countries. Therefore, Taiwan bears a profound responsibility to assist partner countries that have suffered greater adversity in overcoming the economic slump through foreign aid projects, and thereby demonstrating to the world that by applying the Taiwan Model: “Taiwan can help!”

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