13 Reasons Why Foreign Aid Is Important

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In 1969, the United Nations proposed that richer countries dedicate 0.7% of their gross national income to foreign aid. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent worldwide in international assistance. Foreign aid has had some major successes, but nowadays many people are beginning to question its effectiveness, and whether such huge sums are well spent. So, really, is foreign aid important, and if so, why?

The resounding answer is… yes! And we’ll explain. Check out our list of the major reasons why foreign aid is important.

It Saves Lives

The first reason why foreign aid is important is that it literally saves lives! All countries that give foreign aid dedicate a portion of their funds for humanitarian assistance. This helps people who are affected by crises, disasters, and conflicts around the world. Humanitarian action is crucial is saving lives and it’s a big reason why foreign aid is important.

Although humanitarian assistance is funded in many ways, foreign aid given by donor countries makes up tens of billions of dollars of total humanitarian spending. Foreign aid plays a vital role in providing food, water, clothes, and shelter to people in desperate need after crises. It’s also crucial for helping communities recover and rebuild after a disaster.

Without international aid, many countries would be unable to help their people when crises hit. Foreign aid is key because it provides assistants to governments and communities hit by disasters. The lifesaving assistance it provides is why foreign aid is important.

Foreign Aid Helps Countries Develop

The second reason why international aid is important is because it helps poorer countries develop. The world is economically divided, with many rich countries having superior economies, infrastructure, healthcare, education, and legal systems. Low-and middle-incomes countries need assistance in order to prosper and foreign aid plays a key role in helping them develop.

Foreign aid, in the form of humanitarian assistance, financial grants, military aid and development expertise all play a crucial role in helping countries develop. International aid is important because it helps to level-up the world. Assisting poorer countries to develop benefits their citizens but it is also a net benefit to the world – another positive for international aid.

Many low- and middle-income countries rely on the development assistance provided by foreign aid. International aid is important in helping poorer countries develop.

It Educates Children

Since the late 1990’s, the number of children who do not receive an education has dropped by 50 million worldwide. Foreign aid has played an important role in achieving this.

Educating children is one of the most important things for a country – it provides an educated workforce, gives children the opportunities to gain knowledge and understand the world and helps to breed innovation and entrepreneurship. Developing countries desperately need these things and that is why large sums of international aid money is spent on education globally. Without foreign aid, many children around the world would not go to school and that’s a big reason why it’s important.

Every child has the right to an education. International aid is vital in making sure millions of children get one.

It Provides Military Assistance

Not all foreign aid is given in the form of humanitarian and development assistance. An important part of international aid military assistance given by donor countries. Military aid can be in the form of grants or loans to be spent on armed forces, donations of military equipment or training and military partnerships between armies.

International aid plays a vital role in helping poorer, less developed, and more unstable countries defend themselves. This is very much in the donor countries interests as security threats, such as international terrorism, can now reach globally. Foreign military aid is important to help secure areas of the world and remove safe havens for criminals and terror groups.

International aid as military support is controversial. However, whichever side of the argument you fall on, it objectively plays a key role in helping countries ensure their security and rely less on direct military support from Western nations.

It’s Key To Fighting Climate Change

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity. Preventing a climate catastrophe will involve the whole world making drastic changes to our economies, energy supplies and how we live. Richer countries are likely to be able to adapt. However, dozens of developing countries are likely to struggle transitioning to a greener economy. Foreign aid is vital to helping them do that.

Large amounts of international aid are already being directed towards climate projects in low- and middle-income countries.

Foreign aid is important because if richer countries do not help poorer ones adapt to climate change, the impacts will be felt globally. Climate wars and the migration of millions of people are just two big ways failing to tackle global warming could impact the developed world. The whole world is together in the fight against climate change and foreign aid is crucial to ensuring we win.

It Builds Alliances

Another reason why foreign aid is important is because it is used to build alliances between countries. International aid is often given as a loan or a grant by donor countries to friendly nations as way to build relationships and help global partners. It can be a way to build connections between countries and it plays a vital role in how nations assist their allies.

There are many ways that international aid is used to build alliances. Humanitarian aid, government grants and loans, as well as military support are all used by donor countries to support recipient nations. In return, countries that give international aid can expect a level of international support, as well as the possibility of diplomatic and military alignments.

A further reason foreign aid is important when it comes to building alliances is that donor nations give aid to countries they see as strategically important. It can be a way to support governments that rich countries want to see succeed, and to stop weak ones from collapsing. For example, military assistance can be one vital way that that donor countries help their strategic allies.

International Aid Can Tackle Global Pandemics

You don’t need us to tell you that global pandemics cause havoc and affect every country in the world. As Covid-19 has shown, the whole world needs a strategy to combat the disease. This is where foreign aid comes in. Many countries don’t have the resources to tackle pandemics. International aid is crucial in helping them bring outbreaks under control and stop them from spreading to other countries.

An example of how foreign aid was used effectively to prevent a global pandemic is the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are some of the poorest countries in the world. International aid played a key part in helping these nations contain Ebola and preventing the outbreak spreading to other West African nations, as well as globally.

Foreign aid is a vital way that richer countries can help poorer one’s tackle diseases, prevent their spread and try to stop global pandemics. This is why it is important.

It’s Good For International Trade

International aid plays and important role in global trade. Essentially, as countries become more developed, they increase the amount they trade internationally. A big reason why donor nations provide foreign aid is so that other counties and regions of the world gain stronger economies, which means they will trade more. This can benefit all countries… including the donors.

A lot of countries also tie a portion of their foreign aid to products and services from their national companies. This means that when development projects or military spending is given, a recipient country must spend a percentage of it in the donor country. This obviously very much benefits the business of the donor nation.

International trade is one of the best ways for countries to lift themselves out of poverty. Foreign aid is important because it helps countries develop, and in turn they begin to produce goods and services they can trade around the world.

Foreign Aid Lifts People Out Of Poverty

A major reason why foreign aid is important is because it is key to the fight to end global poverty. Today, 689 million people worldwide live-in absolute poverty – defined as living on less than one dollar ninety a day. This means there are hundreds of millions of lives that are held back by a lack of opportunity. International aid is vital to helping the world’s poorest lift themselves out of poverty.

Since 1990, the rate of poverty has dropped from about 35% of people worldwide to around 10%. This is an amazing achievement and international aid played a vital role. Many countries lack the resources to develop, and especially to develop economies that are dynamic enough to lift millions of people out of impoverishment. Foreign aid is proven to be crucial in helping poorer countries prevent people from living in destitution.

Richer countries using some their wealth to help people in poverty around the world is the right thing to do. It also works. This is why foreign aid is important.

It Strengthens Human Rights

Foreign aid plays an important role in promoting and strengthening human rights around the world, and this is another reason why it is important. Many international aid projects focus on ensuring human rights are adhered to, stopping human rights abuses, and communicating the core tenants of a human rights based international system. This makes international aid hugely vital.

There are many ways that international aid helps ensure a human right based international order. These include by helping countries to have stronger human rights, running projects that help promote and develop human rights globally and working with asylum seekers and refugees who flee human rights abuses. All of these works are hugely important and need funding from foreign aid.

Sadly, there are many places in the world where human rights are not respected. However, foreign aid has a proven record of helping countries improve their human rights record, and this is why it’s important.

It Can Lend Expertise

A major factor holding poorer countries back from development is a lack of expertise. Limited educational systems combined with a lack of resources to dedicate to research and development means the many low-and middle-income countries do not have the knowledge and skills needed to innovate. Foreign aid is important because it can be a key way that these countries can access expertise.

There are many ways that international aid can help developing countries access expertise. These include educational funding, university exchanges, release of patents and capacity building projects.

If less developed countries are going to build themselves up and prosper, they need the expertise, education, skilled people in order to address their own needs. International aid is hugely important in transferring knowledge from developed to developing countries.

Help Meet Global Security Challenges

Another reason why foreign aid is important is because it helps to tackle security threats across the globe. Over the last decades it has become clear that security threats such as terrorism, illegal arms trading, cyber-attacks, organised crime, and drug networks are international and need a worldwide response. However, many of these security threats fester in places that lack the resources to tackle them. That’s why international aid is crucial.

International aid is given in many forms to help address security challenges around the world. Direct military support, as well as intelligence assistance and training help poorer nations ensure control of their country and maintain stability. Humanitarian and development assistance lifts people out poverty and helps those affected by crises. It also decreases the number of people needing to rely on illegal or nefarious ways to survive.

Tackling global security challenges as they arise and at the source is key to stopping issues spreading. This is especially important for richer nations and so they dedicate some of their foreign aid spending to helping less well-off countries fight security threats where they arise before they can spread.

It’s Morally Right

The final reason why international aid is important is because it is morally the right thing to do. Richer countries giving some of their financial resources, as well as military, technological, intellectual capital to help countries and people around the world who are less-well off is the correct thing.

It would simply be unethical for developed countries to hoard their wealth whilst others around the world live in poverty, or cannot get assistance when affected by crises, conflicts, or disasters. In addition to this, foreign aid is proven to directly help the donor country. So, it is beneficial and morally right – a win win!  

Foreign aid is important because it is ethically right. Perhaps that’s the biggest reason why international aid does, and should continue, to play a vital role in helping to make the world a more equal place.  


Duncan is the founder of Humanitarian Careers. With over ten years experience in the aid industry across fifteen countries, Duncan set-up Humanitarian Careers to help people launch their own career in international aid.