International Aid and Katrina
February 21, 2006 5:58 PM   Subscribe

How does international aid to the US work when we've never received international aid before?

I was doing a little bit of reading about the US response to Hurricane Katrina and read with interest that this was the first time that the US has accepted foreign aid. So far I've seen that the government accepted aid (in the form of physical supplies or on the ground help) from Sweden, Mexico, Russia, Canada, Singapore, French and the Dutch. In addition we asked for help from the EU in the form of emergency medical kits, food rations and water. Other countries pledged money, but is this all we accepted?

My bigger question is – how does international aid work when the country that the money is being given to has never received aid before? We have NGO's that are focused on US problems, but if the US has never received aid from other countries before it's not clear to me how the process worked.

Also, How much of the aid that was received did the current administration have a choice about? Was it the State Department the organization who decided how and to whom that aid was released? When countries pledge to give money, who/what organization do they give it to? Do they write a check to the United States Government or is it through an NGO such as the Red Cross? And if it's through the Red Cross does it go through that country's Red Cross and then to the American Red Cross? Is FEMA involved in any of this?

Any help or resources would be appreciated!
posted by mulkey to Law & Government (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
this was the first time that the US has accepted foreign aid

I think that's only very narrowly true -- the first time the federal government has accepted it. ISTR many occasions in which local communities stricken by a disaster accepted aid of one form or another from foreign lands.

So, by more reasonable definitions, the US has accepted foreign aid before.

Even by the federal-government definition, it's stretching the truth. After the Sept. 11 attacks, NATO invoked Article 5, the collective-defense provision. This put some foreign military assets at the disposal of the US, such as AWACS patrols. That might not count as foreign aid to a lawyer, but it certainly walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and poops like a duck.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:35 PM on February 21, 2006

Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but one might consider Kosciuszko's, du Motier's, de Vimeur's, and Steuben's contributions to be among the earliest forms of foreign aid to the US (or against the British).

More recently, Venezuela president Hugo Chavez arranged for state-owned Citgo to provide Americans with discounted heating oil post-Katrina, not surprisingly bypassing official channels.
posted by rob511 at 9:24 PM on February 21, 2006

After the great Mississippi floods of 1993, the media paid a good deal of attention to shipments of rice from Bangladesh offered in aid. It was said then that they were the only country offering aid to us, and that they were doing it in gratitude for all the aid we've given them during their floods.

I can't find any articles about it right now, though, so I can't tell if it was refused by the federal government, or accepted by local governments, or what.
posted by ewagoner at 7:59 AM on February 22, 2006

A little bit more ontrack with your original question, the way that foreign aid donated to the US would work is through FEMA coordination roughly the same as how private donations are funnelled through FEMA. We actually have a pretty large aid infrastructure here, it just tends to be focused on utilizing domestic aid. Getting aid from outside sources wouldn't be all that different.
posted by klangklangston at 8:16 AM on February 22, 2006

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