[Viewpoint]Overseas aid should be privatizedDue to the prolonged hostage situation in Afghanistan, not only do the family members of the hostages feel a heaviness, but also 49 million Koreans as well.
After seeing two innocent young Korean volunteers lose their lives and the lives of many others still under threat, I think it urgent that we establish a system of close cooperation among the public, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide development aid and volunteer services to less developed countries.
Under the cover of the hostage situation in Afghanistan, Korea cannot scale back its assistance to developing countries or volunteer services to needy people in other parts of the globe. We cannot evade our responsibility as members of the international community.
Korea is a country that is in need of almost all natural resources, including food and grain. There is no raw material in which Korea is self-sufficient. Herein lies the reason why Korea has to maintain close ties with developing countries.
Korean NGOs can transfer the experiences they accumulated in the course of Korea’s economic development in the 1960s and 1970s to developing nations. That is the unique quality Korean NGOs have. But their activities are still immature and lack proper governmental support.
In fact, the Korean government seems to have no plan to help NGOs grow to an international scale. It also seems that Korean NGOs are trying hard to expand their realm of activities on their own, instead of relying on governmental support.
First of all, we must increase the amount of Korea’s official development assistance, also known as ODA. Korea must increase, as soon as possible, the amount of official development assistancefromthe current 0.05 percent of the gross national income to 0.33 percent, which is the average of OECD countries. One more thing no less important than the amount is the method through which the government provides ODA.
We must increase the amount of ODA allotted to projects that are promoted by the private sector, not by the government.
Government-to-government assistance has the tendency, as was the case with some foreign aid to Korea in the 1950s and 1960s, to fail to contribute to the development of the local economy due to corruption. And the residents of the developing countries will not pay much attention to the donor country.
This is the reason why most advanced countries provide a significant part of their ODA through NGOs.
The United States supplies 38 percent of its ODA through NGOs; Switzerland and Greece, 25 percent, whereas Korea, only 1 percent.
The Korean government should learn a lesson from other governments and send at least 30 percent of its ODA through NGOs. If it does, the efficiency of Korea’s development aid will be enhanced and the residents of recipient countries will recognize more clearly that the aid is originating from people representing the government of the Republic of Korea.
Workers at NGOs are volunteers who serve people with the warm heart of humanitarianism. If we make good use of them, we can get maximum results at minimum expense.
It would be better if Korea Overseas Volunteers, or KOV, which is managed by the state-run Korea International Cooperation Agency, was handed over to an NGO.
In advanced countries, including the United States, the government branch that executes the budget for ODA does not engage in sending volunteers overseas. If any volunteers are sent by a government branch, they are a very limited number of professionals. But the Korean government manages 1,300 overseas volunteers at an annual cost of $30,000 per person.
The overseas volunteer service programs, including the one managed by the cooperation agency, should be transferred to NGOs. It is also desirable that privileges such as exemption from military service, which is granted to people taking part in KOV, be given to the volunteers sent by NGOs as well.
I sincerely hope to see Korean youths who have excellent abilities adapt themselves to foreign languages and cultures, provide various volunteer services in Asia, Africa, South America and other parts of the globe.
It would also be meaningful for them to serve at regional administration offices as agents for the public good.
*The writer is the chairman of Korea Food for the Hungry International. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Chung Jung-sup